Combustion Engines Peaked In 2018: It’s All Downhill For ICE Now


Fewer and fewer ICE-powered cars will be sold in the coming years, but more EVs are expected.

Many of the large automotive manufacturers are already adopting electrification as a way to improve the efficiency of their cars. Still, the internal combustion engine will continue to play a major role in the industry within the next at least two decades but, looking at what experts say, it’s probably safe to assume the ICE’s peak is now a thing of the past.

After speaking to specialists from the auto industry, Financial Times published a comprehensive report about the fossil-burning engine. Interestingly, several experts told the publication sales of ICE-powered vehicles peaked in 2018 which basically means it’s unlikely that more cars with ICEs will be sold within a year in the future.

“We will probably see the peak of combustion engine car sales in 2018 based on global sales through October, plus estimates for November and December,” Felipe Munoz, global automotive analyst for Jato Dynamics, told Financial Times.

As of January 2018, predictions were that the demand for ICE-powered cars will continue to grow until its peak in 2022. It turns out that the major drop in overall new car deliveries in the three largest regions in terms of sales, Europe, the U.S., and China, might have significantly changed the forecast.

“When you look at 2018 since the summer, new car sales in all of the important markets are going down. Selling combustion engine cars to customers – this will not grow in the future,” commented Axel Schmidt, global automotive lead for Accenture.

In 2019, global vehicle sales aren’t expected to decline as electric vehicles are expected to quadruple their market share to about 1.6 percent. Even if overall sales increase through the next 12 months, deliveries of ICE-powered vehicles will likely fall, say specialists.

Source: Financial Times via Futurism and TheDrive

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94 Comments on "Combustion Engines Peaked In 2018: It’s All Downhill For ICE Now"

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BEVs are still a few years away from greatly impact the sales of ICE’s, so if it has peaked it is just because the total car sales has peaked.

agree. would like to see the numbers to back this up. The only EV selling in any volume is the Model 3. I find it hard to believe this is much of a dent in the overall car sales.

Other EVs sell in volume outside the US. Especially in China.

In the US, Model 3 is the 4th best selling sedan(though sedans are a declining market in the US, and they have been for years). However, right now, the main thing holding back the Model 3 in the US is production(AFAIK there is not enough production to meet demand) and price(the base Model 3, $35k without incentives, cannot be ordered yet). Once that happens, the US is in for another huge surge in sales for Model 3, deliveries have not started in China or Europe yet, but both are places where sedans are still a huge driver of car sales. AFAIK there *might* be a battery upgrade to Model S/X later this year(March), it’s just speculation right now, but a 125kWh Model S/X with 425/375 miles of range respectively, with better performance, at a similar price to the current ones, might boost demand for Model S/X. Model Y reveal is expected in March, and assuming it takes them 1/2 as long between reveal and production(Model 3 took 18 months), it should begin production 9 months after reveal(which means the first Model Y US deliveries could start as soon as early-2020, but that’s being optimistic, will likely be mid-2020). Model Y… Read more »

Wait, maybe Mirai fool cell sells very well. Okay, it doesn’t sell at all even with free fuel.

how do you get free fuel when there are so few filling stations?
And considering that it is more expensive than gas to run, I think that any FC vehicle is a money losing operation.

Fuel Cell leases are a bargain, especially in California with tax incentives and 3 years of fuel. However once off the lease the value of the car is far less than the residual, the lease companies are taking a severe loss. A used Murai will cost you much more monthly cost than a new lease after you factor in the fuel cost, who will buy them? A 2016 Mirai will cost you $17k plus about $300/mth for fuel. Of course that is a lot cheaper than a 2016 Tesla S70 at about $50k, gee I wonder why the Tesla holds it’s value better.

How hard would it be to rip out the fuel cells and hydrogen tanks and add more batteries to a used car?

It would still be very ugly and very slow by today’s BEV standards.

2017 has been 1,2 million out of a total of 97 million. 2018 should have been 2 million and 98 million. Slight growth in total sales, but a lot more from plug-in veichles than from ICE ones. If growth rate of BEVs and PHEVs stays the same (about 65%) in 2019 we should have 3.300.000 sales.

If total car sales don’t yet go down in 2019, ICE ones will mathematically start the decline.

i love it when ppl compare just passenger EVs to ALL VEHICLES sold.
It shows that so many ppl either do not have a clue about stats or are lying about something.

I used to think that way, but it won’t be long before we are including trucks in our BEV stats so, yes start now comparing to all vehicles and as the percentage goes up it will be more “comparable”.

Trucks are a very small percentage of total vehicle sales. EVs are still impacting them. TCO is better understood in the commercial sector and EVs with the right usage get great TCO improvements.

Closure of 5 GM plants and the extinction of numerous models of cars by Ford & GM, all ice, says otherwise.

Those plants are being closed because they couldn’t compete with Japanese ICE cars not because of Tesla (well, maybe a little).

Odd. It has only been over the last couple of years that GM, ford etc have seen sales go down. And I believe Japanese sales are down.
Only EVs are up. In fact, if not for EV sales, total numbers would be down.

Yeah almost… Tesla decimated the sales of lexus, now they are waiting for these customers to return.

Recent issues on Wall Street indicate that the peak was probably in 2018.

It’s not that “total car sales have peaked”, and it’s not unrelated to BEVs. It’s true that if you just look at the number of BEVs produced, it’s not enough to look like it’d have an impact.

But they are, because it’s becoming increasingly evident that BEVs are the future. As a result, demand for new ICE is falling quicker than BEV production is ramping up. ev-sales blog mentioned it in one of their posts within the past week – increasing numbers of people are choosing to get on waitlists for BEVs rather than buy ICE.

So… yeah.

as wealthy ppl read more and more about the resale value of their ICE vehicle plummeting, it will mean that more of them will be dumping these as they buy EVs.

This! And as Windbourne says if you buy a new ICE today, what will it’s resale value be in 5 years? Practically nothing as people will be looking for used BEVs, just like today the used market is for efficient gas cars, not big gas guzzlers.

I agree, we could say we are at the begining, not the very begining, but still a begining, that’s why it might be hard to see or say it definitely and sales of EVs will only increase at the expense of ICE cars

I think it’s very possible that total car sales have peaked or will in the near future. A lot of the growth in car sales was in China which frankly is a terrible environment to use a car. Their mega cities of 40 million plus have too many people for car based transportation to make sense. It’s simply not logistically feasible to make the car the dominant mode of transportation there.

In the country it’s a different story, but most Chinese now live in cities and the rural areas are much poorer.

It would be great if the obsolete ICEVs all went to the junkyard tomorrow; but, they will be around for 15-20 year to keep dogging us.

I bet in 5 years, EV conversion kits get real popular.

EV conversion kits will never be popular. Spending thousands of dollars to convert an older car to an EV, instead of buying a used EV, makes little economic sense. If it’s an older car it won’t have that much life left anyway, and very few people will convert a car that is still under warranty.

Obviously not a car collector. People spend many thousands unnecessarily on old cars. EV West is booked for years and converting old iron to EVs is what they do.

That’s a small, niche business. For most people, converting your ICE to EV makes as much sense as converting your old tube TV to LED. You could do it, and if you really like the look of your tube TV’s console, it would work. But almost no one will bother.

In nearly all cases, you’ll be better served by a purpose-designed EV than a conversion. Better handling, better use of space, better weight distribution, not to mention, cheaper.

I’ve looked at videos of, for example, converted VW Beetles. They look incredibly cute, and I’d love to drive one once or twice. But as a daily driver? No thanks – those things are death traps in an accident.

One good place is conversion of delivery vehicles. Otherwise, no.

It’s completely beyond the capabilities that most people to convert a car to EV anyway, and like you said the economics don’t make sense. For many years after they crushed all the EVs in the late 90s/early 00s, I thought about doing a conversion. I even owned a Suzuki Swift (Geo Metro) that I intended to use for it. Long story short, time passed, real EVs returned and it no longer made sense to do so. In the end I bought a used Nissan Leaf that worked better for much less than the conversion would have cost. The Swift served out its life as a gas car getting 40+ mpg then went for free to a friend of the family with not much money and was totalled when it was broadsided by a pick up on the freeway. (No one hurt fortunately…guess that little “death trap” was tougher than I thought–probably helped that it hit the passenger side though.) I don’t agree with others who see ICEs as becoming suddenly obsolete. Unless gas prices go up by like 10x that’s just not going to happen. Plenth of people driving cars couldn’t care less about performance, it’s just about getting from… Read more »

For classic cars, sure. One already exists for an old mustang, and it’s really cool

Ron Swanson's Mustache

ICON has done a couple of antique EV car conversions as well.

Oh, I think ICE will be here past 2050. But, they will be small amount and very isolated usage; EMS, construction, and DoD.

I disagree, it seems that last year was the first year BEVs made a measurable dent in ICE sales. This will only accelerate. BEV sales will likely hit 6% for next year.

Outside China, there won’t be enough BEVs made to make it possible for sales to be anywhere near that high. Also, with China apparently entering an economic downturn, don’t expect BEV sales to be up there this year, either.

We’ll need to see lots more battery cell factories made before BEV sales can reach 6% of all new car sales, either domestically (U.S./Canada) or globally. And it takes about two years for new factories to get up and running at high speed, so it’s not going to happen next year, either.

If people decide to withhold purchase decisions and buy used, or simply begin to place orders for new EVs (Model Y), that’s a commitment towards transition and it will also result in lost sales for FF cars.

Tesla’s are still too expensive for the vast majority of people. The relatively high order numbers hide that truth. Many people never even buy a new car–they can’t afford to.

We’re not going to see widespread EV adoption until they really are affordable. That’s why we really see more buy in than just Tesla. Even the base Model 3 (which we have yet to see) isn’t really an inexpensive car.

ICE sales will fall before BEV sales replace them, because BEVs are awesome, people want BEVs, and they know that more BEVs are coming. In the meantime they’ll buy neither ICE nor BEV, because they don’t want ICE and they can’t buy BEV. They just hang on to their ICE car a little longer. I know, because I did exactly that: I held on to my 20-year old ICE car for two years longer than I wanted, because I was waiting for the Model 3.

U keep thinking that it is about selling more EVs. It will be about ICE sales plummeting for next 2 years.

There is a simple reason why ICE sales will peak long before BEV sales ramp up. Consumers are ready to, “Skate to where the puck is going, not where it has been.” People are going to postpone buying ICEVs while new, improved and less expensive EVs and a greatly expanded charging infrastructure is just around the corner. For every EV sold today, 2-5 future ICEV sales are lost. People will see more EVs on the road, become used to the idea of an EV and will consider one for their next purchase. Or a test drive in their neighbour’s car totally convinces them. Or they find that a second-hand EV is cheaper and more reliable than a used out-of-warranty ICE. Or their lease will expire just as a dozen new EVs hit the market. Or they are on the fence waiting to see what happens. Today’s ICEVs sales decline immediately in response to future EV sales. Not current BEV sales.

In mature ev markets like norway once Evs hit 10% consumers defer in greater numbers the purchase of a new car until a compelling ev comes along.

Peak ICE means forward investments in new engines and transmissions will be curtailed and be diverted to electrics

BEVs won’t replace ICE unless there is significant improvement in battery technology. Battery cost and weight need to drop about 40% to make BEVs fully competitive. Currently various subsidies make them competitive, but this is not sustainable if they get significant market share. As a matter of fact I believe we have passed the peak subsidy phase for BEVs.

It’s already happened in Sparks, NV. Parity was surpassed in 2018. EVs are now cheaper to PRODUCE than ICE.

That is definitely not the case. Take Tesla Model 3 MR for example, it is still priced maybe 1 to 2 grand more than the competition. But it doesn’t have the same margins as ICE luxury models. This allows ICE cars to sell or lease $5-6k or so cheaper. Tax incentives close the gap and make the car competitive, but if they are gone Model 3 is still too expensive.

As of now it might be cheaper to rent a EV in Iceland when you factor in $300 dollars in gas over two days.

The only thing I’m worried right now are will they build more EV high powered chargers in that having a charger that can only charge up one to two cars at a time worries me.

As more alternatives to the ice become available fewer and fewer ice will be sold. Currently there is no alternative in the pick-up, large relatively inexpensive, suv categories, and a limited selection in many other areas in regard to availability. A large percentage of vehicle sales in the U.S have no representative ev model for sale. As these types of vehicles in ev form do hit the market in numbers that matter, ice sales will accelerate their fall. I love how they sort of shuck and jive, oh well we were off by 4 years in our downturn estimates, but we are on track, now. That was a year ago and they were off by four years, so now they will tell us all about the next 2 decades. Really? So assemble a bunch of gears heads ask them about the future of evs, but go back a few years to do it. Hardly any would predict anything near where we are today. An ev sedan one of top selling cars in U.S. and soon to be the rest of the world. None of them saw that, and very few of them see what is really coming, despite the mantle… Read more »

You really hit the nail on the head when you said gear-heads but I prefer gas-heads.

Whenever the is a new video showing the Model 3P in action the comments range from:

1) Tesla fans – saying look at that Tesla go.

2) Electric Car fans – saying I buying an electric as soon as I can afford one.

3) Car fans – saying I think I should look at electric cars a little more.

4) Gas Heads – saying how can anyone love such a car, it does not make loud noises or smells.

5) Lying Gas Heads – saying it is still a slow golf cart and it fails all the time and has all sort of manufacturing faults.

The last two is where all the FUD comes from.

From article: “…the internal combustion engine will continue to play a major role in the industry within the next at least two decades…”

Over next decade ICE will phase out as it is clearly already on that path now… beyond 10 years from now absolutely ICE *will not* be playing a mayor role in the consumer automotive industry.

I think people will be shocked at how quickly ICE dies once EV adoption moves into the steep part of the S-curve. The smart money will leave all the ICE related parts of the economy (save perhaps repair shops, for a short time, as people hold their older ICE cars waiting for a suitable EV replacement). And without investment, all that ICE infrastructure will go into death spiral.

Yeah, there will not be any meaningful ICE sales in 2040. It is certainly possible ICE sales are largely finished by 2030. It is the current trajectory and the ball has just now started really rolling downhill.

“In 2019, …… electric vehicles are expected to quadruple their market share to about 1.6 percent.”

Makes no sense. EVs were roughly 2% in 2018. This may refer to BEVs, since PHEVs still have an ICE, but even BEVs alone are above 0.4% in 2018 Quadrupling doesn’t sound right, either.

Yeah. Even aside from the highly questionable percentages quoted, quadrupling market share in a single year is not merely absurdly unrealistic, it’s an outright wishful-thinking fantasy.

Not if Tesla could grow like they did in 2018.

Of course that won’t happen because the Chinese gigafactory will only ramp up in 2020 and Fremont will not be able to go above 450K/yr.

From InsideEVs Plug-in Sales Scorecard, 2018 BEV sales were 1.38% of all US light duty vehicle sales. Next year should double to about 2.7%.

The stupid old coots at Mazda, who never managed to build a meaningful engine whatsoever, claimed they are not giving up the internal combustion engine. Their only hope is when no one builds any engines, they will finally stand out with one.

Yes. Just ignore the only rotary ever to win Le Mans, the SkyActive series or the BPD from the GT-R.

Mazda rotary died like a street dog, while burning more oil than fuel, that is extreme example of incapable engineering. Skyactive is just another way they failed, other incumbents simply build way better engines.

Mazda has the most ambitious ICE development plan, compression ignition gasoline engine. This is something that a lot of big guys failed to do, Mazda will have a car with this engine in 2019. They were also a couple of years ahead of others in introducing high compression (13:1) gasoline engines.

The comments on TheDrive article are amusing, many of them showing they’re in a state of denial.

ICE is dead already. The more interesting question is the incumbents which die first.

Im hoping that when GM, Ford, and probably CHrysler ask for money, that we either:
1) don’t give them a penny.
2) break them up in 5 companies EACH.

the problem has been that these companies are horribly mismanaged . That is why we need 10-15 car companies so that when one dies, they die. Investors would learn to quit putting MBAs in charge of these companies and instead run bright engineers.

Damn straight. Any company that is “too big to fail” needs to be broken up into companies which are not too big. That goes for auto makers as well as financial companies.

Very true, with more & more countries banning the sale of combustion engines by 2030/40 I cant see any manufacturers pouring money into something that has a defined sell by date in some countries in as little as eleven years time.

Sale volume peak or not, the technology has peaked. No body is putting any significant R&D into making ICE better in terms of weight, power, torque, efficiency, emissions. The remaining effort is to milk dry whatever knowledge technology one has in ICE. Manufacturing cost reduction is going to be only serious R&D expense.

Ignore all the public statements and announcements and photoshop powered concept cars… See where the R&D money is going. Look at unhidable things like recruitment of ICE development engineers, test/measurement equipment, CAD tools like Abaqus or Fluent. That tells the true story of what the industry is thinking collectively.

I believe BMW is funding one more generation.
One and Done.

if so, then yes, they will be done.

You are kidding. Right?
ALL OF THE LEGACY companies have poured BILLIONS into R&D to improve Gas/Diesel. GM, Ford, VW, etc.
Heck, the reason why VW is so upset is that they dumped some 20-50 BILLION into improving diesel and was going to push it no matter what the consequences.

The problem is that all of these companies are ran by MBAs that do not think long-term but short-term.

Yes… have poured billions into that, in the past. But no longer. GM closing auto assembly plants is a pretty significant harbinger of the future. If you doubt that, then prepare to be very surprised in the next few years.

“Sale volume peak or not, the technology has peaked. No body is putting any significant R&D into making ICE better…”

Thank you! Yes, that seems to be true… unlike the wildly wrong claims in this article.

There are at least three significant technologies that are being introduced: 1) electric superchargers 2) compression ignition gasoline engines (Mazda), and 3) variable compression ratio (Nissan). I think we have at least another decade or two of ICE development in front of us.

Also add camshaftless solenoid actuated cylinder heads.

If we really hit this milestone in 2018, instead of 2022/2023 as I was expecting, then that’s amazing.

Next milestone – ICE vehicle yearly sales lower than yearly retirements? I haven’t looked at the numbers for this at all yet. Any guesses out there?

Total ICE fleet is still growing about 40 million per year. So EVs need to reach 40 million annual sales to start reducing the ice fleet absolute size.

The only place that ICE fleet is still growing is in China. In fact, both ICE and EVs are growing in China. This is very bad. It will require for China to sell at least 1/2 of new cars as EVs to start lowering their ICE. Until that time, CO2 emissions will continue growing. Oddly, since CHina has decided to continue with more coal plants than AE, there EVs will also continue growing their CO2 emissions, not lowering it. Only nation on this planet, except maybe Australia, India, and South Africa, where that could be true.

In the west, ICE are already dropping. Both ICE and EVs are replacing ICE. So over the next 2-5 years, the west’s car fleet will make some major changes in terms of pollution/CO2. And that is with the new larger trucks/SUV hitting the market.

“The only place that ICE fleet is still growing is in China.”

Uh, no. Sales are growing India and some other developing nations.

To begin with, plug in sales are already above 2% for 2018, which would put BEV sales at 1.4% already. If the 50% annual goth curve is maintained, we will be over 2% for new car sales on BEVs this year.

But the top 4 cell manufacturers have stated they will hit a combined 300 GW-h of cells for 2020. Assuming the trend of 2/3 BEV to 1/3 PHEV continues that would be 5.4 million BEV and 2.6 million PHEV. Also assuming global car sales stay flat at 80 million, that would be 10% of all new global sales will be plug in, 6.8% will be BEV in 2020.

The cell manufacturers are Tesla/Panasonic, LG Chem, BYD, and CATL. The cell numbers are based on widely available press releases for them, but there are MANY smaller cell manufacturers I didn’t count. The rest is just deductive reasoning. You will not find this prediction anywhere else.

That’s a bold prediction. It would require 100% growth year on year. From 2m in 2018 to 4m in 2019 to 8m in 2020.

It seems so, but I didn’t count any cell manufacturer wanting to make less than 50 GW-h/year in 2020, of which there are a lot. My numbers here I see as a minimum.

Remember they are not just selling car batteries, laptops, tablets, phones, power tools and other items insure they have a market for production. So growth in so many areas helps their profits.

Plus energy storage

Storage is not growing as fast yet so for 2020 at least, moat new cell peoduction will go to cars. After that though, storage will be a wildcard.

Of those areas, only automotive batteries is growing by 50% per year. Almost all the growth will go into cars.

And the big question is who will be producing those 5 million BEV’s next year?

Tesla will have around 500,000 a year then, so there’s another 4.5 million BEV’s that have to come from somewhere. VW are planning around 100,000 and there’s probably in the region of 500,000 from Hyundai/Audi/MB/BMW. So 4 million from China? Or are there other companies ramping up production to make those cars available?

As I have been saying here for sometime, we will see the X-over occur in the end of 2022/3 time frame. The reason is exactly what you see here. ICE sales are going up, but only because of China. If you take china out, ICE sales have gone DOWN in linear fashion. Come next year, we will see that ICE sales dropped exponentially. EVs will have gone up, but other than Tesla, they will be linear. Demand for Tesla will go up exponentially, ESP. if they are able to complete the China factory and IDEALLY if Australia or Europe helps get in Tesla.
BUT, by end of 2021/2, we will see ICE sale drop logarithmically. Any legacy car maker that does not have at least a 6 tesla-killer quality EV models will bankrupt. Again.

Car sales are down due to expectations of an economic downturn; we’re already seeing many signs of a coming downturn in the U.S. economy.

I don’t know where this meme of “everyone is putting off buying a gasmobile because they want an EV” is coming from. I haven’t heard any of my friends or relatives say they plan to buy an EV.

I think there is a lot of wishful thinking going on here. I do expect to see EV sales rise exponentially over the next 10-15 years, but the crossover point (at which plug-in EV sales will exceed gasmobile sales) isn’t going to come as soon as 4-5 years from now. For one thing, battery cell supply isn’t growing that rapidly.

As an EV advocate I would certainly like to believe this is true, but I think it’s rather premature to make that prediction. The sales of gasmobiles are, at present, affected far more by economic upturns and downturns than they are by competition from plug-in EVs.

And any so-called “analyst” who doesn’t understand that pretty basic concept deserves to be utterly ignored.

Imagine people with 4-5 years old car, they normally replace with something newer. Believe it or not, many do. Let’s assume these people are somewhat intelligent following news. Will they replace their car any time soon with another ICE? I say not, they will drive the current one to the ground waiting for their first EV, fitting their purpose and price.

This is the group of people which will grow bigger and bigger and will be determining the fate of the legacy ICE makers …. It’s not just about which technology sells more cars currently in near future, but also rather about the potential buyers skipping one whole purchasing cycle. This alone will cause a lot of pain to many car makers and dealers as well.

I’m pro EV, but you just aren’t going to see all this change in just a few years.
Isn’t going to happen.

That article does not even mention Tesla and their cars in the EV section at the bottom or anywhere else in the article. Strange.

Yeah, They list the top 20 brands, but Tesla would have slotted in as number 15 if included. Maybe next year, I wonder how far up Tesla has to go before they will recognise it.

I noticed that, thought that was weird they weren’t mentioned at all.

Just shows Tesla getting slighted is real and not just Tesla fans whining.

The best selling segment is pickup trucks, the average selling price of them are about $35K…Musks Madmax pickup will most likely retail for more than the Model X…We’re at least a decade or two away…

I think all the automakers have been blindsided by Tesla’s success.
All automakers combined probably spent billions of dollars in developing more efficient gas engines in the last two decades.
Had they spent that money on EV and battery development, the entire world would be like Norway by now.

ICE aren’t just in automobiles: Power tools, boats, personal water craft, propeller driven aircraft and motorcycles also contain them. With power tools (leaf blowers, lawn mowers) we are thankfully already seeing a big switch to battery powered which is a good thing given ICE in those things have zero emission controls. I think pleasure boats and personal water craft (PWC) will be some of the last to switch because they operate near full power which would require some really large batteries. Unlike automobiles these often run at or near full power for extended amounts of time.
For example, a 100 HP motor boat or PWC running flat out is pulling about 75kW assuming 100% efficiency. Really cheap and energy dense batteries will be required to be viable in those.