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BP and Shell face huge challenge from switch to electric cars

Emily Gosden, Energy Editor: 31 July 2017

Oil investors are getting worried. Electric cars have accelerated on to the front pages. Sales are surging, carmakers are unveiling plans for all-electric models and this week Britain vowed to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040. Yet if Big Oil believes that death is about to pull up in a Tesla, it’s doing a good job of hiding it. On Thursday, Ben van Beurden, the boss of Royal Dutch Shell, welcomed Britain’s plans and declared that his next car would be electric. And earlier in the year Spencer Dale, BP’s chief economist, bluntly described the arrival of electric vehicles on the oil majors’ lawn as “not a game-changer”, adding that not even “enormous” growth in sales of such vehicles would make a big dent in global oil demand. As Big Oil evolves into Big Energy, the sight of Mr van Beurden behind the wheel of an electric vehicle might not seem so crazy, so long as he’s charging it up on a Shell forecourt.

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