Europe is fully committing to EVs. Volkswagen says it won’t sell a combustion engine on the continent by 2035. Audi says it won’t sell one anywhere by 2033. Britain will ban emissions-spewing vehicles in 2030, and Norway will do it four short years from now.
But BMW won’t commit to a timeline for a pure EV lineup. Development chief Frank Weber recently spoke with Automotive News Europe, and had this to say when asked about the topic:
For electric mobility, the question is not when the combustion engine is ending. The question is: When is the system ready to absorb all those battery-electric vehicles? It’s about charging infrastructure, renewable energy. Are people ready? Is the system ready? Is the charging infrastructure ready? All of that.
It has also to do with the fact that I have people working for me on combustion engines and I’m shifting them over time into electric. It makes no sense to make the transition overnight. I have to make sure that this transition works perfectly — for both social reasons and economic reasons. These are real big questions.
While charging infrastructure has miles to go before it reaches the ubiquity of gas stations, the chicken-and-egg problem won’t be solved by manufacturing fewer EVs. More electric vehicle sales beget the need for more electric chargers; limiting one side of that equation won’t force the other to balance out.
When asked about Euro 7, the upcoming set of emissions regulations for the EU, Weber pushed for more leniency towards ICE vehicles. Despite being “fine with stringent regulations”, Weber felt that the proposed testing cycles could be impossible to pass:
The problem is with the proposal from the European Commission. The Commission has said the emissions requirements should be met under all circumstances. This means you can test compliance with a trailer, at minus 20 degrees centigrade going up the hill at 3,000 meters high. We as manufacturers have said this will not work. It would be like banning the combustion engine.
While banning the combustion engine is on the table for the EU as a whole, developing new emissions regulations implies that gas and diesel still have some life in them under Euro 7. Changing the stringency of tests certainly won’t help if ICE vehicles are banned wholesale under other regulations.
The list of automakers dialing back their investment in ICE vehicles is extensive, but BMW seem to be signaling a more cautious approach. The question is whether regulators will allow them to take it.