Do you still own a combustion engine vehicle?

When will you purchase/lease your last combustion engine vehicle? It is a fun guessing game to play, especially now that we are getting closer to the tipping point for fully electric vehicles. No doubt, some people reading this article will have already shifted to electric.


Not all transformations happen overnight and certainly this is the case with electric vehicles. They first started appearing on the scene 200 years ago as part of the acceleration of interest in the electrical revolution of the early 1800s. However, with the limited technology of the time to harness electric mobility and the introduction of cheap fossil fuel vehicles, adoption momentum was difficult to build. That said, there were a few notable exceptions in the intervening years such as milk floats and the moon buggy.


Fast forward to today and it is very hard to ignore the growing evidence that electric powered mobility has now arrived. What does that data look like?


  • Harley Davidson is releasing its first ever electric motorbike this year
  • The MotorE bike series has been launched and complements the four-wheel equivalent, the Formula E series, which was launched 5 years ago
  • An extreme SUV race series is due in 2021 using fully electric off-road vehicles
  • The general mobility revolution (ride hailing, micro-mobility, renting rather than owning, self-driving) is driving interest and investment into a range of innovation, which includes electric
  • E-scooters are appearing on city streets around the world (many trips taken by people are short distances) and there is a lot of associated corporate activity involving the likes of Uber and Lyft
  • E-bicycles are growing in popularity
  • E-bus introduction is growing rapidly with China in the lead by far
  • Mitsubishi, Chevrolet, Ford, Tesla, BMW, Mercedes, Audi, Honda, Hyundai, Jaguar, Renault, Kia, VW, Fiat, Smart, BAIC, BYD and Nissan all offer electric cars today. Many others have commitments to do so in the next 5 years
  • Energy companies, such as BP and Shell are starting to roll out fast charging at their petrol stations
  • London Black cabs are available with an electric motor
  • Battery costs are reducing (from approx. US$800 kWh to around US$150 kWh in the last 8 years). This is due to economies of scale and improved technical design
  • Battery ranges are increasing. A number of manufacturers claim at least 200 miles on a single charge and investment in battery technology will see this increase
  • The speed of re-charging is improving year by year plus there is an increased use of ultra-fast charging (so called Level 3 charging) to achieve around 80% within 30 to 60 minutes


  • Consumer demand, as reflected in purchase/lease numbers, is growing, whether by a desire to help with climate change, improved education, reducing cost or vehicle performance reasons. As of 2019, there are over 5 million electric cars on the road worldwide, up from 3 million vehicles the year before. There is wide range of adoption rates across countries, with the likes of Norway and China leading the way
  • The China effect with their population size and policy to pursue electric is evident from the data and will be a key driver to further volume increase
  • Diesel’s reputation as a ‘dirty’ fuel creates a demand for alternatives
  • Climate change and government responses such as subsidiaries and lower taxes increases demand for zero emission solutions
  • The EU and US governments are mandating electric cars must be fitted with noise generators to make it easier for pedestrians to hear them and hence make society safer. When governments get involved in regulating something, it is a sure sign of the topic going mainstream

It is no longer a theoretical question to ask when you will say goodbye to your combustion engine. Notwithstanding limitations (or opportunities) such as re-charging infrastructure (will require massive investment), lack of understanding of how electric cars work (will require widespread education), need for rare earth elements (will see an impact on geo-political power associated with fossil fuels) and current low market share (around 2%), it is not many years away that people will be saying goodbye to combustion.


Future generations may well look at fossil fuel burning engines and wonder how we put up with the fumes and toxicity. On the other hand, the noise and feeling of a combustion engine has certain attractions that, at least for some people, will not be easy to replace. Think of the affection that still exists for steam trains.


Electric vehicles are transformational but also, they are a re-generation of a 200-year-old idea, that after quite some time in the making is finally reaching the tipping point.


More from The Transformers Blog : Transformations are tough – let’s navigate them together by Martyn Cuff

By Ash Macfarlane

October 10, 2019