2020s Ford versus Edison Battle

Dear Reader,

I believe that ultimately the electric motor will be universally used for trucking in all large cities, and that the electric automobile will be the family carriage of the future.

Thomas Edison

Over a 100 years ago, Edison was quite bullish on electric cars because, well, electric cars were quite popular during his time.

People liked them.

They were quiet and could be charged at home. In fact, in the early 1900s, 38% of cars were electric compared to 22% that ran on petrol.

To run petrol cars you needed…erm…petrol but also a crank to start them up. They polluted.

Why is it then that electric cars didn’t take off back then?

Well, it kind of boils down to technology and economics.

Henry Ford came out with the Model T which made gas cars available and affordable. In 1912, a gas car would set you back US$650 compared with the electric roadster’s US$1,750.

Edison partnered with friend Henry Ford to develop a low-priced electric car. Together they built at least one experimental model and rumour had it that the new Edison-Ford EV car would be ready by 1915–16.

But 1916 came and went, and there was no car.

After a mysterious fire that almost destroyed Edison’s workshop, rumours died down. Needless to say, the Edison-Ford car never came to market.

Nobody really knows what happened, but the likely explanation is that they were unable to build a long-lasting, low-weight battery.

The fact that gas cars were cheaper together with the invention of electric starters which got rid of the crank meant it was all over for the electric vehicle.

It’s now been over a century since Edison made his prediction, and we are having a resurgence. We’ve seen technology advancements in batteries and the revival of the electric vehicle.

But it’s not just electric vehicles. It’s the whole energy industry that’s facing a disruption. And things are changing quickly in this space.

Global conversation about a green recovery…

There’s a whole global conversation going on about a green recovery.

It could very well happen, even sooner than we think.

For one, there’s a lot of cheap money around.

And then even big oil companies are starting to admit this disruption. Oil giants like BP and Royal Dutch Shell have had to write-down assets this year.

BP in particular, casted a shadow into oil’s future this week. In their BP’s ‘Energy Outlook 2020’ the company wrote:

The structure of energy demand is likely to change over time: declining role of fossil fuels, offset ‎by an increasing share of renewable energy and a growing role for electricity. These changes ‎underpin core beliefs about how the structure of energy demand may change.

A transition to a lower carbon energy system is likely to lead to fundamental restructuring of the ‎global energy system, with a more diverse energy mix, greater consumer choice, more localized ‎energy markets, and increasing levels of integration and competition. These changes underpin ‎core beliefs about how the global energy system may restructure in a low carbon transition.‎

In their report, BP looked at three energy scenarios over the next 30 years.

The ‘rapid’ transition, where they assume policy measures make carbon more expensive which pushes the industry into using low carbon energy sources.

The ‘Net Zero’ scenario, which includes rapid transition together with changes in behavior in society. Global emissions fall even faster here.

And then there’s the ‘Business-as-usual’ scenario which assumes the rate of change follows a similar path from what we’ve seen in the past. Even in this scenario they see carbon emissions peaking in 2020.

As you can see below, in all three scenarios renewables take on a bigger share of the market and the share for hydrocarbons falls between 20% and 70%.

Port Phillip Publishing

Source: BP

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And, in all three scenarios oil consumption falls by 2050.

Port Phillip Publishing

Source: BP

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Remember, this is oil giant BP talking.

What they see is renewable energies led by solar and wind power as the fastest growing sources of energy in the next 30 years.

So far, wind and solar generation has doubled in the last five years according to Ember. They now make up almost 10% of power in most of the world. Wind and solar power have increased 14% in the first half of 2020 compared to the same period last year, even as global energy demand fell 3% through the pandemic.

We’ve gone from being scared about reaching peak oil, running out of oil to having too much oil.

But this trend of the world electrifying is a convergence of technology, government policies, consumer preference…

…and economics, as wind and solar also get cheaper.

We’ve been going on about being on the verge of a large reset. This could very well be green too, a green reset.


Selva Freigedo Signature

Selva Freigedo,
For The Rum Rebellion

Selva Freigedo is a research analyst for The Rum Rebellion.

Born in Argentina, her passion for economic analysis started at a young age. Her father was an economist for the Argentinean governments and the family used to discuss politics and economics at the dinner table.

Argentina is a country with an unusual economic history. Growing up there gave Selva first-hand experience on different economic phenomena such as hyperinflation, devaluation and debt default.

Selva has also lived in Brazil, Spain and the USA.

Back in 2000 she was living in the US as the dot com bubble popped…
And in 2008 she was in Spain as the property market exploded and then collapsed…

She has seen first-hand what happens when bubbles burst.

Selva joined Fat Tail Investment Research’s team in 2016, as an analyst. She now writes from her vantage point in Australia, where she settled in 2015.

The Rum Rebellion