The end of the era of internal combustion engines is in sight

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The transport sector, powered by the internal combustion engine (ICE), accounts for 27% of global CO2 emissions.

ICE is an umbrella term used to describe several types of engines, all variations on a theme – reciprocating, rotary, turbine, two-stroke and four-stroke, burning gasoline, diesel, biofuels or kerosene. Surprisingly, with all our ingenuity, the ICE was the best we could come up with, a noisy, inefficient and polluting engine, a major contributor to climate change and air pollution, and serious harm to our health and that of the planet. . Powering not only transportation, ICEs have powered all kinds of industrial, commercial and recreational equipment, from chainsaws to personal watercraft, and generate not only greenhouse gases, but also soot and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, responsible for severe air pollution and smog. The addition of tetraethyl lead to gasoline has also contributed to human health problems and increased lead pollution.

Frustratingly, NAFTA Chapter 11, by protecting profits at the expense of people and the environment, allowed Ethyl Corporation to sue the Canadian government when it banned MMT, another gasoline additive. and neurotoxin, once again demonstrating the power of society over government, the environment and human beings. health. Although catalytic converters, computerized engine management, and the elimination of lead from fuels have reduced some emissions, ICEs remain a major contributor to greenhouse gases.

There are several reasons for ICE’s longevity, not the least of which is its support for the petroleum and vehicle manufacturing industries. It is disconcerting that consumers continue to buy ever larger and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Manufacturers, backed by the oil companies, are more than happy to sell these gas guzzlers because they are so profitable, while the automaker lobby has successfully pushed back against tougher fuel consumption standards. Those who take public transport, drive a fuel-efficient or electric vehicle subsidize these freeway leviathans. Car manufacturers and journalists talk about horsepower, torque and other parameters of power and speed, but it’s not bigger, more powerful and more polluting vehicles that we need, as should be obvious to because of the carnage on our streets and our rapidly changing climate.

The cleanest motor is an electric motor. Although the ICE infrastructure is well entrenched, as electric vehicles advance, it seems that the era of ICE is coming to an end.

Hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fully electric vehicles will replace ICEs as electric grids are upgraded and we move away from fossil fuels to fully renewable sources, assuming the necessary electric and battery charging infrastructure is in place. square. Battery development is evolving, and range anxiety and charging times should be resolved. Infrastructure, security and energy density issues seem to rule out hydrogen as a viable source of fuel in an ICE or fuel cell. The way in which electricity is produced and distributed is a major issue. Although nuclear, hydro, wind, solar or other non-fossil fuel sources produce clean, greenhouse gas-free electricity, they have their own significant environmental and carbon footprints.

The life cycle of any vehicle, regardless of its power, must be taken into account in its carbon footprint. It is an oxymoron to describe an electric vehicle as zero emissions since it does not take into account the energy consumed and the emissions emitted by the extraction of raw materials, the manufacturing process and the layout of the vehicle when it reaches the end of his life. It also does not consider whether the process is linear or circular, with recovery of materials to be reused/upcycled. Battery recycling is essential because raw materials such as lithium and other rare earth metals come from a relatively small number of countries and are subject to geopolitical forces.

Ultimately, with a net greenhouse gas benefit from going electric, the future of transportation is electrifying.

Wayne Poole lives in Dundas.


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