Electric Cars Could Cause Big Oil This Much Damage

  • Carbon Tracker, Imperial College London see rapid EV growth
  • About 2 million b/d of oil demand could be displaced by 2025

QuickTake: The Drive Towards Cleaner Cars

The growth of battery-powered cars could be as disruptive to the oil market as the OPEC market-share war that triggered the price crash of 2014, potentially wiping hundreds of billions of dollars off the value from fossil fuel producers in the next decade.

About 2 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced by electric vehicles by 2025, equivalent in size to the oversupply that triggered the biggest oil industry downturn in a generation over the past three years, according to research from Imperial College London and the Carbon Tracker Initiative, a think tank, published Thursday. A similar 10 percent loss of market share caused the collapse of the U.S. coal mining industry and wiped more than a 100 billion euros ($108 billion) off the value of European utilities from 2008 to 2013, the report said.

Major oil companies are waking up to the potential disruption plug-in vehicles could have on their industry. BP Plc says electric vehicles, or EVs, could erase as much as 5 million barrels a day in the next 20 years, while analysts at Wood Mackenzie say they could erode as much as 10 percent of global gasoline demand over that time. Global oil demand could peak in as little as five years, according to Royal Dutch Shell Plc Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry.

By 2040 16 million barrels a day of oil demand could be displaced, rising to 25 million by 2050, a “stark contrast to the continuous growth in oil demand expected by industry,” according to the report. The impact on the oil industry could exceed price slump of 2014 to 2016 that “wiped hundreds of billions off capex,” Stefano Ambrogi, a spokesman for the Carbon Tracker Institute, said by e-mail.

The cost of EVs is already falling faster than previous forecasts and they could reach parity with conventional internal combustion vehicles by 2020, eventually saturating the passenger vehicle market by 2050, the report said.

EVs may take 19 to 21 percent of the road transport market by 2035, according to the researchers. That’s three times BP’s projection of 6 percent market share in 2035. By 2050, EVs would comprise 69 percent of the road-transport market, with oil-powered cars accounting for about 13 percent.

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