Ignoring Tesla's success, some automakers continue to cling to the internal combustion engine

Posted on April 27, 2022 by Zachary Visconti

BMW's i3, a compact electric vehicle, was an early-mover in the battery-electric vehicle market. However, a BMW spokesperson confirmed last month that the i3 would cease production in July 2022, after an impressive nine years in world markets and over 200,000 units sold by October 2020, as reported by Hot Cars

Above: A Tesla Model X and BMW i8 charging (Source: EVgo)

The i3 was a significant success story for the early adoption of EVs, and the compact EV is set to be replaced by the BMW iX1 and a full lineup of BEVs. However, despite the success, BMW CEO Oliver Zipse warned last month of switching away from internal combustion engines too quickly, emphasizing that the market wouldn't be going anywhere anytime soon, according to Observer.  

"Combustion engine is the largest [automobile] market segment in absolute terms by far in Germany, also in Europe and worldwide. Before you simply switch off something like this within eight or ten years, you have to know what you are doing," said Zipse in a meeting with Germany's federal parliament, The Bundestag. 

"If you try to ban this technology in Germany and Europe, but the world market is not even that far, you will lose this technology in the world market as well. That's why we also warn against doing this too early and not giving the transformation a chance to develop with the markets. It would be harmful to simply give up a technology in which you have a global market position without need. I don't think that would help the climate or anyone else," Zipse added.

Despite Zipse's concerns, the move away from fossil fuel burning can't come fast enough for the sake of the climate. Comparatively, Tesla and other BEV-only automakers such as Lucid Motors, Rivian and Polestar are helping clean up the air we all breathe. Young investors recognize these differences and are tending to favor radically different auto companies with social and environmental goals in their stock choices, especially with Tesla.

Above: A look at the BMW i3 (Flickr: Jakob Harter)

And yet, similar stories aren't unheard of from legacy automakers around the industry. For example, a report last year from The New York Times exposed plugin Toyota's quiet lobbying against EV policies in Washington D.C., in favor of its long-held hydrogen-powered vehicle dreams.

The automaker's plugin pioneering Prius wasn't enough to stop them from opposing stricter emissions agreements worldwide, even suing some countries over fuel efficiency rules and making significant donations to U.S. Republicans in Congress who have opposed the passage of EV policies.

However, when questioned on its position, Toyota emphasizes that it isn't opposing EV adoption, despite slowing the process down, at the least.

In a statement, Toyota spokesperson Eric Booth said, "We agree and embrace the fact that all-electric vehicles are the future." Booth continued, emphasizing that Toyota thinks "too little attention is being paid to what happens between today, when 98 percent of the cars and trucks sold are powered at least in part by gasoline, and that fully electrified future."

Still, Toyota has announced plans for a wide range of upcoming EVs and is at least working to deliver them to consumers in the years to come, like many in the industry trying to support a sustainable shift to an electric market.

Either way, automakers like BMW, Toyota and others have much work to do if they hope to catch up with Tesla as EVs overtake the auto industry.


Sources: Hot Cars / Observer / The New York Times

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