No more petrol or diesel cars, buses, or trucks will be sold anywhere in the world within eight years. The entire market for land transport will switch to electrification, leading to a collapse of oil prices and the demise of the petroleum industry as we have known it for a century.
This is the futuristic forecast by Stanford University economist Tony Seba. The professor’s report, with the deceptively bland title Rethinking Transportation 2020-2030, has gone viral in green circles and is causing spasms of anxiety in the established industries.
Mr Seba’s premise is that people will stop driving altogether. They will switch en masse to self-drive electric vehicles (EVs) that are 10 times cheaper to run than fossil-based cars, with a near-zero marginal cost of fuel and an expected lifespan of 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometres).
Only nostalgics will cling to the old habit of car ownership. The rest will adapt to vehicles on demand. It will become harder to find a petrol station, spares, or anybody to fix the 2000 moving parts that bedevil the internal combustion engine. Dealers will disappear by 2024.
Cities will ban human drivers once the data confirms how dangerous they can be behind a wheel. This will spread to suburbs, and then beyond. There will be a “mass stranding of existing vehicles”. The value of second-hard cars will plunge. You will have to pay to dispose of your old vehicle.
It is a twin “death spiral” for big oil and big autos, with ugly implications for some big companies on the London Stock Exchange unless they adapt in time.