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Tsvetana Paraskova

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Tsvetana is a writer for Oilprice.com with over a decade of experience writing for news outlets such as iNVEZZ and SeeNews. 

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Oil Majors Can No Longer Ignore The Electric Car Threat

Electric Car

Many carmakers, and not just Tesla, have been developing electric vehicles, betting on the expected continuous rise of battery-powered cars in the future. Now it’s not only carmakers that predict that EVs will make up a substantial part of new vehicle sales in a decade or two—oil majors are admitting it too.

France’s Total SA expects EVs to account for up to 30 percent of new car sales by 2030, which could lead to oil-based fuel demand peak in the 2030s, Total’s Chief Energy Economist Joel Couse said at Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference earlier this week.

Couse reckons that after 2030, fuel demand “will flatten out” and “maybe even decline”, in what Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, described as the “most aggressive” projection by an oil major about the rise of EVs.

Other oil majors have their projections about peak oil demand as well, ranging anywhere from as early as the next decade, to nowhere in sight. At the same time, analysts believe that EV sales will only rise, but the pace will greatly depend on incentives and government policies. Meanwhile, many carmakers are preparing for the EV surge and entering the battery-powered car market.

Germany’s Volkswagen AG, which is still paying penalties and settling civil claims following the diesel emission scandal, plans to launch four affordable Volkswagen-branded EVs and an Audi EV crossover in the coming years. Premium carmaker Volvo said in mid-April that it would build its first fully electric car in China, which will be available for sale in 2019, and exported globally from there. Related: Is The Market Running Out Of Patience With OPEC?

According to Frost & Sullivan, the global EV market is expected to grow by 25.6 percent to 950,000 sales this year. The 2017 launches of new EV models will be around 25, with Chevrolet Bolt and Tesla Model 3 being the most anticipated, Frost & Sullivan says. Incentives and subsidies, substantial investment by original equipment manufacturers, new entrants, and lower battery prices are driving the double-digit growth.

Still, challenges that manufacturers need to address include the lack of standard charging technology, the short-distance range, and lack of a fixed business model, according to Frost & Sullivan. The analysts’ underlying conclusion is that “continued incentives and subsidies will be crucial market drivers for growth.”

France’s Total sees that growth as potentially leading to peak oil-based fuel demand in the 2030s. Other majors also have ideas about the impact of EVs on global oil demand.

Shell’s chief executive Ben van Beurden said in March that oil demand could peak as early as in the next decade.

“We have to acknowledge that oil demand will peak, and it could already be in the next decade. It could happen. There are people who believe it will grow forever but I don’t subscribe to that,” van Beurden told the CERAWeek energy forum, as quoted by The Telegraph.

BP, in its Energy Outlook 2017, said that an extra 100 million battery EVs could lower oil demand by around 1.4 million bpd. Still, the UK oil major sees oil demand peak in the mid-2040s, with many drivers to factor in, including global GDP growth, efficiency trends, and climate policy. According to BP, the penetration of the EVs will depend on how fast battery costs would continue to drop; the size and durability of government incentives; how conventional cars’ efficiency would improve; and how consumer preference towards EVs would shift. Related: New Oil Discoveries Slump To 2.4 Billion Barrels In 2016

Not unsurprisingly, Amin H. Nasser, president and CEO of Aramco—the oil powerhouse of OPEC’s largest producer and exporter Saudi Arabia—said at an oil summit in Paris this week:

“The conclusion is clear: oil demand will continue to grow… in absolute terms… at fairly healthy levels… for the foreseeable future. It is why I believe ‘Peak Oil Demand’ is not in sight for at least the next few decades.”

The EVs may be increasingly popular in Western Europe and the U.S., but growing population and growing income in India, China, and other emerging economies are still demanding oil-based fuels for the cars their residents drive. India’s oil consumption growth, for example, reached a record-level 11 percent last year as an increasing urban population with rising income fueled greater use of cars, trucks, and motorbikes.


Regardless of when peak oil demand will occur, electric vehicles and their rise are a reality that oil majors are no longer ignoring.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • EdBCN on April 29 2017 said:
    So now Total thinks EVs will be 30% by '30! I guess that's a big improvement from the typical oil company projection of something like 1% by '50, but still a silly projection. There are not a lot of examples of a new technology that only partly succeeds, fighting the incumbent to a draw. Mostly they either fail, never getting anywhere near 1% market share, or they supplant the incumbent over the course of about a decade or so.
    EV's already make up about 1.5% of sales in the EU and similar percentages in other major economies. Battery cost are already low enough to make the total cost of ownership lower than ICEs for a lot of applications. And costs are conservatively projected to drop to a point that purchase prices for EVs will equal ICEs by the early '20s. Not only that, but the part of the market that will go electric early and strongly will be the gas-hog vehicles, i.e. commercial vehicles that operate all day and heavy vehicles (buses, delivery vans, trucks) and so have an outsized impact on gas consumption.
    Just like the fossil fuel industry's pathetically wrong projections of the growth of renewables and the impacts of efficiency over the last ten years, these projection about EVs will keep getting updated, playing catch up with the fait accompli of EV growth.
    My projection: The EV market will double about every 3 years as cost reductions and the learning curve advance robustly, and then at some point, probably in the early '20s, we'll see the price oil go through one of its episodic upswings- brought on by the current environment of underinvestment or maybe a supply disruption in the politically unstable ME- and EV sales will go through the roof. It'll all be over by the mid to late 20's. Also, we're already more-or-less at peak oil. Even in the current very low price environment, oil demand is increasing surprisingly weakly. In the developed world it's been close to flat for the better part of a decade.
  • Mark Urbanski on April 30 2017 said:
    Most average writers keep dismissing the fact that Oil consumption is growing at over 1 Million barrels of Oil per day every Year. Never mind depletion of Oil resources. A lot of Oil is going to be required going forward. We need a substitute for Oil for sure, but there is no Threat to Oil any time soon and that is too bad. The article should have said that 100 Million EV's per Year and every Year an additional 100 Million EV's per Year need to be bought and driven to stop Oil's advance. If putting 100 Million Ev's on the road will effect a World wide drop in consumption by 1.4 Million bpd and oil consumption is increasing every Year by that number..... You do the math. That's a lot of EV's
  • David Hrivnak on April 30 2017 said:
    We now have two plug in cars and after owning and driving them we will never own another car without a plug. EVs are just better in every driving aspect. And at 1/3 the fuel cost costs and lower maintenance they make practical sense as well
  • Josh Gregner on April 30 2017 said:
    I think this article is a bit short sighted: EVs will certainly be felt but not right now. What we are feeling right now is CAFE and other fuel efficiency standards making a huge dent in oil consumption of OECD countries while the developing world (mainly China and India) are starting to pay attention to fuel efficiency issues. Don't think this is happening? Consider the taxis in NY: whenever I take a cab I ask the driver what he spends on fuel in one of the hybrids vs. the old Crown Victorias: they all tell me that they spend about 8 to 10 USD/day at the gas station today whereas they used to spend some 60 to 100 USD/day with the old cars. And there are so many more examples like this. EVs will kill oil demand. But they are not doing it now. They will need another 3 years - however not really much more than that...

    Growth in oil consumption these days seems to be driven mainly by countries filling their reserves. For what it's worth we don't seem to see clear consumer demand growth / clear demand decline right now but a prolonged period of "meh" i.e. oil demand not really moving much despite price movements. And once (post Aramco IPO) demand decline in OECD countries is not outpaced by demand growth in non-OECD countries we will see a perma-glut of oil and a number of countries who will try to sell every drop of oil while they can still make a buck on it...

    But by that time Saudi Arabia will have monetized Aramco, Shell, Exxon and Chevron CEOs will retire with a golden parachute and investors will scratch their head and ask why nobody saw this coming...
  • WILLIAM Haller on April 30 2017 said:
    Yes EV's will continue to increase in sales. But everyone who touts them refuses and I mean REFUSES to ask one simple question: where does the electricity to charge the battery come from?

    Psst...let you guys in on a secret, the wall plug doesnt generate the electricity. Now the truth, thanks to Obama, quite a bit of US base load generation was taken offline. Some parts of the US suffer brownouts or near brownout situations during the summer.

    Now dont get me wrong, Im not a proponent of exclusively relying on hydrocarbons. I venture we need it all and battery storage technology absenting a major breakthrough in physics and/or material science it not it.
  • Dan on April 30 2017 said:
    Just as zerohedge dispells the myth that electric is a practical, cost effective method of transportation. It may intice silicone valley while slurping up their latest diet craze but natural gas and oil conversion to power is far superior.
  • anton on May 16 2017 said:
    They should not worry because oil is needed to manufacture electric cars. In fact, it's needed for mining, manufacturing, and shipping for almost all manufactured goods.
  • Mahendra on May 22 2017 said:
    In 2003, on news channel FoxNews I saw an interview where some photo film based big wig said that film based cameras are not going out soon, the higher priced Digital Cameras are for Developed market and cheaper film based camera will be sold in bulk in third word countries like India, China, Africa etc. the rest is history. May be oil vehicles will survive longer, but then how long?
  • Timmie Tee on May 24 2017 said:
    Transportation uses 40% of refined oil, so any reduction in demand by EV's has to be normalized to scale, i.e. if the EV share rises to 10% of all cars, total demand decreases by 4%.

    Besides that, I think the EV market will be capped at about 10% because the initial cost premium and the lower resale value will make competing petrol cars more attractive as mpg figures continue to improve. Also, there are too many negatives in terms of range, charge time, and battery disposal. We'll see, but by the time EV's reach 10% I think hydrogen will surpass electric as the better option.
  • Ulmna Konte on October 15 2017 said:
    If you said that all gas powered cars have to be off the road in twenty years, America could do it. I have faith in the people here.

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