Not all in the oil industry are inclined to dismiss EVs as a passing fad.
In a recent article in the trade magazine Alberta Oil, Max Fawcett writes, “The Tesla Model S is one of the most beautiful and interesting automobiles to ever get made. It might also be one of the most dangerous. That’s because it’s managed to do something that no other electric vehicle has ever achieved: become an object of desire.”
“Creative disruption has already wracked most major industries, and it’s wrecked more than a few of them in the process,” the article continues. “If it’s going to visit itself upon the fossil fuel industry, it’s almost certain to take the form of an electric vehicle [and] that could happen a lot sooner than some people might want to think.”
The article includes an interview with Steve LeVine, author of The Powerhouse, a new book about the global race to build a better EV battery. LeVine has spoken with others in the fossil fuel industry who are well aware of the threat that improving battery technology poses to their livelihoods.
Among other interesting insights, LeVine points out that gaining the Grail “doesn’t have to happen in the way some people are imagining. A big breakthrough can happen by twinning a hybrid model of battery – a super capacitor with a battery, or a fuel cell with a battery. These are all different forms of electrochemistry. There can also be a partial breakthrough in batteries and a partial breakthrough in manufacturing that, together, get you to where you need to be on the cost curve to be fully competitive with combustion.”
Ironically, Exxon was the company that built the first rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Could any of the oil giants get into the battery business? “Generally, the big incumbent companies tend to hold back and assume that when a new technology reaches the critical stage, it can swoop in and buy up anyone,” answers LeVine. “I don’t think you can say they’ve missed the boat. They think they can get on the boat. Could ExxonMobil or Chevron buy a battery company that made this big breakthrough? Yes.”
LeVine is no starry-eyed optimist – he speaks of a big battery breakthrough happening “in the next few decades.” But what he has to say is unlikely to improve the sleeping habits of the oil-addicted. “Demand for oil isn’t going to disappear…but the demand for it could plunge. It could really plunge.”
Source: Alberta Oil