NZ Classic Driver
DO JAGUARS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP?
Like it or not, the internal combustion engine is balanced precariously on the threshold of becoming redundant.
Iadmit to having something of a bias when it comes to Lotus cars, and am always interested in happenings at Hethel. The recent launch of the Lotus Emira, the company’s first all-new production car in over decade, while welcome, arrived with the news that it would be the final ICE-powered Lotus as the company expects to be all-electric by 2030.
Of course, Lotus is not alone in this push towards the exclusive production of electric vehicles, with Jaguar leading the way and planning to be all-electric by 2025, and Ford (Europe) expected to follow suit in 2026. And, with the increasing likelihood of more European countries following the UK’s plan to ban sales of new fuel-powered vehicles by 2030, Bentley, Volvo, BMW-Mini and Daimler/Mercedes-Benz will act in lockstep with Lotus. By 2033, VW and Audi will also be part of the EV club. GM follows suit in 2035. While its Prius was a pioneer of the hybrid sector, Toyota is the only major manufacturer pushing back as it continues to champion hydrogen fuel-cell technology.
Effectively, this all means that we’re right in the middle of the biggest revolution in motoring since the first Ford rolled off Highland Park’s innovative moving assembly line on December 1, 1913.
And with governments around the world falling into step as they begin to set targets on the banning of petrol and diesel engines, along with incentives to encourage EV ownership as recently announced here in New Zealand, many observers believe that the wholesale shift to EVs could happen very quickly.
If we look at the advance of technology over the last few decades, we’ve been witness to some major changes in the way we interact with the world around us. I still remember a time when I only knew half-a-dozen people who were connected to the then recently spawned internet. In 1995, when I first connected to the internet through my newly acquired personal computer, an estimated 16 million people were online. Five years later that number had swollen to over 500 million, and today, following almost universal ownership of smartphones, more than three billion are part of our interconnected world. I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t connected in one way or another.
All of this didn’t arrive in progressive stages; rather, it came so swiftly that it took most of us by surprise. And the speed of the uptake of new technology simply gets quicker
and quicker as each fresh innovation or new idea bursts like an explosion onto the scene.
Putting those statistics into motoring parlance; while the first electric-powered vehicle appeared as long ago as the 1830s, it wasn’t until 1996 that we would see a massproduced EV – General Motors’ EV1. It was hardly a sales success, and EV1 production only ran until 1996, with GM controversially crushing unsold cars. The following year, Toyota launched the hybrid electric Prius, while the later appearance of the Tesla Roadster marked the early dawning of a new motoring era.
Allied to advances in battery technology, the race was on and last year over three million EVs were sold worldwide. As with the previously mentioned uptake in people connecting to the internet, that number is increasing exponentially. It is estimated that by the time Jaguar go all-electric in 2025, EV sales will make up 20 per cent of global car sales. By the time that proposed UK ban on fossil fuel-powered cars arrives in 2030, the percentage will have swollen to 40 per cent – with many industry insiders now ready to forecast that by 2040, almost all car sales will be electric. And, as with all technology, prices will start to tumble as worldwide production upticks.
Like it or not, as motorists we appear to be looking down the barrel at an electric future. What does this mean for the worldwide classic car movement? Today it’s a multibillion dollar industry encompassing everything from restoration services to parts manufacture and supply, car and accessory sales, motoring and motorsport events (ranging from local car shows to internationally recognised historic events and major race series), and even publications such as the one you now hold in your hands.
Does the future hold a total ban on the sale of fossil fuels – in which case our beloved classic cars may become nothing more than static museum pieces? Or will we be able to access limited supplies of petrol, and if so will we be able to afford it?
If we look back at how rapidly internet and online-based technology have advanced, answers to these and other related questions may come a lot quicker than we expect!