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Fuel-powered cars 'will not be manufactured after 2024' says report

By Conal Urquhart in London | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-05-16 00:59

Cars powered by fossil fuels will no longer be made after 2024 as self-driving electrical vehicles become vastly cheaper to use, according to a report by a Californian think tank.

The death of the internal combustion engine will be accelerated by a new model of car use in which fleets of self-driving vehicles are available for all to use, making car ownership uneconomic, the study said.

The report by Tony Seba, an economist at Stanford University, finds that forecasts of a slow move from fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles envisage drivers continuing to own cars. He argues that the introduction of driverless technology will be driven by companies such as Uber and DiDi, which will invest massively in creating a fleet of vehicles that are so cheap and convenient to use that car ownership will become a thing of the past.

Seba said the world is on the cusp of one of the fastest, deepest, most consequential disruptions of transportation in history. “By 2030, within 10 years of regulatory approval of autonomous vehicles, 95 percent of US passenger miles travelled will be served by on-demand autonomous electric vehicles owned by fleets, not individuals, in a new business model we call ‘transportas-a-service.’”

The report, co-authored by James Arbib, estimates that the costs at the moment of disruption when transport as a service is available will be:

• Driving a paid-off fuel car: 34 cents per mile

Buying a new fuel car: 65 cents per mile

• Buying a new electric vehicle: 62 cents per mile

• Using transport as a service: 16 cents per mile

The saving of using a transport as a service car against buying a new fuel car will be $5,600.

The new mode of car use will have massive repercussions on society and the economy. The savings will provide a boost to consumer spending in the US of $1trillion and the efficiency gains will increase GDP by an extra $1 trillion.

The better designed and better driven autonomous electric cars will mean that the number of cars in the US will fall from 247 million to 44 million. Around 100 million fuel cars will be abandoned.

The car industry, including insurers, dealers and maintenance, will face destruction unless they adapt to the new mode of transportation.

Demand for oil will peak at 100 million barrels per day and fall to 70 million barrels in 2030. Prices will stabilize at $25.4 per barrel which will make major oil fields and pipelines uneconomic. Oil prices could collapse as early as 2021, the report said.

The speed of change seems staggering but Tesla’s Autopilot system has already been tested more than 2.1 billion kilometres and the company estimates that all its vehicles will be capable of autonomy by the end of this year. Chinese company Baidu is also working on operating systems for autonomous driving.

The world is already preparing for the change. The Guangzhou Automobile Group, has started building a new factory for the production of electric cars production and autonomous vehicles and will have a capacity of 200,000 cars a year. Many other companies are doing the same.

The Chinese government aims to have five million battery-electric and plug-in hybrid electric cars on the road by 2020, while producing one million vehicles per year. But if Seba’s report is accurate, the numbers could be far greater.

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