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How To Keep The Internal Combustion Engine Alive

Even though we know its been killed off in new cars doesn't mean we don't have to give up on it.

3w ago

At the moment everyone in the car community who is a petrol head is angry and in sort of mourning that the internal combustion engine is being killed off by the government and environmentalists, including myself. Question is do we have to stop using it and my answer is technically no. There is a reason I said that because over history similar stories have happened when technology has replaced other methods of production and technology where similar upset and anger happened but somehow these forms of technology are around today and sometimes still working. So lets go back in time to the industrial revolution and then head to the our current time and the future.

Industrial revolution and the Birth of Steam power

The first major technological change happened in the industrial revolution where new tools and machinery started replacing the old medieval technologies that had previously been used to produce clothing, tools and food. There were reports that newly built factories/mills and farms with new fangled machinery were sabotaged by angry people who were forced out of business or out of their own jobs, who saw the machinery as a enemy. Many of the angry people were from the textile industry who at the time were using old spinning wheels (like the one in the Sleeping Beauty story) and producing clothing to sell in their towns and villages. After a while these people either reluctantly joined the new textile mills and factories or they continued their method as a unique craft business and trained other people interested who in turn passed the skill onto other generations. Another important invention that was brought out at the time was the steam engine and this advanced they way we powered machinery in many industries including coal mining, how we travelled and transported goods and it helped with another new advancement electricity at the end of the Victorian era. This invention was shipped across the world and advanced other continents. This will now lead us to the next chapter.

18th century steam engine

18th century steam engine

Steam power its success and end

After the first example of a steam engine was created it was gradually improved and the engineers of the day saw its potential to power vehicles that could be used on a vehicle that could replace horses on the coal mine tramways, this vehicle would become known as the steam locomotive (or steam train to some) and would gradually bring about the railways, which would allow people and goods to be transported quickly and efficiently between major cities, towns and villages. Like the steam engine steam locomotives were shipped from the UK and then built in other parts of the world by other manufacturers.

Road going steam locomotives were also created in the form of traction engines, steam rollers, steam trucks and even steam cars. Also boats were designed to be powered by steam replacing the sailing ships that were powered by wind.

Unfortunately for steam power it started to face a new competitor in the power department which had started life in the 1870's which was the internal combustion engine. The internal combustion engine started to gain popularity in the 1900's and erased the steam car and early electric cars from the market, it also started to change other road transport as new road vehicles like internal combustion powered buses and trucks appeared. Another mode of power also started to disappear which was the horse which over the many centuries pulled carts, pulled passenger carriages and assisted pulling and powering equipment on the farms across the world. By the 1940's most vehicles were powered by internal combustion engines and this kept becoming the most common power source for road vehicles and other machinery. But the only thing to avoid mass culling of steam power was the railway locomotive's, that was until the 1950's and 1960's when the railways started looking at diesel engine powered and electric powered locomotives as they were seen as cleaner, reliable and modern. By the end of the 1960's steam disappeared from use on the main railway networks and were sentenced to the scrapyard or non mainline use. A similar story happened in other continents in the world. In the UK many loyal fans and drivers and firemen of the steam locomotives were upset to see them disappear as well, but that is another story.

Steam loco at Barry scrapyard in the UK awaiting its possible doom, or not?

Steam loco at Barry scrapyard in the UK awaiting its possible doom, or not?

Internal combustion end (or is it)

Since internal combustion arrived on the scene it had replaced and had become the major power source for most of our transport needs and found its way onto powering some tools we use in construction and gardening. Its also been a ideal portable power source as well to provide electrical power for outdoor events, construction sites and off grid living. But during its reign it has had a opponent in the form of global warming and battery electric vehicles, which started of being slow vehicles that could only just reach 40mph and used lead acid batteries as a power cell and were only seen in experimental commuter cars, then around 1990 a real world contender emerged in the form of the GM EV1 which was a coupe streamlined electric car which was very advanced at the time, it even spurred on other experimental vehicles across the globe including a Ford Escort van that was trialled by the Royal Mail and a few other companies, there were even electric buses trialled but the issue was most of these electric vehicles used the lead acid type of battery. Hydrogen was also being trialled as well as a alternative power source and found its way into modified BMW internal combustion cars which ran on the hydrogen gas, there were even other clean burning fuels experimented. These experimental electric and hydrogen powered vehicles never got very far as the governments of the world kept funding the oil companies and technically the only experimental car to succeed was the Toyota Prius with its ground breaking Hybrid drive system. So manufacturers just had to produce internal combustion cars but update them to be more environmentally friendly on emissions. That was until VW, Audi and a few other manufacturers were found out to be cheating on emissions with their diesel engine models. After that scandal the internal combustion engine has been made to look bad and dirty, a bit like the steam locomotives earlier and then a certain Mr Elon Musk launched his electric Tesla vehicles which also spurred Renault and Nissan and other car companies to create a range of electric cars and Mitsubishi brought out a upgrade to the Toyota Prius hybrid idea which was PHEV in the Outlander SUV.

Now fast forward to now and the world governments have technically told manufacturers they must stop pure internal combustion powered vehicles by 2030 and hybrids can carry on till 2035. It has sent a huge shockwave through us petrol heads and has actually put us on the same spot as those people in the industrial revolution and the people in the 1960's when steam locomotives were being scrapped to be replaced with (cleaner) diesel locomotives. But here is the good news, everything these people thought would disappear still exists, if you go to any heritage museum there are people demonstrating how to use old tools and machinery that were saved and restored along with the skills that were learnt from others who had had the experience passed down through generations. I volunteer at one of the UK's heritage steam railways and even though I wasn't born in the era steam was common on the UK rail network I caught the bug from seeing these huge living machines at the railway I now volunteer at when I was only around 3 or 4 years of age and my love of cars came from motorsport and the various vehicles powered by internal combustion.

So what does this mean for us using internal combustion? Well if you are interested in internal combustion you should keep it going, Porsche and BMW want to help by providing cleaner synthetic fuels and other alternative green fuels are also being tested that can be burned by a internal combustion engine that are ten times cleaner than our current fuels. To keep the mechanical parts going for the engines there are plenty of companies who can re-engineer parts as long as manufacturers are willing to still provide them or let reputable engineering firms produce them. It can be done because in the steam locomotive side of things a load of different groups and organisations in the UK have been bringing out brand new steam locomotives that weren't saved from the scrap yards from copied engineer designs and by using modern engineering techniques on CAD and CNC machining. The most well recognised is the A1 steam trust who have already brought out one locomotive (A1 Class locomotive called Tornado) that was seen punishing Jeremy Clarkson on the Top Gear episode where they raced it against the Jaguar XK120 and Vincent Black Shadow motorbike from London to Edinburgh. They are also currently bringing out a second locomotive of a different class (P2 class called Prince of Wales) and after that a third extinct locomotive is in the pipeline to be recreated. Jaguar have also done this as well in the car world by re-bringing back continuations of E-type Jaguars and other lost models from original plans and a company called MST has brought back the Escort MK2 from measuring up original Escort MK2's of different styles and spec's. Other engineering firms are producing parts for older vehicles that have long been out of production, including veteran cars from the beginning of motoring history which are seen usually in the UK competing on the London to Brighton road run, remember the parts for these cars can't be found on a shelf at a local auto parts store.

So all this means if there is still a interest in internal combustion it won't die and if it attracts the younger generation who aren't exactly interested in computer algorithms and tech it will keep the techniques and skills alive to keep internal combustion vehicles, machinery and engines going. Future cars will most likely be electric tech boxes that will just become general transport we can drive and abuse on a day to day basis and the internal combustion vehicles will become our fun cars as we will be internal combustion engine enthusiasts. Also who knows if internal combustion will come back or be kept in hybrid form if some manufacturers find electric too unreliable to sales and reliability scores so they can argue a case to whoever will be in government. Plus we haven't yet seen the full effects of everyone plugging into the grid as it won't just be cars plugging in, it will be a whole range of items from your phone, household electronics, garden machinery, trucks, buses, lighting for streets, towns and cities, just look at the recent snow storms in America it caused massive power outages and we have not yet seen the recycling of the cars and batteries after they have become unusable. But currently EV is being hailed as the new revolutionary car and in reality new internal combustion cars have started to get dull and fake especially with things like fake engine noises and exhausts, plus they are now more complex. EV's have their advantages of being clean for use in a town or city where most traffic is stop start due to the amount of traffic on the roads and they are great for people who really only require a car to do short journeys to the shops or collect children from school etc. But as I mentioned above all off the effects of what hasn't been proven yet might make BEV cars become a bad idea.

I do have one thing to ask though if people are deciding to convert classic cars to EV or are a converter company please keep the original engine and ancillaries in storage marked to the owner of the car converted with the serial number and model of the car, so that if they do sell it, the original engine is handed over with the car if the future owner wants to convert it back to internal combustion. I myself don't particularly like this practice, but do accept cases if the engine in a classic was originally removed and scrapped or replaced with a non correct engine. Replacing a fully operable engine is a sin in my eyes, I have never had the urge to think that replacing the weedy engine in a old 1930's Austin Seven to a modern engine because of modernity as I love seeing the old engineering and sounds of a engine, like I do when I see steam locomotives operating. With a EV it is a case of looking at a sealed box with some wiring and computer modules, which to me seems a bit un interesting especially to me as I am not 100% with computers and tech even though I was brought up around the things through school and life.

Fossil Fuel VS EV a current on going argument

Fossil Fuel VS EV a current on going argument

Thanks for reading this. I hope this has educated people on technological changes throughout history and how similar it is to this change. I hope it will make both the internal combustion engine followers feel reassured that it isn't the end. I also hope it will make the EV followers understand that not everyone wants to go down the same path, as people all have different interests in other things and don't want to be forced to one route. Please comment below if you enjoyed the article.

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Comments (12)

  • Long live petrol power!!!!

      23 days ago
  • The politicians wanting to do away with ICE are a bit like Tesla engineers. Not a "Car Guy" among them. They also do not understand that our electric grid will not handle the extra load EV will suck up for decades to come. Start watching for the car companies to state walking back the death if the ICE.

      13 days ago
    • Someone is playing the politicians and I wouldn't be surprised it's who we think it is with his credit hand outs.

        13 days ago
  • Well with classic EV conversions often they are made in a way to not interfere with the originality of the vehicle as in you can just convert it back to stock and there would be no traces of it ever being electric. Also converting a classic car to ev is cool because that makes it usable on the daily basis and with some cars it's a complete improvement over stock. Like any car with Diesel engine or old Citroens (because maybe with the exception of the SM, BX 4TC and GTI, GS Bi-Rotor, CX 25 GTI Turbo and Saxo VTS the engine isn't very important in those cars, it's whatever) would be way better with electric power trains.

      1 hour ago
  • i cant help but wonder that since motorsport isnt getting entirely electrified i dont think the transportaion section will not either it just isnt feasible the electric car market is still ridiculously small but im also sick of all the electric car simps that say "oh you should like it cause its better" and it isnt even better the motors are effecient but so far the most power we can push out of 4 electric motors is about 2000hp gas motors can go way beyond that if the engines were made more efficent if f1 went from twin turbo v6s to twin turbo v12s formula e would be losing to a ridiculous degree just some food for thought i dont hate evs i just that ev people want to take my ICE when there really still is very little reason to get rid of it especially if e fuels or hydrogen catch on

      9 days ago
  • I could not agree more, to me EVs are exciting but I will always love the old and usually slightly rubbish stuff. I think people do need to except that just because EVs are normal doesn't been ICEs will just disappear, there will always be someone willing to keep them going (if I'm wrong it will be too far in the future for anyone to criticise me for it!). Brilliant article.

      21 days ago
    • Let's put it this way some of the steam locomotives, stationary engines and road vehicles are over 100 years old and some of the what we know as veteran cars are over 100 years old and still being run on roads. So it's not over.

        21 days ago
    • I agree, it's definitely not over and I am very happy about that

        21 days ago