Will the Gas Engine Soon Be Obsolete?

As the popularity of electric vehicles grows, what will happen to the gas engine?

an electric dodge charger
(Image credit: Courtesy of Dodge)

As the popularity of electric vehicles grows, will the gas engine become an endangered species? 

The short answer is no, or at least not in the next couple of decades. There are just too many gas-engine cars on the road, with after-market suppliers and local garages supporting the repair of internal combustion engines. 

Even so, your next new car could be an EV. You may be wondering, is now the time to buy an electric vehicle? Fiat Chrysler gave motorheads a stir in mid August when it announced that it will shut down production of its gas-powered Dodge Charger and Challenger at the end of 2023—and hopes to produce its electric muscle car, the Dodge Charger Daytona SRT Concept. General Motors announced last year that it plans to offer a fully electric fleet by 2035. And Ford, the last of the Big Three automakers, has pledged that 40% of its global sales will be EVs by 2030. 

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Recent regulation out of California is also spelling impending doom of the IC engine. The California Air Resources Board approved a plan to reduce air pollution by requiring 100% of new cars sold in 2035 to be zero-emissions vehicles, including plug-in hybrids. The regulation will take effect in phases, so starting in 2026, for example, only 35% of new vehicles must be considered zero-emission, with this percentage increasing to 68% by 2030 and 100% by 2035. However, the key language in the CARB regulation is the phrase “including plug-in hybrids,” meaning the IC engine still has road to run. 

A plug-in hybrid has a battery and an electric motor, but it also has an internal combustion drivetrain. Once you drive past the vehicle’s electric range of, say, 30 miles, the gas engine kicks in. So even in California—and a number of other states that are likely to adopt its emission rules—you could buy a brand-new car that has an internal combustion engine in it in 2036.

Karl Brauer, executive analyst at iSeeCars.com, also cites the limits on precious metals needed for batteries. “There simply isn’t enough lithium out there, which suggests we are going to run out. It’s the same conversation of oil being a finite resource,” he says. But a battery breakthrough is possible. The World Economic Forum says EV-battery recycling could help cover the lithium demand, as could better extracting methods. Scientists are also working on alternatives such as sodium-ion batteries.

Rivan V. Stinson
Ex-staff writer, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Rivan joined Kiplinger on Leap Day 2016 as a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. A Michigan native, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2014 and from there freelanced as a local copy editor and proofreader, and served as a research assistant to a local Detroit journalist. Her work has been featured in the Ann Arbor Observer and Sage Business Researcher. She is currently assistant editor, personal finance at The Washington Post.