For some time the car industry has been focused on electric traction.
This is particularly so with European manufacturers who have long been under political pressure to reduce levels of CO2. European makes have also had to contend in short order with the demands of WLTP, petrol particulate filters and the sudden unpopularity of diesel: for certain brands it seems almost as if they see electric vehicles as some kind of salvation.
So it was something of a surprise when Porsche, the most profitable name in the VW stable and hardly, you might think, in need of salvation said it was committing itself to a future of electric vehicles: in ten years all production would be electric or hybrid.
Porsche is clearly advanced in battery technology: its Tesla-rivaling Taycan is due to enter production in 2021 and it anticipates that by 2025, half of Porsche production (admittedly these days over 70% SUVs) would be battery powered.
The company could not afford to develop petrol and electric traction so had opted for the latter.
This could prove a risky strategy: these are not utility cars – Porsche makes much of the sporting heritage and emotional appeal of its products: will customers regard battery-Porsches in the same light? Will those electric bugbears range anxiety and the inconvenience of recharging going to disappear in the next five years?
The likelihood is that despite this show of confidence, Porsche is quietly continuing its Otto-engine research (this is after all the company which designed and built its reputation on that flat six) while work on conventional combustion continues in the background.
For there are other less contentious fuels: natural gas (not batteries, far too heavy and expensive) seems likely to power much inter-city road freight in ten years; it would make economic sense to use biogas in cars too.
And a further thought: nobody talks about peak oil any more and the oil companies are as busy as ever: man’s insatiable addiction to plastic, Blue Planet notwithstanding, means diesel and petrol, inevitable by-products of refinement, will continue to be produced in large qualitities.
The obvious solution would be to use them as a transport fuel, especially if pundits start predicting peak lithium…..