The oil industry doesn't care about electric cars: here's why Page 2

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Oil well (photo by John Hill)

Oil well (photo by John Hill)

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Remember, a mobile phone has one lithium-ion cell; a laptop may have four to eight. A Tesla uses between 5,000 and 10,000 of them.

That's why Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, several years ago, identified the need for the company to build a "gigafactory" that would produce cells and battery packs at a scale that hadn't been seen anywhere in the world.

To put large battery packs, with ranges of 50 miles (for plug-in hybrids) to 300 miles (for battery-electrics), into even one-fifth of those 100 million vehicles will require hundreds or thousand of gigafactories.

With a cost of $2 billion to $5 billion, that ain't chump change.

It will come, if the demand is there, but automakers are understandably cautious about signing contracts for cell purchases for vehicles whose demand thus far remains uncertain.

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

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(4) However, cell-cost reductions can't be escaped

A "hockey-stick" rise in consumer demand for plug-in electric cars may not arise for several more years.

Again, it will require the cars to cost within 10 or 20 percent of a comparable vehicle with a gasoline engine alone.

Gas prices seem to matter—they're currently low, and projected to stay that way for some time, absent geopolitical surprises—as do the hurdles posed by franchised auto dealerships and inept marketing by major automakers.

There's no indication, however, that lithium-ion cell costs won't continue to fall.

So when cells fall below $100 per kilowatt-hour, meaning a 60-kwh battery pack would cost $5,000 or less, the picture begins to change.

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

Tour of Tesla battery gigafactory for invited owners, Reno, Nevada, July 2016

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And it probably continues to change rapidly.

That said, it'll be the end of many of our lifetimes before global gasoline demand has not only leveled off but plummeted.

(5) And here's one to watch for

Remember when smoking was possible pretty much everywhere?

That included airplanes, restaurants, courtrooms, offices, cars, and any place else you might spend time.

In only 30 years or so, smoking has moved from something accepted without questioning to something that is strictly regulated because of its adverse effects on the non-smokers exposed to it.

That leads us to ask when the same principle will begin to be applied to motor vehicles.

When will vehicles with tailpipes that emit climate-change gases and other substances start to be viewed as morally wrong?

If you see that discussion starting to percolate and spread, we'd suggest that's a good indicator that it may presage a (slow) decline in gasoline consumption.

CONSIDER THIS: When Will We Start To See 'Tailpipes' On Cars As Morally Wrong?

Though we suspect, sadly, that it may take many years yet.

As civil-rights activists have noted, the path to social change is long, winding, and filled with setbacks.

You have been warned.

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