Will Better, Cheaper EVs Really Crash The Oil Market Soon?

7 years, 3 months ago - 29 February 2016, Autoblog
Will Better, Cheaper EVs Really Crash The Oil Market Soon?
As the many, many analysts around the media world prove every day, you simply can't go wrong when you predict the future. Sure, you can be wrong, but it seems like no matter how factually incorrect you might be about the future, you will always find a place at the media table.

Of course, I don't know what will happen in the next decade, either, so look who's talking. With all that in mind, I wanted to share a prediction that found purchase in Bloomberg this week: namely, that electric cars will cause the next oil crisis.

On the one hand, this article sounds at times wistfully and wonderfully optimistic. The gist is that, thanks to rapid and unexplored (by the oil market, anyway) advances in battery technology, plug-in vehicles first become comparable in cost and then cheaper than today's gas cars. That's when things get real. The author, Tom Randall, says that, "the 2020s will be the decade of the electric car" and that, "thirty-five percent of new cars worldwide will have a plug," by 2040. As you may remember, OPEC strongly disagrees.

On the other hand, Randall does offer up some crunched numbers to back up his optimism. Given that electric vehicle sales grew, globally, by about 60 percent last year, Randall and his team, "calculated the effect of continued 60 percent growth. We found that electric vehicles could displace oil demand of 2 million barrels a day as early as 2023. That would create a glut of oil equivalent to what triggered the 2014 oil crisis." Even if you don't buy that 60 percent is a reasonable growth rate for EVs to keep up for a long time, Randall says that a more conservative approach to figuring out how much EVs will cost and thus entice new buyers shows that we will hit that two-million barrel level in 2028. For all the numbers, you should just go read the whole article. It even comes with moving GIFs.

While I want to believe Randall's message – what's the point of disruptive technology if you don't actually disrupt things? – I've seen enough talk of Peak Oil and the coming EV revolution over the past decade that I've been covering green cars to know better than to just accept any predictions that come my way. Despite low prices for a barrel of oil today, the oil industry seems to be pretty confident that EVs don't pose a real threat. That could be wishful thinking on their part as well, but that seems like a good a place as any to step aside and leave the rest up for your comments and discussion.