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Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham

Nick Cunningham is a freelance writer on oil and gas, renewable energy, climate change, energy policy and geopolitics. He is based in Pittsburgh, PA.

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Here’s What’s Next For Electric Cars

Musk Tesla

Tesla’s stock jumped by 5 percent on Monday on news that the assembly lines of the Model 3 were ratcheting up production, despite a several-day outage at the end of February.

The higher production volume will be welcomed by investors who have grown concerned with the rate of cash burn at the electric car company. Elon Musk’s aggressive promises, which have repeatedly outpaced the company’s performance, started to wear thin last year. The hiccups continue, but Wall Street is hopeful that the worst of the delays are in the past.

“We expect that Tesla will successfully overcome bottlenecks and ramp Model 3 production throughout 2018. The boost to cash flow and sentiment provides a selling opportunity before facing further headwinds,” Adam Jonas of Morgan Stanley wrote in a note.

The investment bank was referring to stiffer competition that is coming down the pike from Amazon, which could derail Tesla’s dreams of dominating the market for EVs, autonomous transport and shared mobility. “Amazon has a vested interest in taking the marginal cost of transportation to its lowest possible level,” Jonas wrote. “[W]e point out the scale that large e-commerce players can bring, which could lead to surprisingly deflationary long-term trends in some of Tesla's core initiatives.”

"To summarize, for the past seven years, Tesla has nearly monopolized Auto 2.0,” Jonas wrote. “In our opinion, the next seven years may be a far more volatile and crowded narrative.”

Indeed, the market for EVs will continue to heat up over the next several years as more and more automakers churn out newer models and fight for market share. Tesla won’t be the only game in town. Related: Will Rosneft Move Forward In The Arctic Without Exxon?

Still, EVs only makeup a tiny percentage of the auto market thus far, and despite strong growth rates, will continue to account for a fraction of the transportation sector. According to Barclays, fuel efficiency in conventional vehicles using the internal combustion engine will have a much greater impact on oil demand over the next 5 to 10 years than the penetration of EVs.

Between 2016 and 2025, improvements in fuel efficiency will erase an estimated 2.6 million barrels per day (mb/d) of oil demand while EVs will only cut demand by 1 mb/d, Barclays says. Making an SUV more fuel efficient cuts into oil demand more than switching from a really fuel efficient vehicle to an EV.

That isn’t to say that the transition to EVs is not happening or is not significant. It will just take some time. The market share for EVs is expected to increase 20-fold but still only reach about 4.3 percent by 2025.

But there are several factors working in the favor of EVs. For instance, government policies continue to support EV sales, although policy support will start to phase out in the U.S., where federal tax credits of $7,500 expire after individual automakers hit cumulative sales figures of 200,000.

More important than federal subsidies, at least in the long run, will be ongoing declines in the cost of batteries. The weighted average price of battery packs has declined by more than two-thirds in just the last five years. Barclays predicts another 40-percent decline in battery costs by 2020 and 55 percent by 2025. In 2012, battery prices exceeded $600 per kilowatt-hour. That figure has fallen to just $156 today and could decline by half to $70 by 2030. Related: Schwarzenegger Accuses Big Oil Of 1st Degree Murder

On top of that, the proliferation of EV models from a growing number of automakers will offer choice and competition, pushing prices down. Just to sample a few examples, BMW will offer 12 battery-electric vehicles by 2025; GM will have 20 by 2023; Ford will have 13 by 2023; Honda rolls out 2 this year; and a half dozen other automakers have similar plans. Volvo says every model launched in 2019 and beyond will be electrified.

Barclays also says that shared driving, “transport-as-a-service,” will help lower costs and could upend the traditional calculus for people when deciding to purchase a car.

There are still plenty of hurdles to wide-scale EV adoption. EVs will remain more expensive than a gasoline or diesel vehicle, at least for a few more years. Moreover, at this point, consumer acceptance and awareness of driving an EV is still limited. Range anxiety continues to turn off potential buyers.

In short, the future is clearly electric. But it’s going to be a gradual process.

By Nick Cunningham of Oilprice.com

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  • Tom on March 12 2018 said:
    Last fall I drove into Houston from the north on a bright sunny Sunday Morning. Sadly from a distance Houston was covered in a brown haze. What is the Oil Industry doing to get rid of the brown haze over Houston? What is Elon Musk doing? No wonder Tesla stock is up! Oil is too busy clawing for market share to worry about anything so insignificant as clean air.
  • Lee James on March 12 2018 said:
    I agree that "gradual" and "transition" that describe what is going on with EVs.

    We are now deciding just how gradual the transition will be. Europe and much of Asia will pass us up. Our federal administration is looking to keep U.S. EVs in the slow lane. Fortunately, a lot of U.S. business and industry and progressive CEOs disagree with Mr. Trump.

    Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to having a solar carport-charged EV.
  • Mark Urbanski on March 13 2018 said:
    2016 to 2025 EV's are expected to displace 2.6 million barrels of oil a day... So by 2025 oil demand Year over Year by then will be 2.6 million per day more just in 2025... No one is mentioning the added 2 million more barrels a day added in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 or 2024 .... That is another approximately 12 million more barrels of oil the World will be consuming each day by 2025... Never mind depleting oil Feilds... Unfortunately, oil consumption might outstrip the ability to produce enough oil by then, so with the extremely high price of oil it will curb economic growth, thus making EV's more out of reach of the ordinary individual because of the high costs associated with buying EV's ... Where is all that oil going to come from?
  • Paul on March 17 2018 said:
    I have a hybrid Mitsubishi Outlander, which I only charge at home using solar power exclusively, every day when possible. The electric range is 30km or so (say 18 miles), fully charged with about 10kWh of environmentally friendly and free electric. I bought the vehicle 2 years ago, so I know what I am talking about. Mitsubishi will tell you that the range is 40% higher. It's not. Electric vehicles are like the curate's egg - good in parts.

    But this EV craze is just that - a craze.

    1. Will people buy them when the subsidies have gone? France subsidized diesel for decades, and now people can't sell cars running on diesel because the price is now near that of petrol, and cities are starting to close their doors to them due to their high pollution footprint. It's a hook.

    2. From 1, can we not now see that the current "free" electric top-up stations will end up costing the motorist, and probably as much as gasoline, due to governments greed for taxes? Another hook.

    3. The more EVs on the road, the more one will have to queue for electric. A nightmare.

    4. Currently, all battery types (lead acid, AGM, Lithium ion and so on) can only be charged quickly up to 80% of their capacity. That does not mean 80% of their range. The rest, which is the most important, takes hours. A waste of time.

    5. Going uphill drains a battery in double, no, quintuple quick time. These range figures are not worth the paper they are printed on. Going downhill doesn't replenish anywhere near the loss of power going uphill. Do you have hills near you?

    6. Battery swapping stations would be a solution to this, but with all the different vehicles with different batteries, it is not feasible. On top of that, who would swap out a battery which may be a dud? You would need insutrance. A non-starter.

    7. Travelling short distances are fine in EVs, but there is no flexibility with them. Will you take your EV out again once you have been caught in the middle of nowhere without an electrical socket in sight, or have to wait hours to charge it up? And you want to invest in Tesla?

    People do not realise what flexibility is needed for reliance on electric battery power. The Mitsubishi is at a second home solely powered by 5.6kW of solar panels, with a 21kWh battery pack in a sub-tropical country. Even a set-up like that requires forethought, control of use after sunset and before dawn, studies of weather forecasts, regular checking of power available, understanding of voltage sag and so on - and of course backup systems, which is why I have a hybrid car. Modern educational standards and social training no longer require forethought in our throw-away society.

    So what happens if the hospital is a mile further than your EV's range will allow???

    EVs do have their place, but it is not in the mass market. You are being had.

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