Even With the Electric Vehicle Becoming More Mainstream, the Combustion Engine is Better Than Ever
The lowly V6 Mustang produced 210hp 10 years ago. Now, it makes 305hp
At the moment, engines powered by petroleum, whether it be diesel or gasoline, reign over electric motors for a variety of reasons, due in no small part to their lower cost of manufacturing, a large pool of people familiar with servicing those engines, and the ubiquity of refueling stations. As time goes on, batteries will become more efficient, smaller, and quicker to recharge, but they are far from perfect at this point in time. As far as electric vehicles go, the Tesla Model S is the only one that is a near perfect substitute for a traditional car, but its high price bars the population at large from easily obtaining one. Other electric vehicles are either too compact or have such small batteries that anything more than tooling around the city could leave drivers stranded with nowhere to go. While automakers are certainly doing their best to advance battery technology, today’s cars with gas or diesel engines are more powerful and efficient than ever, and the engine’s days before the Great Switchover will be its best.
Over the last 10 years, horsepower output finally crept back to being equal to that of the pre-Malaise-era automobile. Mustangs, Corvettes, and Ferraris again thundered forward with engines making in excess of 400hp and almost no cars on sale in America produce less than triple digit figures. With increased safety standards, the modern car is undoubtedly heavier that its 1960s/70s counterpart, but everything from top speed to acceleration and fuel economy is vastly improved since the automobile’s Dark Ages. Any new car taking more than 7 seconds to blast from 0-60mph is considered slow, and a 2013 Honda Accord will beat Ferrari 308s from a stoplight all day long (although there is no contest from a styling standpoint). Even as the manual transmission sings its swan song, dual-clutch automatics work with computer mapping, variable valve timing, and a host of recent technologies that make gasoline/diesel cars faster than ever.
Make no mistake, there will be a day in our near future when battery-powered cars will outsell those driven by gasoline and diesel. There are still plenty of roadblocks that need to be overcome: battery packs need to be less expensive to manufacture and integrate into automobiles than they are now. The batteries need to become smaller or use less energy to drive the car, and there has to be more power for those of us that still enjoy the thrill of flooring the accelerator. There has to be a refueling infrastructure that rivals the gas stations that litter our landscape and make cross country trips possible in even the thirstiest supercars. Until then, we can relish in the glow of hot hatchbacks that max out at 150mph and Bugattis that give physics the cold shoulder. Even in its twilight years, the combustion engine is better than it has ever been, and although we often take it for granted, this will be a time that we look back on when we are old and grey and remember the feel of the road in our fingerprints and the smell of cooked rubber when our right foot felt just a little too heavy.