Internal combustion cars: to buy or not to buy

Unlike Shakespeare’s existential question, to buy or not to buy a thermal car is a very simple question with an even simpler answer. No!

In the comments section of this website and others, I often see the discussion of what to do when there is no good battery-powered fully electric vehicle (BEV) available at an acceptable price. Many have long arguments justifying their opinion on what automakers should do or stop doing to provide the missing BEV. But it’s really simple and does not concern BEVs. The choice comes down to whether or not to buy an ICE vehicle.

Well-informed buyers won’t buy a new ICE vehicle, period.

But… but… but… I hear the many objections. Why a new vehicle is absolutely necessary, that I’m exaggerating, that I’m in panic mode, that I’m a moron, etc.

Call me what you want, but do the math yourself. We need to reach net zero in 2050, preferably sooner and without burning the carbon budget for a 1.5°C global temperature increase. With current policies it will be difficult to stay within the 2°C budget, but that is another discussion. The year 2050 is the date, and road transport is the low-hanging fruit of decarbonization. We cannot afford to fail here. If we fail here, we fail everywhere.

The calculation is not difficult. A new car has an average lifespan of 23 years in Europe and decades longer in Cuba. The United States is somewhere in between.

There are plenty of younger cars that are a total loss. Those who die young cause the life expectancy of those who reach middle age to be much longer than the average suggests. Europe and the United States export many used cars. They have a longer life elsewhere. The actual lifespan of a car is much longer than the average in Europe and the United States. He’s probably closer to 30.

To get to zero emissions in 2050, the last fossil fuel vehicle would have to be sold at least as many years as its expected lifespan before that date. Preferably a few years earlier – oops, that would have been in the previous decade. Many ICE cars sold this year will still perform just as well in 2050. Maybe not in the country where they were sold, but somewhere in the world.

Not just cars in Europe, the United States or China, South Korea and Japan, but all cars in the world must be zero emissions by 2050. That’s why we shouldn’t add any more cars with an exhaust pipe at the world park. There are extreme cases where a PHEV is an acceptable alternative, but these are few and ignored in this discussion.

For internal combustion cars produced today and next year, the future is total loss or forced early retirement after rapid depreciation. Purchasing a new ICE vehicle now makes you responsible for creating a problem in the future.

This makes it a very simple situation. A responsible and knowledgeable person will not buy a new ICE vehicle. When a capable all-electric car isn’t available or isn’t affordable, buy a used ICE and help it get to the recycler (if you can afford it) as soon as you can get to it. fully electric.

I realize this is a tough question and answer. The public is not ready to stop buying new vehicles with tailpipes. The industry is not ready to manufacture all the BEVs we need. Politicians are not ready to say that today (yesterday, to be completely honest) is the day to stop buying what we have been buying for more than a century. The CEOs of Stellantis, Renault, VW Group, BMW and probably other colleagues have asked politicians to slow down. They think 2035 for Europe and a decade or more later for the rest of the world is a mistake. Too much disruption to industry and the economy. Too many workers are losing their jobs.

They are wrong, the time has come.


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Kevin A. Perras