The Man Whose Gear Caught VW Cheating Says Diesel’s Death Is Overstated

What is the market leader in equipment for measuring automobile emissions to do if the vehicles of the future have no tailpipes and don’t emit exhaust? Japan’s Horiba Ltd., whose gear was central in exposing Volkswagen AG’s diesel-cheating scandal, believes that day will never come.

Electric vehicles won’t ever make up more than a third of autos worldwide, says Chief Executive Officer Atsushi Horiba, because it’s just not feasible to build the scale of infrastructure to enable battery-powered cars. Who, for example, would set up a charging station in the middle of the Arizona desert, he said in a recent interview in Tokyo. Internal combustion engine automobiles will continue to have a place, especially in emerging markets, he said.

Photographer: Akio Kon/Bloomberg

“Any academic who says 100 percent of cars will be electric in the future has been reading too many comic books,” said Horiba, 69, son of the company’s founder. “It’s not an issue of technology, it’s just reality.”

Despite his confidence, signs are pointing to a major acceleration in the electrification of automobiles in the two years since VW admitted to installing cheat devices in diesel cars to circumvent clean-air regulations in the U.S. China, home to the world’s biggest automobile market, is ushering in stringent cap-and-trade fleet-based emission and fuel-economy regulations. Governments in the U.K., France, Norway and India have set aggressive targets to ban the sale of fossil fuel-burning cars, while the popularity of Tesla Inc.’s electric cars have raised the segment’s profile among the public.

Electric Cars

Automakers are racing to develop EVs, with Sweden’s Volvo Car Group targeting to introduce all electrified models in its lineup by 2019. Toyota Motor Corp., among the most ardent advocates for hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, is also taking steps to expand its offerings of battery-powered models.

Electric cars will outsell fossil-fuel powered vehicles within two decades as technological advances push down battery prices faster than previously thought, according to a Bloomberg New Energy Finance report in July. In just eight years, electric cars will be as cheap as gasoline vehicles, the report predicts.

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