Self-driving electric vehicles will cause a revolution in transportation over the next two decades, leading global oil demand to peak by the late 2030s, according to the main scenario outlined in BP’s latest annual energy outlook. The forecast marks the first time BP, one of the world’s largest crude producers, has shown oil consumption peaking in its long-term forecasts but the UK group said it saw little risk of a precipitous decline in demand. BP said there were likely to be 300m electric vehicles on the world’s roads by 2040, up from about 3m today.
Many of them would be self-driving cars operating as part of Uber-style ride-sharing fleets, BP said, reducing private car ownership. “Once you don’t have to pay for a driver, the cost of shared mobility services will fall by 40-50 percent,” said Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist. “What we expect to see in the 2030s is a huge growth in shared mobility cars.” EVs are projected to account for 15 percent of about 2bn cars on the road in 2040, according to BP’s main scenario. But they will make up 30 percent of all passenger car transportation, measured by distance traveled, because so many of them will be shared vehicles and therefore used more intensively than private cars.
Despite this upheaval, the amount of oil used by cars was projected by BP to remain almost unchanged in 2040 from the 18.7m barrels a day in 2016. This was because reduced consumption because of electrification and increased fuel efficiency would be offset by a doubling in overall global demand for car travel, with the majority of journeys still made using petrol and diesel at the end of the period.