Daimler Killing the Internal Combustion Engine?

If a recent report is correct, there will be no further development in their internal combustion engine (ICE) lineup. Electric motors are their main focus.

As we continue forward in the automotive world, electric vehicles are looking more like our inevitable future from a mass production and manufacturing standpoint. Volkswagen has already committed towards ending their ICE usage in 2040, with their final engine development happening in under seven years. Consequently, 2040 is also the same year California has proposed a ban on ICE vehicles – including diesel powered vehicles – being sold new in the state. Volvo will no longer produce diesel engines after 2023 as their parent company, Geely, are developing more EVs.

Photo: Mercedes Benz
Now comes word that Daimler, parent company of Mercedes Benz, may have already ended development of all ICE engines, according to a Google translated article by Auto Motor und Sport in Germany. They won’t stop producing or selling ICE engines, but there won’t be further refinements or improvements to their current engine line up. It makes sense considering that smart car, Daimler’s small car company, no longer sells any ICE powered vehicles and are all EVs.

A Rough Translation

Photo: Mercedes Benz
Again, the article is all German and I only know bits and pieces of that language. So, I am relying on my web browser (Google Chrome) to apply a translation here. The parts I can read do say, “Daimler Stoppt Verbrennungsmotoren Entwicklung, Volle Konzentration auf Elektroantrieb,” or roughly translated to, “Daimler Stops Combustion Engine Development, Full focus on electric drive.” Kind of hard not to see that, even if you don’t understand German.

The article quotes Daimler Development Chief Markus Schaefer as emphasizing, “the main focus is now on the electrification, electric drives and battery development. It is also about shifting capacity from combustion engine and transmission development to new development areas. The overall budget for research and development remains at a high level.” However, they don’t have direct quotes from him nor say how or when this was said. Auto Motor und Sport is a good source, typically, so it’s possible they just didn’t want to quote him directly.

Bans Are Not an Answer

Photo: smart
To be quite honest, the announcement isn’t that much of a surprise. Germany is already phasing out new ICE vehicles with a full ban coming in 2030. As mentioned earlier, California and France will join suit just 10 years later and the United Kingdom just 10 years after that. Paris, Madrid, Athens, and Mexico City are removing diesel cars by 2025, while Norway will begin phasing them out starting that year.

At least they all say they will, and manufacturers aren’t going to wait around to see if it’s all green, tree-hugger brownie points or if there will be some sort of real follow through, it seems. Will it matter? Manufacturers are seemingly determined to go the route of the EV. Even so, there might be another government issue.

Though, California’s 2040 Ban May Be Mute

Photo: Porsche
There are some bumps in the road of ICE bans. Just recently, President Trump and the Transportation Department have pressed to remove the special allowance that California enjoyed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. An allowance that lead the state to enact its own pollution standards, zero emissions requirements, and the 2040 ban on new ICE sales. It is the same allowance that other states were following since they also used California standards on vehicle pollution.

The Transportation Department says federal law trumps (no pun intended) state and local laws. Now California, New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts and many others have joined a lawsuit to prevent that allowance from being rolled back (NOTE: that link might be paywalled). So, it may be possible that the 2040 ban won’t happen. It could also be pushed back if those states do win or nothing will change. We’ll have to see where that suit will end up.

EVs Ownership Shouldn’t Be Because of Prohibitions

Photo: Porsche
I, for one, welcome EVs. They are a great alternative to ICE while still retaining a lot of the fun-to-drive factor if you don’t mind missing the engine noise. I just enjoy driving and many enthusiasts who get behind the wheel of an EV agree that it’s a different kind of enjoyment behind the wheel. What I don’t like is what I mentioned above.

It’s all coming by force rather than allowing people to choose. When you begin to force someone towards something they just don’t want, you get a lot of backlash. A backlash, at least when it comes to EVs, that drives people away from the technology. It’s counter intuitive and proven never to properly work.

Photo: Porsche
Alcohol in the 1920s, marijuana until most recently, prohibition only drives a human to want that item or hate the alternative more. Just like booze and weed, it’s all wrapped up in “saving you from yourself” or, in the case of EVs, saving the planet from you for your children. Should EVs get some incentives for ownership, sure and in the same way we subsidize oil for fuel. Should more people give EVs a try, absolutely.

A ban on sales of new ICE-powered vehicles isn’t the answer to get more butts into EV seats. It’s a great way to drive them away, however. Just look at how modestly die-hard ICE owners react when they see a Tesla blocked from its charger. They revel in it and gloat. They do so because they associate EV ownership with bowing down to their “gubmint” overlords. They don’t see EVs for the opportunity to try something amazing, bring in more jobs for the US, or even look at it from a capitalist standpoint. They just want to watch them burn.

The Reality

Photo: Mercedes Benz
Unfortunately, it’s never a person like those of us who are open to both existing at the same time. It’s always the extreme because they are the loudest. Prohibition on new ICE car sales will happen and even potentially lead to confiscation of older ICE-powered vehicles. It will be done just the same as Cash for Clunkers (remember that horrible idea). You’ll get monetarily incentivized into destroying your old ICE rather than be encouraged into buying an EV. Its going to happen and probably around 2040 or possibly as soon as 2030.

Photo: Chevrolet
There is some good news with that as we’ve seen with Jaguar. Take your old car and improve it with an electric motor that works with the original drive line and add in a battery pack. You could even return it back to ICE if you wanted to. It looked like GM was heading down a similar path with the eCOPO, but now that’s looking less likely after the car failed to meet its reserve price at auction.

eCOPO Wheel Stand Video

A shame because it more than met the projects goals by setting a 9-second quarter-mile time (9.51 at 140-MPH) and that massive wheel stand.

Photo: Porsche
We’re also starting to see EVs push track day boundaries with the Porsche Taycan and the new “Plaid” prototype from Tesla driving on the Nurburgring. We’re seeing the ID.R set records beyond Pikes Peak. Its not just being faster in the quarter-mile bragging rights as EVs continue to improve range, heat reduction, and handling. Even now, Tesla Model 3s are going out to autocrosses and starting to show just how much quicker they are versus their ICE counterparts.

A future with EVs is great, a future where you’re forced into it isn’t.

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Justin Banner

Justin Banner, Lead Editor and Founder of Carbage Online, has been involved with the automotive media and industry in many capacities and now tackles publication ownership with CarbageOnline.com. Prior to that, he has freelanced for top online publications of modern media that include Speedhunters, MotoIQ, Super Street Online, Hot Rod Magazine and many others. All due to his nearly 20 years experience as a mechanic, service writer, and technical support in the automotive industry. Justin is also a Journalist Level member of the Motor Press Guild - an industry recognized entity of professional automotive journalists - since 2015.