Fuel-burning powertrains will dominate the decade

Luca Ciferri is senior reporter at Automotive News Europe.
By 2020, 93 percent of the new cars sold in Europe will have a traditional powertrain. That is the conclusion made in a report by J.D. Power and Associates analysts, who also predict that just 3 percent of Europe's total car registrations will be battery-powered electric vehicles (BEVs) and 4 percent will be gasoline- and diesel-electric hybrids by 2020.

Not only do I think this prediction is correct, I believe it is good news for the industry and for the environment.

Even with government incentives, BEVs and hybrids are – and will remain – very expensive for at least the next decade. Therefore, their coming arrival will have a tiny effect on reducing overall automotive emissions during the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, improvements to the internal combustion engine have led to the launch of dozens of models that emit less than 100 grams of CO2 per kilometer. Most of these cars cost about 15,000 euros (about $21,000). That is roughly half the promised European starting price – with incentives – of the Nissan Leaf battery-powered hatchback.

Almost a century ago Henry Ford said that a true innovation is something that is affordable to the masses. A 30,000-euro Leaf does not meet that criterion.

The bottom line is that the millions of affordable, low-CO2 fuel-powered cars that will be sold in the next 10 years will have a greater impact on cutting overall emissions than a couple hundred thousand pricey EVs and hybrids.

This does not mean automakers should stop trying to create a vehicle that produces zero emissions from well to wheel.

Dreams drive innovation – and the car industry badly needs fresh ideas to reinvent itself during these difficult economic times. However, it is wrong to believe that the switch to electric mobility is imminent and that this switch will fix any of the industry's problems.