China’s march into alternative transport is starting to producer some significant numbers. A combination of rising electric vehicle (EV) and LNG-fuelled truck sales will, by year’s end, displace about 500,000 b/d of oil product demand.
Chinese oil demand was expected to slow as a result of lower GDP growth brought about by the waning of the country’s demographic dividend and the transition from an economy dominated by heavy industry to more service-sector activity.
The country recorded a year-on-year increase in GDP of 6.5% in the third quarter, the lowest rate since the financial crisis. Few, if any, forecasters expect China to return to the heady double-digit growth rates of the early 2000s.
As a result, there are two overlapping narratives weighing on the prospects for Chinese oil demand and both should concern the market – slowing growth and reduced oil intensity, particularly in transportation.
EVs and LNG
At the end of first-half 2018, China had an estimated 1.65 million passenger car EVs on the road, about 80% of them battery only. Although this represents about half of all EVs globally, it only stacks up to about 36,000 b/d of oil demand displacement.
It is the commercial segment where the numbers really start to build. Commercial vehicles drive many more miles on average than passenger cars and have much lower fuel efficiency than their light-duty counterparts.
At end-2017, China had an estimated 408,000…