Big Oil To 'Lose Control Of Auto Industry': Energy Conference


Vauxhall Ampera

Vauxhall Ampera

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It's not uncommon for media commenters to look at electric-car sales numbers, only to conclude that the segment is teetering on the brink of death.

Electric cars will never become mainstream, they argue, because of fickle consumers who base their-car purchases on what the price of gas happens to be the moment they walk into a dealership.

Yet while the media engages in a tug of war over gas-price analysis, there are encouraging signs pointing to continued growth of electric-car adoption.

DON'T MISS: Hey, Media: Electric Cars Aren't Hybrids, The Difference Matters

Sales have steadily increased since the Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf first went on sale in December 2010, and the cost of the batteries that power these cars is decreasing.

Those trends inspired the provocative title "Big Oil Is About to Lose Control of the Auto Industry," for a recent article by Bloomberg (via Charged EVs).

The article promotes the Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) conference held two weeks ago, where optimism about electric cars was in abundance.

2014 BMW i3 electric cars waiting at East Coast shipping port for distribution, May 2014

2014 BMW i3 electric cars waiting at East Coast shipping port for distribution, May 2014

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Analysts argued that electric power will not only supplant traditional fossil fuels, but also alternatives backed by the oil industry, such as ethanol and biodiesel.

Oil consumption peaked in 2004 and has remained flat ever since, Bloomberg says.

That's partially due to consistent improvements in new-car fuel economy, as well as lifestyle changes that see Americans driving less.

RELATED: Electric-Car Battery Costs Already Cheaper Than 2020 Predictions: Study

Meanwhile, electric-car sales have steadily risen over the past four years.

Bloomberg puts the global sales total for 2014 at 288,500 units. That's just 0.5 percent of all new-car sales, but also more than five times the number sold in 2011.

At the same time, battery costs have fallen 60 percent since 2010, analysts say.

National Drive Electric Week 2014: Charging in Austin. Photo by Aaron Choate.

National Drive Electric Week 2014: Charging in Austin. Photo by Aaron Choate.

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They believe costs to continue to fall, to the point that electric cars achieve pricing parity with internal-combustion models within a decade.

And while there's no love lost between Toyota and advocates of battery-electric cars, Bloomberg includes hydrogen fuel-cell cars like the Japanese company's Mirai in the movement against Big Oil.

It expects Japan to be the biggest immediate market for fuel cells, with 4,200 cars on its roads by 2018.

That's not much, even compared to battery-electric cars at that stage of their deployment. But it's more than there are now.

The increased attention received by battery and fuel-cell cars contrasts alternative fuels, which seem to be withering on the vine, according to Bloomberg.

Annual biofuel investments plunged 90 percent from a peak of $29.8 billion in 2007, analysts say.

2015 Kia Soul EV enters production

2015 Kia Soul EV enters production

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Despite a Federal mandate requiring ever larger amounts of it to be used, ethanol is only available at a small number of fueling stations in the U.S.

Overall, biofuels have been hampered by the inability to find sources not related to food stocks, and have been rendered less financially attractive by low oil prices.

Without biofuels, the oil industry will have a harder time adapting to a world where petroleum isn't at the center of all transportation.

How soon will that world come to be? It's too soon to tell, but stay tuned.

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