Report: Internal Combustion Engines Expected to be Main Power Source "for Decades to Come"

By Trevor Dorchies | August 03, 2012
The likeliness of gas prices receding in the unpredictable fashion it rises is just short of impossible. Yet that hasn't stopped Americans from driving; they're just not going as far. While hybrid and electric vehicles have become more popular in recent years, a study conducted by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory panel to the U.S. Energy Department, has concluded that the internal combustion engine will be the main source of power for vehicles until at least 2050. In 2009, Energy Department secretary Steven Chu requested that the council investigate whether or not "alternative-fuel vehicle systems" are worth exploring further or not. But while batteries and hydrogen hold promise, the high cost will keep the average driver at bay for some time to come. The petroleum council, which is made up of industry, government, and respected university officials, believes U.S. policies regarding these technologies should vary with market dynamics, letting the technology itself remain neutral before determining what to do with the internal combustion engine. But for now, Bill Reinert, an executive of Toyota and co-author of the study, says that the internal combustion engine will continue to be the "dominant propulsion system for decades to come." However, it will get a little help. Hybrids and plug-in hybrids hold promise, as does shedding a vehicle's overall weight by using lighter building materials. Exactly what those internal combustion engines burn is also an open question. Compressed natural gas vehicles are also expected to give gasoline-burning internal combustion engines a run for their money. With a recent outbreak of shale rock formations breaking down, compressed natural gas prices are expected to remain low for the foreseeable future. Currently, CNG prices are the lowest it has been in a decade. Back in 2010, transportation was responsible for a third of all greenhouse gases in America. Out of that, 80 percent came from cars and trucks while boats, trains, and boats were responsible for the remaining 20 percent. Experts believe a "disruptive innovation" will be needed for the internal combustion engine on its own to match the emissions and fuel economy results of hybrid technology. However, according to the report, it's still believed that the internal combustion engine could become up to 90 percent more efficient than the current configuration. President Obama has looked to push hybrids and EVs to the forefront of transportation in the U.S. by granting automakers like Tesla Motors and Fisker Automotive grants, tax breaks, and loan guarantees. Obama's goal is to have 1,000,000 EVs on U.S. roads by 2015, a goal that's likely to miss. Through July of this year, the Chevrolet Volt has tripled its sales moving 8,817 units while the Nissan Leaf has seen a reduction in sales figures when compared to the same time last year. What say you? Do you envision the internal combustion engine being knocked off as the main source of power for vehicles in the U.S.? Tell us your thoughts in the comment section below. Source: Automotive News (subscription required)