Remember in late 2011, when ExxonMobil said it wasn't in the slightest worried about any "threat" from plug-in vehicles to its fossil fuel business? OPEC just said basically the same thing. A survey by OPEC itself revealed that its members believe that fewer than one in 16 vehicles will be powered by anything other than gas or diesel in 2040, according to the Financial Times. If this is accurate, a quarter-century from now, about 94 percent of the world's vehicles will be conventional. Somewhere, Elon Musk and Carlos Ghosn are breaking out enhanced mission statements.
OPEC's prediction is making the "optimistic" one by ExxonMobil look modest. The oil giant said that more than 90 percent of the world's vehicles will still operate on petroleum-based fuels in 2040. Since then, oil prices have gone down enough to send gas prices well below the $3 a gallon threshold. In fact, gas prices in the US are averaging $2.22 a gallon right now, down about 10 percent from $2.46 a gallon a year ago, according to AAA.
Working against OPEC's study is the fact that sales of US plug-in vehicles through July were up about seven percent from a year earlier, although volume of about 61,000 units is modest compared to the total global car market. Those numbers are likely to continue to advance throughout the next year or so as all-electric models like the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt EV hit the market.
Despite the confidence expressed in the study, some members of OPEC may be blinking. Saudi Arabia is preparing a $2-trillion investment fund dedicated to funding industries that have nothing to do with petroleum, according to the FT. That said, automakers continue to find ways to generate more power out of smaller engines, which on one hand boosts fuel economy but on the other hand helps keep the public tethered to gas-powered vehicles.