Countries and states around the world are already mandating the ban of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars within the next decade.
The UK – importantly for Australia as it is also a right-hand drive market – has moved its ban forward to 2030, as is the same for Japan. Denmark and Washington state in the US bans are in place from 2030, and California is banning new fossil fuel car sales by 2035.
Some are even sooner. Norway is phasing out fossil fuel vehicle sales from 2025 (and is already well on the path to doing so), Singapore is banning diesel car and taxi sales from 2025, and new vehicle emissions legislation being debated in the European Union is an effective ban from 2025
Even NSW transport minister Andrew Constance has now hinted at drawing a line in the sand of petrol and diesel car sales, although not yet by when.
And Australians say they support a ban on petrol and diesel car sales. A survey released in March by The Australia Institute showed that voters overwhelmingly support a ban by 2035.
It’s not enough to say that carmakers may not have any choice – it’s clear that countries without vehicle emissions legislation and targets to drive the acceleration of clean transport risk becoming dumping grounds for older vehicles as car-makers wring out the last financial returns possible from an old technology.
But an easy to absorb parallel to draw, and which is an oft-raised example of how the price of new technology rapidly drops once adopted into the mainstream is the smart TV. Who in their right mind would buy a CRT television now?
There are some arguments that the internal combustion engine could live on if the fossil fuels that drive them are replaced by “e-fuels” which are made from renewable sources.
However, a new report from European clean transport lobby Transport & Environment argues that this is simply not cost-effective, countering a push from the oil and gas sector and auto industry suppliers to have e-fuels added to the EU’s vehicle carbon credits scheme.
As battery manufacturing costs continue to decline, so too will the cost of electric cars. And switching to e-fuels is not as cheap as it first might sound, says T&E.
In fact, the new analysis shows by 2030 a car powered by e-petrol in Europe will cost €10,000 (about $A15,500) more to own and run than a battery-electric car, costing 43% more than electric cars for the average driver.
Considering industry claims that the most cost-effective solution for the EU would be to create e-fuels in Africa because solar power is cheaper to make there, T&E says even without the costs of handling and distribution e-fuels would be more expensive per kilometre driven.
Even using a mix of e-fuels and petrol would be more expensive than simply running an electric car. Looking at the total cost of ownership over 5 years, the EV would be 30% cheaper than owning a car running on “e-petrol” – even if the vehicle were secondhand.
And there would be less benefit from running an ICE car on e-fuels than simply driving an electric car, says T&E.
According to the analysis, battery-electric vehicles powered by the EU grid in 2030 would emit half the amount of carbon than ICE cars run on e-fuels if the energy charging batteries and e-fuels are created using an electricity grid with the same carbon intensity.
E-fuels may have their place, however, says T&E. They may be useful for heavy industry, maritime and aviation sectors, and diverting e-fuels to road transport which already has a much more efficient alternative to ICE would be detrimental to carbonising these more difficult sectors.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.