At the Bloomberg New Energy Finance conference in New York on April 25, Joel Couse, chief economist for Total, predicted that sales of electric cars will surge from about 1% globally in today’s new car market to up to 30% of the market by 2030. If that happens, he says, demand for petroleum based fuels “will flatten out, maybe even decline.” Total is one of the world’s largest oil producers. His forecast surprised many people at the conference.
The forecast by Couse is the highest yet by any major oil company. It even exceeds the expectations of Colin McKerracher, the head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “That’s big,” he said. “That’s by far the most aggressive we’ve seen by any of the majors.” Michael Liebreich, who founded Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said, “By 2020 there will be over 120 different models of EV across the spectrum. These are great cars. They will make the internal combustion equivalent look old fashioned.”
Battery prices, which account for almost one half the cost of electric cars today, are falling by as much as 20% a year. That price drop is what is expected to propel electric cars into being a major part of new vehicle sales in years to come. Volkswagen expects 25% of its sales to be electric by 2025. Toyota plans to stop selling cars powered by fossil fuels completely by 2050.
Another factor holding back the sale of electric cars today is the lack of recharging infrastructure, but progress is being made there as well. Tesla announced this week that it is doubling the size of its Supercharger network by the end of 2017. Electric car chargers are now more common along principal transportation routes in the US. Chargers that can provide up to 350 kW of power are on the drawing boards and expected to become available in the next few years, reducing charging times dramatically.
The prediction may be startling, but it could turn out to be too cautious. The electric car revolution is building momentum and could significantly disrupt the new car market faster than anyone, even Joel Couse, expects.