Insight: Oil industry sees no threat from electric car

Thu Feb 2, 2012 1:16pm EST
 
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By Tom Bergin

LONDON (Reuters) - The biggest oil companies in the world have calculated that few, if any, of today's drivers will see electric cars outnumber gasoline and diesel models in their lifetimes.

While politicians and green lobby groups insist the future of transport is electric, in the past two months BP and Exxon have released data which points to electric cars making up only 4-5 percent of all cars globally in 20-30 years.

Meanwhile some governments are targeting as much as a 60 percent market share for electric vehicles over a similar period.

The oil company forecasts may appear self-serving, but if they are widely accepted could provoke a policy shift that offers greater incentives for electric cars to end our addiction to oil.

And unlike more optimistic predictions from consultants like McKinsey, these forecast are backed by cash. They guide tens of billions of dollars in long-term investment in oil production and refining and it is oil that stands to lose if they get it wrong.

They don't, of course, take into account a major breakthrough in battery technology that could give electric cars a cost and performance edge over the internal combustion engine.

In its Energy Outlook for 2030, released earlier this month, BP predicted that electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, will make up only 4 percent of the global fleet of 1.6 billion commercial and passenger vehicles in 2030.

"Oil will remain the dominant transport fuel and we expect 87 percent of transport fuel in 2030 will still be petroleum based," BP Chief Executive Bob Dudley said as he unveiled the BP statistics on January 18.   Continued...