BMW CEO says combustion engines still important, don’t be too reliant on EVs

The transition towards electric powertrains is happening at such a quick pace that it’s almost frightening. To some extent, it almost feels like Thanos’ snap, where half of all internal combustion engine-powered (ICE) models have just disappeared into thin air, replaced by their newer and shinier electric – or at least electrified – counterparts.

Several carmakers who built their reputation on making engines are switching outright to electric power, and some countries are even planning to ban the sale of new ICE cars outright, as soon as 2030. BMW CEO Oliver Zipse, however, believes that the quick transition and over-dependency on EVs in such short notice could be a mistake.

Speaking at a Roundtable session in New York attended by Reuters, Zipse said that there’s still a market for combustion engine cars in the global space, adding that the switching over to EVs also means increasing our reliance on just a few countries in the world to provide the raw materials needed to build EVs – particularly China, which controls the supply of most raw materials needed for lithium-ion batteries.

“When you look at the technology coming out, the EV push, we must be careful because at the same time, you increase dependency on very few countries,” said Zipse. “If someone cannot buy an EV for some reason but needs a car, would you rather propose he continues to drive his old car forever? If you are not selling combustion engines any more, someone else will.”

RELATED: BMW loves their combustion engine – won’t commit to firm EV switchover date yet

This isn’t the first time that Zipse has spoken out against an outright ban on combustion engines. To date, the company still hasn’t announced a first EV switchover date yet in stark contrast to most of its competitors, and Zipse himself even reaffirmed that new combustion engines will still be part of BMW line-up and development for years to come.

Zipse argues that the solution at this point in time, from both a profit perspective and environment perspective, should be to offer more fuel-efficient combustion engine cars rather than an all-out EV onslaught, pointing at the obvious gaps in charging infrastructure in many countries, as well as the higher price of electric vehicles.

While controversial, we think that Zipse’s arguments aren’t necessarily without its merits. A recent BMW study found that while eight out of 10 Malaysian drivers want more EVs on the road, nearly 60% of those respondents will still choose an ICE-powered car over an EV when buying their next vehicle, mostly citing concerns such as range anxiety, maintenance costs, and difficulties in keeping their EVs charged.

EV charging networks are still in their infancy stages here in Malaysia, while at the same time EV prices are also still struggling to reach parity with other ICE-powered cars, despite the government’s recent tax exemption incentives to accelerate EV adoption in the country.

But these issues are definitely not insurmountable, especially if the entire automotive industry bands together to create a solution. For instance, carmakers such as Porsche and Mercedes-Benz have already both partnered-up with other industry players to deploy DC fast chargers nationwide, while BMW Malaysia also recently unveiled its NEXTGen platform that brings together various industry players and experts to facilitate conversations on sustainable innovations and solutions.

So while EVs are definitely not ready for mass-market adoption right now, there’s no saying that it won’t be in just a few years time. Is Zipse just being overly cautious, or is he just grasping at straws, holding onto the last ounce of hope for the inline sixes? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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