San Francisco think tank RethinkX says self-driving electric cars will dominate US roads by 2030. Within 13 years self-driving cars will represent 95% of all car miles driven in the US.  While 40% of the cars in 2030 will still be of the internal combustion variety, they will represent just 5% of the consumer miles driven. This forecast is radically different that those from  Moody’s and IHS Automotive, which expect the transition to self-driving cars to occupy multiple decades. Self-driving electric car share plans, in which consumers “subscribe” to a self-driving service much like they subscribe to a cellphone plan today, will be cheaper and more convenient for many people than owning a vehicle. Car subscription services will increase utilization of a vehicle from 16,000-32,000 kilometers per year to 160,000 kilometers or more. As a result, incumbent industries like oil, cars, insurance, and transportation will face a consumer mass migration away from their old-model products and services. The report’s dramatic conclusions rest on a single assumption: fully autonomous (also called Level 5 or “wheel optional”) driving will be coming in the early 2020s. The forecast of full autonomy within years and not decades is based in part on the rapid growth of data from partially self-driving cars rolling out today. The deep learning AI systems in Waymo’s, Baidu’s, NuTonomy’s, Tesla’s, GM’s and others’ fleets get better as more data becomes available. These cars’ self-driving capabilities will be getting markedly better as the exponentially-growing sensor, mapping and driving data comes in. Tony Seba, who co-authored the report, said:

“These companies are investing billions of dollars in making this happen. All you need is one operating system to work, and then you have Level 5 autonomy. And the U.S.-centered view — if it doesn’t happen here, it doesn’t happen anywhere — is a little misguided. A lot of these technologies are global. The Chinese are working on self-driving, and Europe is working on self-driving. And the first one to get it is going to be the Android or iOS of Level 5 autonomy.”

Autonomous driving is expected to bring huge efficiencies to the US economy. The savings represent some $5600 per consumer per year or $1 trillion in additional disposable income in the US alone by 2030. Meanwhile, productivity gains in recouping that time otherwise occupied today in driving represents another $1 trillion per year. On the downside, auto dealers, car repair shops, taxicabs, buses, car insurance, filling stations, not to mention oil companies and car makers, will all be hit by a shockwave as the rapid adoption of self-driving electric vehicles drains these present-day industries of income. Compared to the internal-combustion engine, self-driving EVs will represent a 90% decrease in finance costs, an 80% decrease in maintenance costs, a 90% decrease in insurance costs and a 70% decrease in fuel costs.  See also, IEEE SpectrumRethinkX: Self-Driving Electric Cars Will Dominate Roads by 2030

Analysts at Macquarie Research say there is a huge and growing demand for cobalt by electric car manufactures. Prices for cobalt metal have climbed nearly 50% since September to $19 a pound. Cobalt makes up a third of the lithium-ion battery mix required by EVs. Macquarie projects deficits of 885 tonnes of this resource next year, 3,205 in 2019, and 5,340 in 2020. By 2020, 75% of lithium-ion batteries will contain cobalt, whose properties allow electric cars to extend their range between charges. China is a major player in the EV market and will be a major driver behind cobalt consumption growth. China’s State Reserves Bureau bought 5,000 tonnes of cobalt metal last year and is expected to buy more this year.

The US Gulf of Mexico is the among the most prolific crude oil sources in the that country, producing more than Alaska, the West Coast and Rocky Mountains combined. The region produced a record 1.76 million barrels per day of crude oil in January, trailing only Texas onshore production, which includes the growing Permian Basin.

US oil refiners are flooding the market with gasoline, intensifying oil prices’ spring decline. Refiners are turning crude oil into gasoline and diesel at the highest rate in at least 34 years, according to data from the US Energy Information Administration.

Wind accounted for 8% of the operating electric generating capacity in the US last year, more than any other renewable technology, including hydro. Wind turbines contributed more than one-third of the nearly 200 gigawatts of utility-scale electricity generating capacity added since 2007. The increase in wind development in the US over the past decade reflects a combination of improved wind turbine technology, increased access to transmission capacity, state regulations, and federal government production tax credits and grants.

Two-thirds of the natural gas produced in the US is produced with hydraulic fracturing. While “fracking” has been around for some time, it is only in the past decade that it has become a key method for gas extraction. It was the pairing of horizontal drilling with hydraulic fracturing that has driven the increase in the use of fracking.  Since 2006, natural gas production in the country has increased 40%, and natural gas prices have fallen by more than half. Over the past decade this commodity has become the biggest source of electricity in the US., supplanting coal. It has proved to be cheaper both as a feedstock and in lowering power plants operating and maintenance costs. Excess natural gas production is now being liquefied and sold overseas.



with h/t Tom Whipple


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