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Goodness Ugwumba Opara

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What is the future of the internal combustion engine?

Some people believe this engine will be phased out eventually. Others think it'll only get better and better as the years roll on. I think there's an an upper boundary to how much better it can become, and therefore there'll come a day when someone will build a museum for them. What do you think?

With electric vehicles on the horizon and battery technology improving each year, a bright future for these engines is becoming harder and harder to see.

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  • Sep 6 2013: Hie,
    Certainly IC Engines will get replaced completely by other means like Steam turbines or air compressors or Gas turbines in further 2 to 3 decades. One of the best live examples for this is JAGUAR's CX-75 concept car which has replaced ICE by Micro Gas Turbine Engine. And also one of the main reasons is whole the world looking towards the future of Electric Cars and Electric Bikes, in order to get zero emission and to protect ecological balance, where there will be no place for IC Engines. So I will strongly say that "there is a day which is an END for present Internal Combustion Engines (Piston-cylinder type) "

    You can see about Jaguar's CX-75 concept car in the following links →

    • Sep 6 2013: Interesting idea of using a scale down turbine + electric hybrid. I wonder what the mass production cost would be for this technology outside the high performance car category? I looked for the mpg and saw that they was predicting 55. But I suspected that it was based on gas + electric calculations. I guessing the mpg is approximately 35 mpg based on the extended range figures versus the size of the fuel tank.

      I believe this car tech is more about performance. An electric motor does not have to have a transmission and can out accelerate an ICE powered automobile. Jaguar not only gets to build a hybrid to look good, but they build one that blows the others away. It will be interesting although to see if this will lead to other technology that may pave the way for replacing the internal combustion piston powered engine.

      Correct me if I am wrong but my estimate on mpg is based on the 560 extended miles and the 60 liter tank. 60 liters works out to be 15.8503 gallons. So 560 / 15.8503 = 35.330 mpg. When I throw in the extra 66 miles for EV that brings the total up to 39.494 mpge. This is about 15 mpg difference. The only other explanation is that Jaguar is expecting the driver would only burn 11.38 gallons between fillings.

      Oh course the only way to know for sure is to do a live test instead of trying to extrapolate it from range vs fuel storage.
  • Aug 26 2013: We mustn't overlook the emotional attachment we have to the ICE.
    As bad as it is for the environment, it does provide a huge power to weight ratio.

    Powered flight would not have developed without the ICE.

    I'm sure the first time two prototype automobiles met at an intersection, the drivers wanted to see which was faster.

    A capacitor would make sense, but all it would do is move pollution somewhere else.

    What's more, a capacitor could be a disaster in a collision when several thousand joules shorted out at once.
    The automobile designer would have to make the capacitor accessible to highly trained technicians ONLY.
    This would not stop the Sunday racer from trying to make his vehicle go faster.

    If you remember Nevil Shute's apocalyptic novel, On The Beach, the last gasp of the human race was an automobile race, and the Last Man on Earth shut the garage door, swallowed a poison pill, and started up his race car.

    The metaphor was unmistakeable.
  • Aug 25 2013: Have you any idea of how many ICE (Internal Combustion Engines) are in existence worldwide? Do you really think a great new technology is going to replace the engines in South America or India or so many of the other 3rd world countries that are being squeezed out their natural resources? Yeah sure maybe when humanity grows a soul... But not for a long time like a thousand years... We can work with what we have and the rich can move into outer space and use fuel cells and electric engines but the other 10 billion have ICE, so lets make work with the water we have. H2O and a little electric = clean burning fuel... It's not rocket science...
    • Aug 25 2013: Problem is, hydrogen production from water is a very inefficient process--most of it goes into heating the water, not breaking apart the molecular bonds. For every unit of energy you get in hydrogen fuel, you need to spend quite a few more in electricity.

      Only way that'll be economical is if electricity turns cheap enough, and I'm not sure even nuclear fusion is capable of that particular feat while fossil fuels are still around as a cheap alternative.
      Another possibility is that capacitor design will improve enough that you could just use the electricity to power a vehicle directly (the only thing really holding back electric cars today is battery technology). No hydrogen required.

      The thing is with trying to predict technological advancement more than 5-10 years ahead, its like any prediction of the distant future. A fool's errand.
      • Aug 25 2013: That really was the case and 5 months ago I would have agreed with you. AquaTune uses the power from the intake manifold to help break apart the molecule rather than rely on electricity alone. Previously it took 10 to 12 amps of power to make 1.5 liters of hydrogen per minute but now they can produce 2.5 liters of hydrogen with only 1.5 amps of electricity on demand with NO storage necessary.

        This tech does not seek to replace petrol but instead work as a combined fuel saving you 25 to 40%. That is real and significant dollar savings in your pocket every week. Wouldn't you rather save money than have to buy and electric car replacement. I love electric cars. They are quiet and make a lot of sense, but worldwide replacement is impracticality. There are many countries where the vehicles are from the 1950's. if you are rich and can afford "the savings" more power to you. Maybe the rich will buy electric cars for the poor from the kindness of their hearts.

        I am not predicting just following the current and relevant technology. Many people still hold the notion that it takes more power the create perpetual motion than can be harnessed. That is a fool's errand. It closes the mind to the obvious, like the world is in a state of relative perpetual motion already, and all you have to do is plug in. Ie. wind turbines or geothermal power. The power is there already. Same with hydrogen. There are many low cost and novel ways to do what we previously thought couldn't be done or couldn't be done for another 5, 10, 20 or 100 years just sitting there looking at us and laughing at or lack of ingenuity.

        Maybe the oil companies will just stop making fuel and use the oil for plastics, asphalt, toothpaste and everything else that requires some form of oil and humanity will recycle it vehicles in a utopian change of conscienceless. I would really like that.
    • Aug 25 2013: Hydrogen from electrolysis or other chemical processes can not solve the issue of fuel. Forget about clean coal, nuclear, H2, biofuels, etc.We need a new paradigm shift in our motor/generator design. We should simply forget about fuels, and concentrate R&D to convertion/transformation of electromagnetic waves such as IR radiations. Once the technological challenge is resolved here, our energy problems will be solved 4 ever. The beauty of fuelless electricity generation is NO WASTE, GARBAGE CLEAN UP required.
      Check this journal article link: http://jrse.aip.org/1.2633039Amazing! Isn't it?
      • Aug 26 2013: Actually, it sounds from the article that you'll still need a source of heat to get any real amount of electricity together.
        Which in most cases, means fuel.

        We're still looking at a game changing technology once its made practical, but not quite on the scale you suggest.

        Of course, who knows when it'll actually be practical. Nuclear fusion for example, has been twenty years away for the past fifty years now. Chances are that it even once its developed, it'll be some time before its made economical while they work out all the initial kinks that new technology inevitably comes with. It may never be economical at all--go figure how the market will look in twenty years. You just can't know those things in advance.
        • Aug 27 2013: Hello Nadav,I think the need for excessive heat is due the immaturity of the technology. Any body at temperature above 0K radiate IR. As nanotechnology develops and we become more able to manipulate or control magnetic waves in those tiny devices, the conversion of IR radiations to electricity useful for motors, generators, and even storage will drastically increase. Already, estimates put the efficiency at 80%. Pretty good when you consider that PV barely go beyond 20%. What's more interesting about IR radiation conversion to electrons is that bright sun is not required. Suddenly, you have 24 hour source of electricity, day & night.
      • Aug 27 2013: Its not just about efficiency, its about effectiveness.

        If say, I have a panel which converts IR to electricity even at a theoretically impossible 100%, the total output of ambient IR radiation it picks up is 100 watts, and I want switch on a toaster that uses 1000 watts. Either I need to increase the ambient IR (easiest way would be to burn a fuel), or I need to store the electricity in some manner, which can be something of a pain.

        Some applications simply need a greater concentration of power than is practical to achieve with the energy of ambient IR.
        Hence, you'll always need fuel. Or extra panels I suppose, but at a certain point (and probably rather early) you'll hit a balance where fuel+existing panels is cheaper.
        • Aug 27 2013: Yes, Nadav.
          I agree.
          It's true that concentration of power is needed for some applications. However, that's what storage (batteries, flywheels, capacitors) is for. With this combo (ambiaent IR + storage) you will not need fuel. If, on average, you collect 100w/h from ambiant IR, at the end of day (Remember IR is available day or night), u'll have collected 2400wh, more than enough to run your 1000w toaster for 1 or 2 hours. I bet you don't use toaster for 2 hours every day. You see! Happy now?
      • Aug 27 2013: The idea that you can change an infrastructure without a catastrophic event is my first issue. Second you cannot enact broad change without the prospect of monetary gain. Solar is in a second decline in it's history. PV is all about real estate and financial return as well as is wind. Nuclear is stupid but only survive because of subsidy and even oil is subsidized through war and control.

        The important challange is that of transistion and profitability; being clean and green is wonderful but doesn't have the force to change a culture in total
  • Aug 24 2013: I foresee the end of combustion engine in less than 10 years. I think the misinterpretation of the law of conservation has clouded our technological mind, and our mind has limited the possibility of energy generation to closed systems. And yet, we all know that our planet, solar system, or galaxy are all open to the rest of universe with "infinite" energy.
    What have we done to cheaply & conveniently access water? Do you know? We invented pipes that run from sources (rivers, lakes, etc) to wherever H2O is needed. And then when done, H2O is returned to sources. Imagine how foolish it would be to try to synthesize water through expensive chemical reactions? That's what we are doing with Energy. Pretty smart, eh eh eh!!! Maybe NOT
    All that is required is to engineer a device that can collect the energy we need from this abundant, "infinite" source, universe. = open your mind, think, believe, and get to work =
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      Aug 25 2013: I agree Musole. but I'd modify your first sentence to read: "I foresee the BEGINNING of the end of the combustion engine in less than 10 years."

      As a marine engineer I spent 40 years working with and operating Infernal Combustion Engines. The biggest problem, which can't be overcome with clean fuels, is that they're inherently very inefficient and the smaller they are the worse that efficiency is.
  • Aug 24 2013: Industrial greed leaked the ICE onto civilian streets and with promises to take Man further and faster, "The Great Leveller" has just made us lazy. Once the last tank of gas runs empty, we will once again turn to industry for an impressive technology to covet.
    Renewable energy sources in nature [solar, wind, hygro] are not only very easy to hack into [subverting the revenue streams away from providers] but require $Trillions to develop the technology to meet our extravagant power demands. Biomass - great, looks good to us innocent folk on paper, very resourceful and convenient to use... but they can't sell us back our own s***.. Entrepreneurs and independents will swoop to make money out of something so easily attainable.
    Hydrogen, if it were readily available in the same abundance that it exists in our cosmos, would be an exquisite solution. However the best way we have to obtain it is from Natural Gas, and the process produces about half as much CO2 as burning coal, while also being 3x as costly... Alas, pure H20 emissions sounded so neat.

    It is of course neat opportunities for monetisation that drive Energy companies: swap gas stations for (very) high speed charging docks, swap ICEs for battery-powered motors, and swap non-renewables for Nuclear power. Charging stations are very low-tech (goodness knows how we'd address safety issues with hydrogen pumps/canisters) so franchisees will swarm to deliver the Nuclear-sourced 'fuel' [electricity] with greater ease than engine-fuel.
    Completely key is that the method of delivery [recharging] is already established, it makes it very easy for car-manufacturers to pick up the slack on their end of development... But so too is Nuclear energy. It will be more expensive than ICEs - with vehicles tuned for efficiency not performance - but cars were only ever going to be a flash in the pan "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty - a fad."
  • Aug 24 2013: As much as I love the internal combustion engine,it is not very efficient,most of the heat energy goes out the exaust.On the other hand,electric motors are very efficient ,I'm guessing twice as efficient as a internal combustion engine.The problem is the batteries,they just haven't reached the capacity to drive 600 miles and most people feel uncomfortable driving a electric car full time.I think because of the battery capacity,the car manufactures are in a wait and see,they have a few products ,because they know at some point batteries will become better.But trust me,in 20 years we will have electric cars that are capable of going 600 miles on a single charge and the infrastructure to charge them.
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    Aug 15 2013: The internal combustion engine will become obsolete. It's inefficiency will take it to it's grave. Sure, they will be around for a while like tube televisions are today. Too many moving mechanical parts.
  • Sep 14 2013: Iwas told a few years ago way before technology is at the level it is now that water could be used to run an engine for any car/vehicle. Water has never been used as a fuel because it is available virtually worldwide , so what would oil companies do then? I wonder does anybody now , if this is possible in this day and age?
  • Sep 14 2013: Electric motors can can be very robust and dependable. The Diesel locomotives that pull trains are actually a diesel generator-electric motor hybrid system. But the Achilles heel is how we going to power the electric motor. Batteries have several problems.
    1. Cost. Due to subsidies, many people are not aware of the hidden cost and are hit with the gotcha cost when they have to replace them without the subsidy. I believe this would lead to used battery/electric cars (and hybrids with batteries) being dumped on used car lots to pass that cost on to the new owner.
    2. Disposal. As the tech is being pushed, batteries are becoming more exotic and possibly more toxic.
    3. Batteries take too long to recharge.
    4. Some batteries are a fire hazard when shorted or if they get water in them. There was a case of a damaged car from a accident with a Lithium-Ion battery. It was sitting in a lot and got rained on causing it to catch fire destroying it. and the surrounding cars.
    5. Time and cost to build enough charging stations across the country for electric cars be adopted. I am not sure if the battery tech can be improved enough to overcome these hurtles. It is coming down to physics and chemistry as much of the limiting factor.

    But if any other tech ever overcomes these issues I would be glad to step up and buy a electric car. By other tech I mean
    1. A super capacitor dense enough to hold a charge for 200+ miles, and enough charging stations to service travelers. Some feature for safely discharging the capacitor in an accident may be needed.
    2. An economical means to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for a fuel cell/electric cars. And enough hydrogen refueling stations to service travelers. Also I would want to be assured of the robustness of the fuel cell vs the cost of replacement.

    As for splitting hydrogen there is some new experiments using other means than brute force of electricity. I am hoping one day one of these will pan out.
  • Sep 14 2013: I expect that the internal combustion engine will be used for generations to come unless there is a game-changing development in battery technology.

    In the future: Internal combustion engines will run on renewable bio fuels such as ethanol derived from algae. Hybridization will become mainstream, although the size of the electric system will usually be smaller than in today's hybrid vehicles. And the full-fuel-cycle efficiency of future internal combustion engine powered vehicles will be surprisingly better.
  • Sep 14 2013: Yes I agree the next generations will see them in Museums.....There is lot to be done , discovered..... like anti gravitational forces, harnessing of matter energy.

    once the energy equation is solved the future for Human kind will be great.....discovering the great energy, how dose the cosmos is created , how do life gets in the consicious bodies, what is the nature of consciousness, is it possible to trace this consciousness in their different pilgrimages...is there is a four dimensional world.

    Discovering this huge area will make todays discoveries as primitive as the whole energy related solutions will be at least known.
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    Sep 13 2013: Two unusually interesting possibilities:


    • Sep 14 2013: Thank you for this link. I wish I had known about this technology in April as the corporation I work for had an open forum on sustainability. I suggested that unless the oil markets collapse they should invest in replacing their fleet with a new motor. I suggested the ecomotor but wished I had the information on MYT which seems a better option considering their power requirements. The MYT servo it seems can have an additional purpose that needs to be explored. With the kind of power output it would be ideal as the power source for industrial robots or prosthetic/bionics or mobility chairs. A TED talk on DARMA inventions had a product of a robotic camel which if it had the MYT motor could be self sufficient using local cooking oil. This is just my opinion but it will be hard to replace the standard combustion motor for the financial gains it creates for dealers, who rely on a complex motor to need complex servicing.
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    Sep 13 2013: Take it out back and shoot it!

    It's a inefficient mini-power plant that heats your car more than it moves the wheels. It's far better to burn oil in an industrial size power plant which is far more efficient and can capture some of the emissions that go out it's chimney's.
  • Sep 12 2013: What a great topic!

    I am in support of the phasing out of the internal combustion engine . However it has been demonstrated vehicles powered by hydrogen or electricity have the same, or greater, carbon footprint.

    Where's my hoverboard?
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      Sep 13 2013: I don't think you are correct about electric cars having a greater carbon footprint. Perhaps there is slightly to build them but the ICE requires a vast amount of regulating apparatuses to keep it from destroying itself. All the engine oil and coolant is due to the incredible heat produced when the gas explodes. Electric cars who few moving parts: wheels and a drive train. Minimal maintenance, minimal cost, minimal footprint.
  • Sep 9 2013: As long as there are supporters of people and companies that want to investigate alternatives I think ice's will eventually become obsolete, however I don't think electric powered vehicles will stand the test of time either, electricity will still need to be generated to power the engines.
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    Sep 8 2013: They are already on the way out, and I hope to see the end of them in my lifetime.
  • Sep 8 2013: Shell are giving the ICE around 50 years before it will have been substantially replaced, and are predicting – and planning for – hydrogen fuel cell power as the ultimate replacement. They have been thinking about this harder and longer than most, understand the limits on further efficiency gains for ICEs in minute detail, and see hybrids and BEVs as intermediate solutions. This time scale is also nicely aligned with 'running down' the world's inventory of ICEs, adding to the efficiency of the transition to other power types.

    At the same time, trends such the next wave of emerging LDCs and the growth of micro-manufacturing could see the persistence of the ICE in regions with cheap and easy access to oil or other hydrocarbon (waste) feedstocks and infrastructure. The expensive and wasteful global transportation of fuel could be supplanted by regional production and distribution, creating a diverse landscape of automotive energy sources and powertrain designs around the world.
  • Sep 7 2013: The major use of the internal combustion engine will fade but not go away. There will be jobs and locations where it will still have advantages over the electric engine. i.e. locations where there is a sparse populations like northern alaska, canada.
  • Sep 6 2013: As an answer to what could be the death of the ICE is cost of fuel. If fuel costs keeps going up to where in the future people are not able to afford the fuel then they may have to park/abandon their cars for other means of travel. In Japan many people in the cities can afford a car but can't afford the space to park them, so they use mass transit instead. We may end up having to adjust our travel habits in this country (U.S.) if fuel becomes too expensive.
  • Sep 6 2013: I believe that what ever replaces the ICE will have to meet certain criteria.

    1 It has to be economical enough. If too expensive, people will never adopt it. This also applies to the infrastructure to support it. It will have to be cost effective to replace the gas stations etc that supports the ICE. Henry Ford made the automobile cheap enough for the masses. This represented a new freedom to travel that totally changed society.

    2. It has to match the ICE capabilities. For example If new tech takes too long to refuel (or recharge) then that will be an obstacle to the very freedom of travel that people have grown to take for granted. They will reject it. The new tech will have to be able match the power of the ICE. Not everyone's needs can be met with little cars. For example the rancher, or the landscaper has to have enough power to pull trailers with animals or equipment.

    Whatever does replace the ICE may have to do so slowly over time because:
    * The time it would take to build the new support infrastructure
    * The time for people to learn to accept it. It may take a couple generations to make the migration.
    There were many people in the early 1900s who was distrustful of the automobile and stuck to horses.
    For many families, it took another generation to adopt the automobile.
    * The new tech may need time to mature; to work all the bugs out.
  • Sep 6 2013: Read that a long time ago. It's old news and the system has evolved to actually surpassing expectations But it's ok for you to believe it will never work. You should follow where the US Army and Airforce are spending money in renewable energy alternatives for vehicles. Instead of me telling you I suggest your read and research....
  • Sep 5 2013: Like the buggy whip, the crank telephone along with party lines, the film camera, and the manual typewriter, the internal combustion engine will one day be something in museums or your crazy uncle still uses. What will replace it? Contributors have added numerous possibilities. I give the ICE maybe 50 years, maybe two generations. Someone in the writings stated it would take a 1000 years to be completely replaced. Well since they only last a couple dozen years, once there is a competitive alternative be it chemical, electrical, atomic, etc.;the ICE will be out in one generation.
  • Sep 4 2013: There is very little doubt that basing our technology on fossil fuels is not much short of a suicide pact for humanity; it dooms Earth to many of the problems that the greenies spout off about. What is needed is an alternative energy source, of which there are many. Embracing one or several of them will, while providing us with the opportunity to avoid massive atmospheric carbon dioxide overload, almost certainly spawn new technologies not yet dreamed of.

    The biggest problem we have in achieving that, though, is that the Big Energy people will have to give up trillions of dollars in profits if that happens. Naturally, they are not likely to 'go quietly into the night' ... they'll fight true progress tooth and nail to preserve their place at the top of the economic food chain.
  • Sep 1 2013: It is a dead end since the resources for it are very limited and the pollution it causes is very bad all round. It had its day and needs to be upgraded to something better. The problem here has been the tendency to spend very little time and money on alternatives when there seemed to be an endless supply. This creates inertia which is typical; of human beings in their comfort zone. Imagine if alternatives had been thoroughly research say 40 years ago then we would by now have a thriving energy supply from other sources.
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    Sep 1 2013: I would like to see a revival of the steam driven car, like the Stanley Steamer. At the turn of the 20th century, a kerosene boiler was needed to heat the water sufficiently and after about 15-20 minutes you could go. These days I'm sure that lag time could be drastically reduced. With that said, there could be things other than gasoline that could make engines more efficient and extend the usefulness of the internal combustion engine for a long time to come.
    • Sep 3 2013: I remember some time back reading that BMW was experimenting with a steam/internal combustion engine hybrid. They are working to convert wasted heat from the exhaust and radiator of an internal combustion engine to drive a steam turbine to supplement power to the drive train. They reported a 15% gain in fuel efficiency.

      I understand that in the 1920s some steam cars was still being built. I was told that the Baker Steam Car (Not to be confused with Baker Electric) could start with a minute of heating though I could not find any proof of this on the Internet. I did find a video of a 1925 Doble Steamer that could start with 2 minutes of heating. The video is Jay Leno (owner) explaining the tech and demonstrating it.

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        Sep 3 2013: there are also 6 stroke engines, for example the crower design. interesting concept. these designs are viable from an engineering standpoint, but pose serious discomfort for the user, and thus not marketable.
  • Aug 29 2013: While the civilization on this planet remains oriented largely around the wheel and fire for the creation of energy, the internal combustion energy has a long and healthy life ahead of it
    Our imaginations seem to remain more focused on finding alternative and sustainable fuel sources to turn that wheel. Nuclear energy, the new age, has probably reached its zenith to be replaced by more benign energy sources - possibly the "green age" where the internal combustion engine will still have a place.
  • Aug 29 2013: nothing lasts forever. engines and motors are the main ways we harvest fossil fuel energy. engines are a means to an end. what exactly is that end, or goal? there are other ways to achieve the goals we new use engines and motors to achieve. there are the ways humans have been using for millennia. and there will be new and different ways to achieve these goals without engines and motors.

  • Aug 28 2013: I just received this notice in a RSS feed. It is about Toyota has built a hybrid electric car that is using a super capacitor. See: http://newsroom.toyota.eu/pressrelease/3583//toyota-yaris-hybrid-r-420hp-hybrid-powertrain-details

    Capaciter has a higher density than a NiMh battery.
    Front wheels: 300hp 4-cylinder 1.6 turbo engine
    Rear wheels: each has a 60hp electric motor.
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    Aug 27 2013: IC engines will stay. We have many replacements to Diesel and Gasoline. Some fossil fuels do give better efficiency and cleaner burning like Natural Gas and Butane/Propane. Renewable options are Biodiesel and Ethanol. There will be technological developments to improve ICE It is easier to replace a fuel than the whole vehicle.
    Electric vehicle will slowly be more common as battery capacity increases, speed increases and overall cost is lower or comparable to IC automobiles.
  • Aug 25 2013: It is the unfortunate truth that people aren't aware that the internal combustion engine is perfect for future use to burn hydrogen, either pure, mixed with gas or deisel, or with oxygen and water. Take a look at Aqua tune to understand that the combustion engin and hydrogen can actually be a benefit to humanity. Dd you know that when you mix hydrogen with gasoline that all of the gas is burned with NO carbon emissions? Did you know that that not only will you not make carbon emissions but you you will also ionize the air behind your tailpipe, thereby cleaning the polluted air already out there. Did you know that by mixing hydrogen in your fuel that your engine will operate at a lower temperature and will burn all of the carbon and oil deposits making your engine last longer. No I think that that a little wisdom will help combustions engines stay and persist in out world for a long time...