OPEC Says Electric Cars Will Remain Irrelevant Through 2040


2016 Nissan Leaf

2016 Nissan Leaf

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Increased electric-car adoption could dramatically decrease global demand for fossil fuels, but the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries--better known as OPEC--isn't too worried about that.

OPEC recently issued its annual World Oil Outlook report and, not surprisingly, it's very optimistic about the future use of fossil fuels in transportation.

The organization dismisses electric cars as irrelevant, and claims they will remain so for decades.

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The OPEC report claims that by 2040, 94 percent of vehicles on the world's roads will still be powered by fossil fuels.

Battery-electric cars will account for just 1 percent of global vehicle sales, it claims, or perhaps 1 million a year at current sales rates.

OPEC folds hybrid in among fossil-fuel vehicles, and believes they will make up about 14 percent of global vehicle sales.

Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

Chevrolet Bolt EV concept, 2015 Detroit Auto Show

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It believes hydrogen fuel-cell, natural-gas, and other alternative fuel-vehicles will not increase their market penetration significantly over the next 25 years.

Despite improvements in fuel economy, OPEC predicts that the global fleet will actually consume 17 percent more oil in 2040 than it does now.

That's because the number of cars and trucks on world roads will have dramatically increased by then, it reasons.

ALSO SEE: Norway's Goal: All New Cars Will Be Emission-Free By 2025 To Cut Carbon

OPEC projects that oil prices will increase by about $5 per barrel annually, thanks to that growing demand and lower-than-expected production from non-OPEC nations.

Obviously, OPEC has a big interest in promoting a bright future for fossil fuels--the economies of its member nations depend on it.

So it shouldn't be surprising that the future of electric cars may not be quite as bleak as OPEC claims.

Porsche Mission E concept electric car

Porsche Mission E concept electric car

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Several national and regional governments have already pledged virtually to eliminate internal-combustion cars from their jurisdictions over the next few decades.

Earlier this year, the head of the California Air Resources Board proposed making nearly all new cars sold in the state zero emission by 2030, and government officials in Norway have proposed doing something similar by 2025.

Both California and Norway are also members of the International ZEV Alliance, of coalition of governments working to stop sales of internal-combustion cars in their jurisdictions by 2050.

MORE: Switching The World To Electric Vehicles Will Take Way Longer Than You Think

If all of these plans succeed, electric cars will surely make a greater dent in new-car sales than the 1 percent predicted by OPEC in 2040.

On the other hand, large proportions of the world's vehicles will likely continue to use fossil fuels in the near future.

The International ZEV Alliance and similar efforts don't come close to constituting a full-scale global effort to eliminate internal-combustion cars and trucks.

Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

Audi e-tron quattro concept, 2015 Frankfurt Auto Show

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And even if they did, it would take considerable time for regulations to be implemented, and for cars already on the road to be replaced.

It may take a long time for electric cars to achieve larger market share, but that likely doesn't mean they are irrelevant.

Steady pressure from advocates and governments--along with increased interest from carmakers--will almost certainly lead to a larger number of electric cars on world roads by 2040 than OPEC suggests.

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