Car Industry

Self-driving EVs will affect oil demand by 2040, BP claims

BP has, apparently, finally come to terms with the idea of peak oil demand happening in the near future.

Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Oil companies aren't entirely stuck with their heads in the sand when it comes to the whole electric-vehicles thing. Well, at least BP isn't.

For the first time, BP's put forth an estimate for when oil demand will peak, Reuters reports. The oil and gas titan believes that oil consumption will finally hit a (likely permanent) bump in the road in 2040.

BP hopes it won't have to change its name from British Petroleum to Battered Profits once EVs hit the mainstream with force.

SOPA Images/Getty Images

BP sees this demand peak as the inevitable conclusion that comes with two major changes in the automotive industry -- autonomy and electrification. BP's outlook report forecasts a 100-fold expansion in EVs between now and 2040. The more miles driven under electric power, the fewer miles we'll drive using good ol' gasoline.

While that same report believes properly autonomous cars will come online in 2020, it'll take a couple decades to see the sharing-related benefits that could come with massively expanded mobility networks centered on self-driving vehicles. As folks shy away from personal car ownership (and some will; not all, but definitely some) the average number of vehicles on the road should decrease. Fewer cars on the road, more of which will be using electricity -- it doesn't take a crystal ball to see what'll happen here.

BP isn't the only oil company to come to this conclusion. Royal Dutch Shell believes peak oil demand will hit in the late 2030s, a bit earlier than BP's estimate. Oil consumption won't disappear entirely, of course. Gasoline isn't the only thing you can turn oil into, and our addiction to plastics will take a long time to go away.

It's not like these companies haven't been preparing for this, either. Total and Royal Dutch Shell formed the "Hydrogen Council" in 2017 with BMW, Daimler, Honda and other automakers devoted to introducing hydrogen fuel-cell cars. Last year, Shell also purchased NewMotion, a Dutch EV charging company that owns one of Europe's largest EV charging networks.