I'll let everyone take a moment to clean their spit-take'd screens while I explain more about that report. The report in question is Baron Funds most recent quarterly report, and this 10-year death-watch for the evergreen internal-combustion engine comes directly from their analysts, after a visit to BMW's facilities.
Baron Funds is a leading international/global investment firm, and hardly the sort of company prone to pulling ideas like this ex recto. Here's what they say in their quarterly report, dated September 30, 2014:
One more thing. While many car companies doubt electric cars will ultimately represent a large portion of new car sales, BMW is not one of those companies. Two of our research analysts recently visited BMW's headquarters in Munich, as well as its electric vehicle and carbon fiber assembly plants in Leipzig, Germany, and its battery pack assembly plant and research facility in Dingolfing, Germany. The BMW financial team believes a revolution in drive train is underway. We believe that BMW will likely phase out internal combustion engines over the next 10 years!
Now, I'm not saying I know more than the analysts at Baron Funds. If money is an indicator of trust, comparing my judgment to theirs would be like deciding to have your taxes done by either a charming young paramecium or a CPA with a MacArthur Genius Grant. But, even so, I can't help but feel the 10-year window is a little short.
I don't think it's entirely unlikely that BMW — and most other car companies — will eventually abandon the ICE for something more efficient. Let's face it, all of the low-hanging efficiency fruit has been plucked from the old Otto four-cycle engine, and while they get better and better, they're still not all that efficient.
If there is a revolution in power generation — say, a real solar revolution, as this article compellingly suggests there could be — and that solar revolution manages to get the money/energy equation of solar-generated electricity cheaper than gasoline, then you bet everyone will be migrating away from explosions in little pots and to twirling electrons.
I'm just skeptical we're looking at just a single decade away from that happening. Plus, I think there will remain a (relatively small) enthusiast's market for cars running on gas explosions, and I bet BMW will keep at least one old-school straight-6 in production for idiots like us.
Still, it's fascinating to see such a dramatic prediction, from such a serious source at all. I guess we have about 10 years to see who's right.