Within the auto industry, we can attest that attitudes about electric vehicles are radically different than they were just a decade ago. But finding out that a Big Oil executive has predicted electric vehicles (EVs) will become a huge future chunk of the world vehicle market? That still has our hair standing up a little bit.
At the Wall Street Journal's ECO:nomics conference, in Santa Barbara, California, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser anticipated that in 2050, 40 percent of all vehicles, globally, will be electric.
By that time the total number of vehicles, globally, will have doubled; so that could still result in more vehicles using gasoline than today. Of course, it's likely that by then that even the dinosaur juice-burners will continue to become much more fuel-efficient than they are today.
Renault-Nissan CEO and president Carlos Ghosn has recently predicted that ten percent of all vehicles sold worldwide by 2020 will be electric.
Nissan has invested about six billion dollars into vehicles and a proprietary battery-pack design, and it has made plans to build up to 500,000 vehicles per year. The 2011 Nissan LEAF will first be offered on a limited basis late this year in a few select cities, but the automaker will eventually mass-produce the model in Tennessee, among other global locations, with Renault and Infiniti-branded EVs also in the works.
A number of other automakers have been working on electric vehicles and battery systems, which Green Car Reports' editor John Voelcker discussed earlier this week on CNN Radio. General Motors' 2011 Chevrolet Volt—which can go about 40 miles on electric power alone, then has a range-extending gasoline engine—will go on sale later this year.
Just a decade or so ago, petro-industry talking heads were sending out an almost unified message that fossil-fueled internal combustion engines would comprise the overwhelming majority of vehicles until well beyond our lifetimes. But in the time since then, nearly every large petroleum company, including Shell, has become involved in alternatives like hydrogen, solar, or natural gas, among many other possibilities.
According to the WSJ, in a question about the CEO's belief in the idea of "peak oil"—that at some point global supply will be unable to keep up with global demand—Voser said that "I think what is dead is cheap oil." Voser also confirmed that price volatility is going to continue for the foreseeable future.