This is a topic that has been so chewed out its boring. If I had two cents for every two cents someone gave on this I would have……a dollar?
This leads one to believe that I am not going to talk about it then, right? Wrong! I will take the chewing into the realm of digestion and I will turn that dollar into…….a dollar and two cents.
The future of the internal combustion engine
First, let’s take care of the obvious. Yes electric cars are coming. Yes, even though they are at the very dawn of their age their offspring is already pretty good. Yes, in a decade or two they will strangle their inferior petrol burning brethren to death, with the same sensibility a lion has when he kills cubs who are not his own.
History teaches us that people who try to stop new ideas end up being proven wrong sooner or later. From the church clergy that wanted Galileo burned to the guys that thought Bill’s personal computer would never take off. I love my petrol burning 4A-GE and I love internal combustion engines in general but I will not join the ranks of the stupidly defiant. Electric cars will triumph and they are superior. Sure, certain manufactures might try and keep the internal combustion engine on the market for as long as possible by bolting 7 turbos and space age injectors on them. But eventually that effort will prove to be as futile as trying to make a donkey win horse races by pumping it with steroids until its eyes start to bleed.
With that out of the way, we can proceed to ponder objectively and calmly what awaits us.
Upon first glance the future of the petrol and diesel burning cars looks very obvious. They will be transported into car heaven and be re-incarnated as soda cans.
From a utilitarian point of view such a future is very hard to argue against. What happened to CRT monitors and Nokia 3310 phones? You can repost 9gag stuff about the 3310 being indestructible all you want, but I bet part of your Samsung S7 or your Iphone 6 is made from destroyed and recycled Nokia 3310s.
But wait, are we really that utilitarian? Cars certainly play a greater part in human lives and shared history than the 3310? I mean, babies were made in cars. Babies were born in cars. Those babies then grew up to be embarrassed when they are shown a car on the street by their father and told „I used to have one of these…you were conceived in it“. We are emotionally bound to our cars. Sure an emotional bond with 3310 existed as well. But compared to the car-human bond it is but a grain of sand. I have never seen someone spend paycheck after paycheck on their 3310.
The future of the car enthusiast
While this discussion is endlessly boring for the people that rushed into Toyota dealerships to buy the Prius, this is a very important discussion for the car enthusiast. Arguably the future of the internal combustion engine is far less important then the future of the car enthusiast. It was not the Prius owner type that sparked the demand for an amazing line-up of cars and engines through history. It was the desire for performance, handling and thrill of the car enthusiast.
The thing that gave birth to the car enthusiast seems to be the thing that will kill him as well. Technology, or to be more precise overly complex technology that requires tools and facilities beyond the reach of the DIY enthusiast is making thing difficult. The enthusiast needs the following to survive: a sufficiently simple car so that it can be maintained and modified with relative ease, and a supply of parts with which to maintain and modify said car. Without these two the car enthusiast suffocates.
There’s also talks of new laws and regulation which aim at banning people from working on their own car, all in the alleged interest of „safety“. These may start too loom the nightmares of car enthusiasts more seriously. The hypocrisy behind these laws cannot be overlooked. Drunk drivers have killed more people than car enthusiasts could ever do. Even if they started to intentionally run them over this very moment, it would take ages to catch up. But car enthusiasts do not bring tax money like alcohol does, so they are threatened by new laws while drunken driving is threatened with scary billboards. Will these laws ever get passed? Let us hope not. The number and voice of car enthusiasts might be too low to stop them.
Can the unlikely savior of the car enthusiast be found in the dawn of electricity? Can we imagine an aftermarket for modifying your electric vehicles? Surely great aftermarket brands do not wish to be reduced to a tiny customer base insufficient for survival. Can we imagine a future in which we lust after HKS batteries? Greddy electric motors anyone? Or maybe a Megasquirt app on Playstore that you can upload to your car and tune it from your cell phone? Will the big names be able to adapt or will their name be seen nowhere but on vintage stickers to be sold on eBay?
On the bright side, the suspension aftermarket surely needn’t worry. The hovering car is nowhere in sight.
So, can we imagine a future where an electric Miata is extensively tuned by the new generation of enthusiasts, watched by their predecessors with a smile when they tell the youngsters how their face got smeared with used engine oil? „And you didn’t get cancer grandpa? No way! “. I would like to believe that such a future is possible. There is still money to be made from the enthusiast. The gt86 and the new mx-5 prove it. The new generation of American pony cars proves it as well. Now let us hope that Mr. Elon Musk and his future rivals realize this and that lawmakers won’t stop them from making it a reality.