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Colin Chilcoat

Colin Chilcoat

Colin Chilcoat is a specialist in Eurasian energy affairs and political institutions currently living and working in Chicago. A complete collection of his work can…

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The Gasoline-Powered Car Could Be Gone By 2050

The Gasoline-Powered Car Could Be Gone By 2050

We’ve seen predictions of the death of the automotive industry before; even the death of the car salesman, and, more recently, the death of diesel. To be clear, the automobile isn’t going anywhere – on form and function, it has no rival; and as an instrument and symbol of progress, no single device better combines cutting edge technology with human needs. Rather, the way (and speed) those two inputs conspire to bring about change is the subject of debate.

The world’s best-selling carmaker, Toyota, believes the automobile as we know it – gasoline- and diesel-engine powered – will be largely obsolete by 2050. As such, the company – already the hybrid king – is embracing the future and embarking on a large-scale greening strategy.

By the end of the decade, Toyota plans to reduce carbon emissions from new vehicles by more than 22 percent compared to its 2010 average. By 2050, it hopes to cut emissions by as much as 90 percent. Toward that aim, Toyota expects to sell 1.5 million hybrid vehicles annually across the globe by year’s end 2020 – or annual growth of about 3 percent. The company will abandon plug-in electric vehicles and instead pursue hydrogen fuel-cell technology. By 2020, Toyota plans to sell 30,000 fuel-cell vehicles per year. Its new Mirai, launched in December 2014, has sold roughly 350 units. Related: Are Low Oil and Gas Prices Undermining Renewable Energy Yieldcos?

While perhaps not as public – or as optimistic – other companies are positioning themselves for electric-heavy markets in the not too distant future.

Nissan looks to continue its success with battery-electric vehicles as it aims to increase sales to 10 percent of its global total around 2020. Battery-electric sales were 82,602, or just shy of 1 percent in 2014, but a new battery, which should double the range of its popular Leaf model, has the company thinking an electric turning point is on the horizon.

General Motors is also expected to improve the range of its electric fleet before the end of 2016 with the modestly priced Chevrolet Bolt. Moreover, the American automaker has partnered with Korean electronics firm LG Corp to expedite and enhance the development of electric motors and battery cells across its brands. By late 2021, GM expects the partnership to enable reduced energy intensity and industry leading battery cell costs of $100 per kilowatt-hour. Related: Stop Blaming OPEC For Low Prices

In the wake of its emissions scandal, Volkswagen plans to cut investment spending by $1 billion as it refocuses its brand on high-range, plug-in hybrids and high-volume electric vehicles. Volvo is engineering a similar shift away from diesel.

For luxury buyers, BMW appears ready to continue its loose, but ambitious plan of electrification. By 2020, the automaker hopes to sell 100,000 electric vehicles per year, and, within the next decade or so, convert its entire fleet to electric drivetrains (not necessarily full electric).

For its part, Honda will follow its ‘Green Path’ – a more holistic approach to sustainable production and products.

These widespread movements suggest the alternative vehicle market will be quite competitive in the near future, but companies will be vying for a share of a pie they wish was bigger. The fact is, consumers have been slow to come around to hybrids, EVs, etc, and CAFE standards and tax incentives have failed to manufacture the desired growth. Related: Is This The Last Roll Of The Dice For The Offshore Sector?

U.S. auto sales have rebounded since the Great Recession, but, adjusted for population, Americans are buying fewer cars these days – and the cars they’re buying aren’t electric, or even particularly efficient. After four years of steady year-on-year growth, sales of plug-in electrics in 2015 have failed to match or exceed last year’s numbers (European sales look good though). Traditional, gasoline powered cars – midsize, small, and luxury – have also seen sales decline since 2014. Strong auto sales in 2015 have instead been buoyed by significant growth in light-duty truck sales, as well as SUV and cross-over sales.

Low gas prices are the primary culprit for EV’s short-term dip, but insufficient infrastructure, inadequate consumer perception, and simple inconvenience are the greatest inhibitors of the impending boom. As those are sorted – and they will be – gasoline will enjoy what may be its last hurrah.


By Colin Chilcoat of Oilprice.com

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  • Jeff on October 28 2015 said:
    Fat chance. Until the technology exists to replenish a battery in the same 5 minutes it takes consumers to fill up a gas tank, it wont happen. Rapid charging is, so far, detrimental to the physical properties of the battery itself. People are not going to drive 50, 75, or 100 miles and then wait 8 hours to recharge a bank of batteries. In addition, the batteries themselves are an ever present dead weight. Depending on the source and model/generation of Prius, the battery weighs 93 - 180 pounds. The Leaf's battery weighs 660 pounds! Twenty gallons of gas weighs only 120 pounds, lightens as fuel is consumed and provides 4 times the range. To balance excess weight from batteries, electric vehicles need to lighter to keep the overall vehicle weight down to a size that can still yield adequate performance with low hp motors. Sooo lets play highway wrecking derby with a Chevy Suburban vs Nissan Leaf. Hmmmm, from the point of view of safety, which would you rather be in? Remember folks, electricity is not an energy source. It's only a converted energy. It takes energy to make electricity.
  • Stig-Are Mogstad on October 29 2015 said:
    What do you mean "the gasoline car isn't going anywhere"? Please come to Oslo, Norway and witness how the gasolin cars as disappearing by the month. It is just so polluting, old-fashioned and out-of-date that its majority will be gone by 2020. Besides that, young people don't buy cars anymore, timeshare concepts are booming, and the entire concept of private car ownership will be gone in a decade. Gas stations and repair workshops are soon gone, and the car industry face a steep decline together with the oil and energy industries. New buildings produce more kWh than they use and the grid is obsolete in a few years. Witness our oil industry in Norway which borrowed money for a decade to build North Sea structures nobody needs. Now it will be gone in a matter of years, viped out entirely together with the gasolin car, becaused it failed to see clearly how things will develop. Rather, denied it using big money on shameless propaganda.
  • rick on July 18 2016 said:
    With an electric Volt, never need going to a busy gas station where english is not spoken.
    Require only a 6 gal boat gas-can 2 a year. Lawn mower is also electric, no oil and gas around house. Only consider a hydrogen fuel-cell technology car if hydrogen can be brewed at home and away from the mercy of stations. 200 emile winter-time driving range should cover most private driving. Would however like a tenfold increase in available clean local mass transportation.

    Oil companies should change over to growing bio fuels in their wells and storage and away from the greasy stuff.

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