Piston Slap: Red Barchettas, Cheetos, and the future of gasoline

Benjamin Fanjoy/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Mike writes:

With countries and jurisdictions all over the world mandating the elimination of fossil-fuel vehicles in the next few decades or sooner, what does the future hold for classic automobiles? Will the Miata I’ve been saving for the grandchildren (if I ever get any!) become a relic from the past and replace the trampoline in the back yard, as fuel will become obsolete due to vanishing demand and government regulations? Or will gas become so cheap, as it will become a waste product of petroleum refining to obtain other components from the barrels of oil that we still require such as jet fuel, lubricants, et cetera?

Classic cars are almost worthless if you can’t drive them. What will sunny Sunday afternoons in July look like in 2112 ? (Reference to Red Barchetta, a song by Rush.)

Sajeev answers:

Oh boy, this is always a dicey question in the automotive world. But here I stand, neither a Gasoline Doomsdayer nor a Battery-Electric Denier. So let’s dig into this, peering into the crystal ball of yours truly. As always, readers, your feedback is appreciated in the comments section.

Keep in mind I am saying this as a drummer and a huge Rush fan: Neil Peart got it wrong this time. The proverbial red barchetta will lose because the “gleaming alloy air car” has the performance to ensure the protagonist will get caught for violating “The Motor Law.”

Even worse, every futuristic techie-boy racer in a depreciated $12,000 Tesla Model 3 with sunsetted, open-sourced, electronic hacks, refreshed batteries, and traditional suspension upgrades will be right on the barchetta’s bumper the moment the Tesla driver spots it on the road. That will be our future, and I am okay with it.

That wasn’t part of your question, so let’s get back to the real answer. Yes, a future free of fossil fuels will happen at some point, but not at a pace that every politician and/or media personality pushes upon us. Gasoline will be around for decades, and I suggest this because of the real-world, logistical challenges of long-haul trucking and the socioeconomic conditions of a large number of American citizens. Filling stations as we know them will sell diesel, gasoline, and electricity, but they’ll eventually get pushed outside of major urban hotspots, remaining only in middle-class suburbs and interstate rest stops.

These places will happily sell you all three forms of “go” for the same reason Walmart stocks your favorite brand of oil: They crave a captive audience in their retail settings. This “multi-fueled future” is already underway in Texas. I envision this for everyone because, as of right now, our best use-case for electric-powered semis in the real world appears to be for carrying a full load of 59 percent air.

Tesla Semi electric truck parked outside the Frito-Lay manufacturing facility in Modesto
Benjamin Fanjoy/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Put another way, there’s very little doubt as to why PepsiCo’s much ballyhooed purchase of Tesla Semis initially went to hauling the New York brand’s Cheetos line of snacks, and not cans of its famous black fizz. Tesla’s painful omission of vehicle weight lets skeptics postulate that EV trucks have a payload problem. Perhaps the YouTube channel Adam Something comes close to breaking the EV truck’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). I’ve skipped the video to the salient point of his “1 to 20 concept”:

Or perhaps his calculations are an approximation lacking the latest data. Engineering Explained may have done it better:

I still have more questions than concrete answers. Consider the jersey barriers mentioned above, as they were transported on an open trailer. That means we are not factoring in the extra weight of an enclosed trailer—or heavier, air-conditioned trailers. I reckon the enclosed affairs are far more commonplace in long haul trucking circles. And if we switch gears from GVWR to range calculations, factor the insane speed limits in some parts of the country: That will suck down juice at a terrifying rate, making quick diesel refueling more appealing. But I digress …

Get to the point already!

There’s a fair bit of EV Big Rig skepticism across the board, even on the EV-friendly side of the media spectrum. That means diesel trucks will likely exist for a long time to come, and filling stations won’t stop pumping fossil fuels for that reason. And this nationwide infrastructure won’t just be selling diesel: The complicated living situations for many in our society ensures gasoline cars will always be on the table.

Considering how many non-emissions-compliant vehicles survived California’s South Coast Recycled Auto Program (SCRAP) in the early 1990s, I have a hard time believing newer initiatives will fare significantly better. Then factor in the modern individual’s living costs, along with society’s need to electrify all neighborhoods (even the ones you’d never visit).

It adds up to a lot of money needed, but not a lot to invest with: We can’t provide all of our citizens drinkable water from their tap, so how can we provide safe, reliable EV charging for everyone?

So to all us gasoline-based car nuts, get ready for a (distant) future with road trips to a Flying J–type of truck stop to fill our cars with gas. Or perhaps specific neighborhoods where mass EV adoption is a financial improbability. Either way, I already take long road trips to visit Buc-ee’s in order to get non-ethanol fuel. Not gonna lie, it’s a pretty nice place to visit as a member of the aforementioned “captive audience” and is a future I do not fear. This will be around for decades, not years. And after that?

If EV-powered airplanes are still out of the question, perhaps then we’ll buy fuel at airport gas stations? I propose that we may never know this answer, as it might come to fruition long after our lives pass us by.

Have a question you’d like answered on Piston Slap? Send your queries to pistonslap@hagerty.comgive us as much detail as possible so we can help! Keep in mind this is a weekly column, so if you need an expedited answer, please tell me in your email.


Check out the Hagerty Media homepage so you don’t miss a single story, or better yet, bookmark it. To get our best stories delivered right to your inbox, subscribe to our newsletters.

Read next Up next: The 37-year-long rolling resto of my BMW 3.0CSi


    The EU is already setting the stage for rich people to still buy low production gasoline powered engines. Porsche doesn’t invest in a synthetic gasoline plant if they don’t expect to be able to sell it.

    Doesn’t mean that gas will be affordable to a person trying to commute in a 84 GMC crew cab. But then, the vast majority of vintage vehicles aren’t used as daily transportation.

    The fact that oil production is steel very needed for our plastic-made-in-China economy is seldom mentioned. Sure, clean up the cars and rigs… but there is a lot of other things to deal with (i.e., goods made by places with substandard employment and environmental rules make it impossible for USA and Canada to compete).

    You know it is out of whack when it is cheaper to send shipping containers of goods around the world vs. making something local from the raw materials you are locally shipping around the world for others to use to make you the stuff.

    I foresee a scenario where two complimentary forces will meet in the middle

    Force one is that there are a lot of early adopters for the EV, there are a lot of folks who can squeeze them into their lifestyles just because of the nature of their driving habits, and there are some folks who with some inconvenience can manage to make them work. But there is going to be some percentage of the population where the EV just isn’t going to pan out no matter how much regulatory pressure is applied. Those people are going to become increasingly more vocal as their ICE-buying options increasingly become constrained.

    Force two is that as the demand for liquid dinosaur falls off, the price of gasoline is going to start dropping like a rock, and will probably eventually hit a point where it is cheaper to drive ICE than EV… and probably much cheaper

    We are going to fall out at some point where there is going to be a persistent percentage of vehicles that will remain fossil-fueled. I have picked up the pace of reassembling my 65… just in case i’m wrong

    I am pretty sure you are right…and yes the supply/demand side I didn’t even consider. Thank you for contributing.

    Ultra-cynic take on this (though I really do hope the vision you offered is the one that’s realized) – big oil companies realize that the only types who will end up buying their product for personal use (aka: us) are people with the money to, literally, burn on classic ICE cars, and poor/rural folks who can’t make BEV cars work for their needs/circumstances. I don’t see those two user groups as being the driving force behind a price break, so I don’t see big oil companies ever truly cutting the price of gas by significant amounts. If there’s less demand, why should they maintain higher supply levels when it means they’d have to cut prices to stay competitive? If anything, I see the big oil companies becoming big energy companies and shrinking the size of their fossil-fuel portfolios to the point that they can feed the demand for those of us who’ll be on the edges of the market and either have the luxury of being able to afford gas, or have no other option – neither of which would be a reason to drop gas prices.

    Very good point: I guess it depends on how much of gasoline production can be diverted to other types of fossil fuels.

    As long as oil is being refined there will be gasoline stock being produced. The amounts can be tweaked but there is only so much diesel,chemical stock etc than can be made from a barrel of oil. So gasoline will be available for along time. They will sell as much as they can thinking they would rather produce some revenue versus putting it in the river (just kidding kinda)But that’s what they did in the late 1800s thur early 1900s. The Ohio and Cuyahoga would catch fire now and then.

    This is how I see things going too. If the developed world sees a significant drop in the demand for gasoline it will cause production to drop and prices to go up. Who this REALLY hurts are people in developing and undeveloped countries that rely on difficult to obtain and expensive (relative to wages) gasoline – or what the people selling it refer to as gasoline. I can’t image places like rural India or Africa being able to develop and maintain reliable vehicle charging stations in the time frame we’re talking about. Heck, the US can’t seem to do it at the moment.
    I could easily see the skyrocketing price of gas/diesel being unobtainable is parts of Africa that are barely holding life together and causing supply lines to be shut down and ultimately causing a collapse of the government. This could ultimately lead to larger-scale political issues that could have far-reaching effects.

    You heard it here first!

    Buc’ees will sell you gasoline, diesel and electricity now (the ones near me have Tesla Super Chargers). The one thing they will not do is service the long haul trucker. This is why there is a TA truck stop right across the highway. I suspect you’re correct that for the foreseeable future, fossil fuels and electric charging will coexist and the smart retailer will offer you everything you can possibly want, lest you give your hard earned funds to someone else. At some point, I expect diesel to be the first supplanted by electricity in total, and gasoline eventually replaced by electricity and synthetic fuel.

    A lot of good points there. I wonder if diesel can be supplanted first, but considering its the dirtier of the two (at least where I live, as people defeat the emissions bits on a regular basis) that makes sense.

    I could go on and on about the whole Diesel culture… Taking a machine built for efficiency and turning it into a pig that makes less horsepower per dollar than a moderately tuned gas engine… never made sense to me. Of course neither does lowering pick-up trucks, and a lot of people do that too

    Okay, okay, I’ve read the article and the comments so far, and there are a lot of really good points to consider. But the one thing nobody is addressing is this: what’s going to happen to the price of Cheetos?

    So. Federal and state governments survive off of tax revenue created by the sales of fossil fuels. So if we truly reduce our usage of same where will the tax deficit come from? California can’t provide sufficient power for its daily needs let alone add higher percentage of EV’s. And regarding “Big oil “. Without them none of the “green” technologies are possible 😉

    Gasoline ! There is so much wrong sided media attention against fossil fuels. California has had rolling blackouts since 2000. There is Not enough electricity for homes and businesses. Now “they” talk about doing away with gas cook stoves in homes? Electric cars = coal or natural gas powered, even nuclear power. Gasoline will be here, we just need to pay more taxes to “fix” the problem. Remember, we can’t cure the common cold, BUT we can stop “Global Warming” if we pay more taxes. Too much b.s.

    Simple real world answer.
    Supply and demand.
    When the public is ready, change will come. If politicians don’t listen. We vote in new ones that do.
    My guess is gas and diesel are here for a very long time!

    I intend to leave a Vapor Trail of fuel in my wake for the forseable future. Just remember you can’t have Something For Nothing! There are Lessons to be learned. Some may result in Tears. Some people’s EV dreams are in The Twilight Zone! I see A Passage to Bangkok in your future! See you in the year 2112!

    That’s all I could do with 2112 (minus one VT reference), what a Rush!

    Like every “”NEW” technology it improves with time– Batteries & electric motors Will get better in every way–In the backwoods of China where they didn’t have good infrastructure they are modernizing with solar & wind — In the early days of ICE cars it could be difficult to get gas– early home computers weren’t very useful–Radios & TVs were super expensive & had limited entertainment value– I remember getting a “Car phone” installed in my car & it cost a pile of money to buy & install & to use– Now we have affordable cellphones– everything changes with time–

    The elephant in the room is that most electricity is made by burning fossil fuels.

    That is not going to change any time soon as alternative energy is not as reliable or cost effective and has almost as big a carbon foot print as fossil fuel created electricity.

    So, explain to me using real science how EVs are environmentally friendly??


    Right now, you are correct — that’s how most of our electricity is generated.

    Alternative energies also include hydro-electric and nuclear, with specific benefits/drawbacks to each.

    Now solar and wind sources are free, and have no real impact on the environment.
    That means FAR less carbon footprint than fossil fuels.
    Consider too, what’s happening right now, with more deadly heatwaves and drought, and ever-more frequent powerful storms and tornadoes than in recorded history.

    Yes, no solar at night, and no wind on “doldrum” days. Battery storage will temper that problem.
    And yes, their hardware costs money, but that’s constantly becoming cheaper.

    So, why are EVs better for our environment than ICEs — right now, today?
    Because collectively, combustion engines emit more pollutants than what electric powerplants produce, powering THE SAME NUMBER OF VEHICLES.

    Once more and more electricity is produced via the free, renewable sources, then the balance tilts even more towards EVs.

    Wind and solar are not free. And wind power only works in certain areas where you get consistent winds above 20mph. They are expensive to build and maintain and kill many birds already. However, unlike the power companies and their high voltage power lines wind farms don’t have to pay fines for killing endangered birds. Never mind the wind farms installed in the ocean off NJ appear to cause issues for migrating whales resulting in increased beaching and whale deaths.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *