The death of the internal combustion engine

I, the gasoline-powered internal combustion engine (ICE), became the engine that moved the world and powered the 20th century. My history is long and storied, and my achievements loom large in the history of great inventions. So, imagine how disappointed I was to read the provocative headline in the Aug. 28, 2017, issue of the Economist: "The death of the internal combustion engine." The subhead was equally dismaying: “It had a good run. But the end is in sight for the machine that changed the world.”

Range Rover SVA
Not dead yet—the internal combustion engine looks very much alive in the Range Rover SVA's 557-horsepower supercharged V8.

I turned the United States and, indeed, the world into an engine of mobility that created not just jobs for building vehicles, but also for constructing millions of miles of highways to accommodate the movement of people and goods via the power of the ICE. Most importantly, it was my engine of power and opportunity that built an entire middle class in the United States, a middle class that could afford homes in Levittown and breathe the fresh air of the suburbs rather than the stifling city atmosphere, where working men and women were so long confined.

I am the engine that changed the world.

Now, I am being told that I am obsolete. I am a dying breed of mechanical innovation. I’m even charged with polluting the air and creating climate change, or global warming (or cooling, whichever is the latest fad), something I vehemently deny. After all, we’ve come a long way, baby! We’ve developed technology that reduces what comes out of a vehicle’s tail pipe and increased the mileage that vehicles achieve per gallon of gas.

But I didn’t just become a useful tool for transportation—for the faster movement of people and goods. I created a culture—an entire culture of car lovers, drivers who identified with their cars. I became the culture of young men who idolized “muscle” cars that gave their owners prestige and power on the roadways. (Some women, too, obviously, but back in the heyday of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, hot cars were mostly a guy thing.)

I made noise! I went fast! I was the instigator of street “drag” racing. I made the oval tracks of Indianapolis, Canandaigua and Daytona famous. The need for speed was alive and well, and I satisfied that need.

The demise of the internal combustion engine has been greatly exaggerated

Judging by sales of electric cars in the United States, headlines shouting the death of the internal combustion engine are not based in reality. They are meant to convince those who continue to buy and drive gasoline-powered cars that we will soon be obsolete. Those vehicles will be relegated to the junk yard, smashed flat, baled and shipped to China, where they will be turned into household appliances.

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