Electric engines put another nail in the internal combustion engine's coffin

Blog by Michael Whereat, ASCA President

It's been a big week for the electric engine. Volvo has committed to move to electric-only engines from 2019 and begin "the historic end of cars that only have an internal combustion engine and placing electrification at the core of its future business".

Tesla began to scale up production of its fourth vehicle, the Tesla Model 3, a US$35,000 entry level vehicle which already has almost 400,000 pre-sales.

This is a key moment in history. Do we wait for the last internal combustion engine (ICE) to come off a production line to call it or take the Volvo and Tesla progress as the defining point?

Either way we are witnessing a significant inflection point in the history of the ICE. History is littered with attempts to scale production of electric engines, but this time it certainly appears that  the trend for electric is increasing.

Why is this relevant for smart cities? It is important for many reasons:

  • it signifies the reduction in complexity - electric vehicles have far less moving parts
  • with electric vehicle maintenance costs at approx 1/3 of ICE vehicles, there may be less mechanic positions
  • it is about the move from traditional to contemporary and from analogue to digital
  • the ability to install solar to help fuel my new car, and end the need to fill up at the servo on the way home
  • it represents the next wave of innovation - digital componentry that will support the connected vehicles
  • then next comes automation and with it a whole range of impacts to the urban land use patterns.

For many, the concept of considering how to deal with change associated with the e/digital revolution is challenging and takes us out of our comfort zone. But in the same way the emergence of the original ICE vehicles disrupted the horse and cart industries 100 years ago,many new changes are coming our way.

So, what advice do you give an aspiring mechanic? Go for tradition - or ride the wave of growth in electric vehicle maintenance?

If you work in shaping smart cites for your community, there are undoubtedly many complex issues to deal with; the change coming is not about if - it's when and how fast. Are you ready? Is your organisation ready?


There was a conference in the USA in 1904 on city planning. The big problem they discussed was how to cope with all the horse excrement that future transport needs would exacerbate. A few years earlier the politicians were still supporting the whale-oil industry for lighting needs. I think my advice to that young mechanic would be fairly plain. Don't forget too that the demand for cars will tumble when autonomous vehicles become common - just hire a vehicle when you need it, don't own it.

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