Gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicle sales are on the road to extinction—at least in the United Kingdom, in their traditional form, according to reports surfacing in The Guardian.
By 2040, the sale of vehicles with traditional internal-combustion engines (ICEs) will be banned in the U.K.; however, these ICE engines will live on in modernized hybrid-electric form for many years beyond 2040.
The pledge by the U.K. government to start scaling back the sales of ICE vehicles was announced late July as part of its environmental authority’s clean air plan, which seeks to reduce emissions of nitrogen-oxide—a gas which is produced in greater quantity by diesel engines, but in only trace amounts by modern conventional gasoline engines.
The development and implementation of modern 48-volt hybrid-electric systems will enable auto manufacturers to meet the proposed 2040 regulatory requirements for the sale of ICE engines in the U.K. without giving up on gasoline and diesel engines entirely.
These “light hybrid” powertrains use a small but potent battery and small electric motor to assist with vehicle propulsion; minimize parasitic energy losses (such as from unnecessary, constant powering of the alternator); and recover otherwise wasted energy, such as with regenerative braking.
One of the strong points of this minimalist hybrid system is that it doesn’t rely upon a large, heavy battery pack, the use of which is inherently inefficient since the vehicle must overcome additional energy requirements to accelerate the added heft, and overcome greater rolling resistance due to its weight.
When paired with a highly-efficient gasoline engine in a lightweight, aerodynamically-efficient vehicle, light-hybrid vehicles’ fuel consumption and emissions can be reduced to very low levels, comparable with full-hybrid vehicles.
It looks like diesel engines are likely to be phased out sooner than gasoline engines due to their inevitably higher levels of nitrogen-oxide emissions.
While this news may seem inconsequential for the average U.K. commuter – aside from their expecting to pay a little more for their next new vehicle due to the added tech contained underhood – it is certain to send a pang of distress through the hearts of automotive enthusiasts who are looking forward to the purchase of a new sports car in the coming years and decades.
Truth be told, however, sports car aficionados should not be too concerned with the latest anti-ICE edict surfacing from the U.K., because the implementation of 48-volt light-hybrid systems will add very little weight while significantly improving a car’s overall efficiency.
What does this all mean for Canadians on the far side of the pond?
Regulatory pressure on automakers elsewhere in the world tends to push automotive technology development in new directions; since it’s less appetizing for automakers to develop tech that they can only sell to part of the world’s market, it’s likely we’ll see an increased number of hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles on sale in Canadian dealerships in the coming years, with diesel car offerings on the decline.
It’s also possible that the Canadian government will adopt regulatory standards similar to our Commonwealth brethren across the Atlantic, and to the French government’s, which recently adopted a similar proposal to phase out ICE-powered vehicles in the coming decades.