Big Oil Continues To Push Back Against Electric Cars

Tesla Model X at Destination Charging beachside

MAR 29 2018 BY EVANNEX 54


The purveyors of old technologies have always done what they could to impede the adoption of new ones, not only by pointing out the drawbacks of the new products, but also by making their old products better. In the last days of the Age of Sail, shipbuilders crafted super-fast clipper ships, which shared the seas with steamships for many years. Typewriters steadily added high-tech features, evolving into stand-alone word processors before they were superseded by computers.

RELATED: Tesla Pushes EVs, Legacy Automakers & Big Oil Work To Save ICE

*This article comes to us courtesy of EVANNEX (which also makes aftermarket Tesla accessories). Authored by Charles Morris. The opinions expressed in these articles are not necessarily our own at InsideEVs.

However, never in history has there been an industry as profitable, powerful and all-pervasive as the oil industry – an industry whose lifeblood is a soon-to-be-obsolete technology. Big Oil, supported by its allies in the auto industry and numerous national governments, is fighting the nascent electromobility revolution on several fronts. Its decades-long campaign to discredit the science of climate change, and its financial support of backwards-looking political figures, are well known. Now that EVs are emerging as an existential threat, industry players are also working to sow doubts about their viability in the public mind – the media churns out “EVs are a bust” articles on a daily basis, often employing quotes helpfully provided by auto industry trade groups and oil-friendly think tanks.

Grey Tesla Model S near oil fields

A Tesla parked in front of oil wells (Image: Tesla Owner)

On a somewhat more constructive front, oil producers and automakers are working together to make legacy vehicles ever more fuel-efficient, hoping to delay demand for electric alternatives.

Oil giants including Exxon, BP and Shell are working with automakers such as Ford and Fiat Chrysler to create a new generation of super-slick engine lubricants in a quest to squeeze even more efficiency out of traditional engines. “It’s really important that we are able to squeeze the lemon,” Shell VP Andrew Hepher told the Wall Street Journal. “The combustion engine has still got a long way to run…Car makers are very, very heavily motivated to improve the economy of their fleet.” BP’s CEO Bob Dudley adds, “EVs are not the silver bullet everyone is looking for.”

Governments of petroleum-producing countries are also getting proactive about prolonging the reign of the ICE. The Persian Gulf state of Qatar, which has the world’s third-largest reserves of oil and natural gas, acquired 17 percent of Volkswagen’s voting rights in 2009, becoming the third-biggest investor in VW. “We are really committed to VW,” said VW supervisory board member Hessa Al Jaber. “They are taking steps to mitigate any future risks on emissions.”

Gas pump versus Charging cable

Big Oil is facing down the advance of electric cars (Image: Phys.Org)

Big Oil is facing down the advance of electric cars (Image: Phys.Org)

A recent article in the Detroit Free Press reports that the Saudi national oil company, Aramco, came to the Detroit auto show in January for the first time ever, to spread the word about its cutting-edge research to improve legacy gas engines.

“In an era of climate change concerns, battery electric vehicles have become a symbol of innovation, promising to disrupt the automotive industry,” said Ahmad Al Khowaiter, Aramco’s Chief Technology Officer. “Yet hidden in plain sight are some of the most disruptive technologies the industry has ever seen; and they happen to be new and improved internal combustion engines.”

“Ironically, as countries announce plans to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles in favor of battery electric vehicles, new fuels and engine designs are making internal combustion engines greener than ever, and far more efficient,” Al Khowaiter said.

Aramco has invested hundreds of millions in global R&D – it is the third-largest holder of oil industry patents, behind Exxon and Chevron. It has research facilities all over the world, including in Detroit and Houston, and works with researchers at Stanford, MIT and the University of Michigan.

Grey Tesla Model S

Electric car companies like Tesla are up against fierce competition as Big Oil remains deeply entrenched within the auto industry (Image: Tesla Owner)

Electric car companies like Tesla are up against fierce competition as Big Oil remains deeply entrenched within the auto industry (Image: Tesla Owner)

“Public policy should be technology-agnostic,” Al Khowaiter said. “Neither the battery electric vehicle nor the internal combustion engine is the perfect solution in all scenarios; both are needed for a sustainable and affordable mobility future.”

Donald Runkle, a mechanical engineer who ran product engineering at GM, told the Free Press that fuel economy is increasing every day. “The combustion engine is not going away in the foreseeable future, not for 15 or 20 or 30 years. It has proven, and continues to prove, to be the low-cost approach to moving things. Yes, there will be electrification, adding batteries and all that. It just improves the overall efficiency of the internal combustion engine.”

Obviously, the oil and electricity camps disagree about the timeline for electrification. However, all seem to agree that any technology that reduces emissions is a good thing. Don Anair, Research Director for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Clean Vehicles Program, acknowledged the conflicting/complementary goals. “We need an 80% or more reduction in oil use,” he told the Free Press. “No matter how you look at it, to address climate change, we can’t continue to power our transportation system with oil. We need to continue to improve emissions from conventional vehicles while we accelerate the transition toward electric vehicles powered by clean energy.”


Written by: Charles Morris

*Editor’s Note: EVANNEX, which also sells aftermarket gear for Teslas, has kindly allowed us to share some of its content with our readers. Our thanks go out to EVANNEX, Check out the site here.

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54 Comments on "Big Oil Continues To Push Back Against Electric Cars"

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Invest in horses and carriages. Those new fangled auto-mobiles are not the answer.

That where the future is!

Competition usually brings out the best. Glad ICE people are getting off their rear ends and improving their product.

However, there is no stopping EVs. I’m glad Germany, auto center of the world perhaps, has no ties to oil. Same goes for China – not especially rich in oil, China can supply electricity easier than oil (hopefully without those coal plants some day).

I can’t imagine any car not having at least one electric motor in it 10 yrs from now.

Technically all cars already have at least one electric motor – the starter 🙂

Actually thinking about it, they probably average closer to a dozen with power windows, seats, mirrors, sunroofs, etc.

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

Just cut the damn petrol subsidies already.
Why the US gooberment continues to give OPEC welfare like this is just nuts. They could be feathering off petrol subsidies as EV’s continue to rise but noooooo………

Hear, hear, hear!

It isn’t just the U.S. gov’t. The Canadian government is generous to the tune of billions with the fossil fuel companies.

What gets people’s indignation revved up? Oh those subsidies “giving rich people money to buy electric cars.”
The EV subsidies are chump change in comparison but that’s what the average Joe is aware of. Fossil fuel welfare will continue as long as that lack of awareness is there.

The oil companies buy off the politicians with campaign funding and favors. In exchange the politicians pass Laws and budgets that redirects taxpayer subsidy money for Big Oil for no reason other than they can…been going on for decades. The American System is corrupt to the very core and your tax money makes rich people even richer. Try voting out the entrenched Republicans in November and things might change.

Surely you can see that corruption is pretty evenly distributed across both sides of the aisle. It is natural for a certain amount of corruption to provide “friction” to real change. This is not necessarily a bad thing. It insures that change is judged to be overwhelmingly positive by the society at large before it is implemented en mass. This is happening with EVs. Perhaps it took a little longer than it might have, because big business is so risk averse, but once an upstart began to flirt with critical mass, the big boys took notice. Even skeptics are acknowledging that it’s now just a matter of time. The discussion is no longer about IF but WHEN.

Hard to cut an imaginary subsidy.

If you are referring to expensing for taxes (as most libtards are) you face an unfortunate document called the “constitution” which prevents unequal treatment for people or companies simply because you don’t like them.

Good luck with that.

I’m not worried about big oil’s efforts against EV adoption. They have very little leverage. Change is coming and it is unstoppable.

Wow, are the figures from the article correct? Germany would invest a whopping $52 billion against China with $21 billion and the United States with $19 billion. Wonder about the figures from Japan.

“Public policy should be technology-agnostic”

True if not for almost all 9/11 terrorists came from Saudi Arabia funded by oil money. Every time I drive by a gas station, I’m giving a metaphorical middle finger to terrorists.

Usual suspects will claim much of US oil doesn’t come from Saudi, but global oil price is related to US demand. In effect, any oil use is paying the terrorists.

Exactly. Using gas and diesel means supporting the like of Russia and Saudi Arabia.

I was under the impression that most of the oil we use these days is domestic…

As far as the US goes, you are correct. By far, most of the oil used here comes from the US and not foreign countries.

But if we used less here in the US, we could export more, reducing the profits going to the countries that support terrorism. It doesn’t really matter where it’s drilled. It is world wide supply and demand that matter. Less world wide demand, lower profits for Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Actually, it matters a great deal where it’s drilled. If you’re a pragmatic environmentalist you want to drill baby drill in the U.S. The U.S. has the cleanest, most efficient drilling in the world by far. Every barrel of U.S. produced oil that supplants a barrel of middle eastern or Russian oil is huge gains for the environment.

Just visit a U.S. oil field and talk to someone in the know about all the regulations they have, then go to Russia and the Middle East and visit their oil fields. The difference is STARK.

The U.S. deserves much more credit than it gets, in terms of cleaning up the environment. Our auto emissions regulations are the best In the world, led by California.

From what I’m reading the USA produces a bit over 9 million barrels a day and imports around 7.3 million barrels a day.

” In effect, any oil use is paying the terrorists.”

Naw, in effect, it’s paying for people in Texas who probably voted for Trump, and likely moved out of California.

So in your fevered brain, probably the same as terrorists. Never mind.

If Dump prohibits import AND exports of all oil, you may have a point about people in Texas. But in this global economy, buying oil means paying the terrorists. Whether you like it or not, you are also giving the terrorists (and people in Texas in your mind) the middle finger when you skip the gas station.

It is interesting that electric utilities are pushing to get more EV’s on the road; so they can sell more electricity.

Electric cars are much better, in many ways, than ICE cars. Not the least of which is, they help us address climate change, and pollution, that result from burning fossil fuels.

Utilities are not doing it fast enough.
If they had brains amongst themselves, they would be pushing the shipping companies to switch to EVs esp the US Post Office, so that they can update grids in various neighborhoods.
At the same time, they need to push for residential charging at nighttime.

Utilities could really decrease their costs by running baseload a great deal more, and by having a smoother demand, instead of the duck that they have.

Sigh. I don’t know what illness it is that causes this illogical and idiotic criticism to always get all of the attention, to the exclusion of all rational critique. Maybe Americans haven’t got the deep understanding of capitalism that one should expect from those most practiced in the art. Without going into all the detail, it’s supposed to work like this: companies and individuals compete in a free market, acting to promote their self-interest. Our interests align because the companies who provide what people value are most profitable and so rise to the fore. However, it’s not perfect and fails to solve some problems, such as the famous one known as the tragedy of the commons (wiki is your friend if it is unfamilar). Therefore democratic government takes on the role of protecting the people. By electing government leaders they’re supposed to be held accountable to the people. The salient point being that corporations are supposed to act in their self-interest, while government is supposed to protect the interests of the people where these fail to converge with the interests of corporations. I think it’s because people have lost all faith in government that they instead reach for the only… Read more »

The way back from representative democracy to direct democracy is to use technology to increase citizen direct participation. So why don’t we, since we are living in the age of internet?

1. We are lazy. Much easier to write nasty posts on the internet than participate in direct democracy.

2. None of the representatives in government want that, since it would decrease their power.

Want to FIX the problem? Get involved. Its really that simple.

It is illogical for big oil to be worried. Global consumption of oil is still growing and won’t decline materially before any of the current execs retire.

And for those that are with the program (i.e. reduced consumption for use as a motor fuel), they can enter a period of reduced investment and reap profits like never before.

Who wouldn’t like a “lifetime” of massive bonuses?

Sorry but the internal combustion engine isn’t going anywhere. It will still be here for at least several decades and trying to improve their efficiency is only a good thing.

In the US at least, BEVs only work for people who live in the suburbs, have driveways and/or work at a place where they can charge. They don’t work for people who have to park on the street, live in big cities, etc and I just don’t see the day (in the US at least) where there’s a charger at every single parking spot. Thus, lots of people need the ability to charge/fill up in a few minutes like they do today when filling up with gas. Until that changes, the internal combustion engine is here to stay.

That just not true. And you seem to forget the impending advent of fully self-driving vehicles, enabling you to leave your car, and let it drive off home or somewhere else to park and/or charge.
The market is going to go through a remarkable change the coming years.

At least in Seattle, they are installing DC fast chargers at the street level.

So even in big cities it may be come possible for someone parking on the street to own a BEV.

However, I would think owning a car in a big city would be more of a hassle then a benefit. In the big city, car sharing, car rentals and self-driving cars make the most sense.

100 year of development for the ICE and it’s over. No one today is going into the field. It’s a dead end.

There are far more profits to be made in the ICE field for the forseeable future,

No one is going there because the engineering work and endurance testing is a huge barrier to entry. Just look at the niche brands – they secure engines from the big players, who of course won’t supply anyone who looks like a threat.

It’s been that way for a long time.

Here’s the issue for big oil…Privately owned vehicles is a small part of big oil but it could be a snowball to electrify everything…

Example, IEV had a story that on a cold day with the heater on, the Gen1 Volt took a 57% range hit…Modern EVs/PHEVs are already better…If we get to a point where it’s more efficient and therefore cheaper, if your houses oil furnace somehow dies, why would you both when you could convert to cheaper and cleaner electric heat? What other entities fueled by fossil fuels could be improved by electrifying it?

(⌐■_■) Trollnonymous

“The Persian Gulf state of Qatar, which has the world’s third-largest reserves of oil and natural gas, acquired 17 percent of Volkswagen’s voting rights in 2009”

Well, that and “Dieselgate” should be enough to never look a any VW product again.

Biggest beneficiary of EV development will be consumer, Oil companies up until this point basically can charge for oil whatever price they want through supply adjustment, now if they jack up price of oil too much, EV development will go on steroid.

I am not an environmentalist by any means and I still have doubts about climate change. However, cash from big oil continues to fund fat country club member seniors and boomers and their spoiled trust fund kids, Arab welfare system, Russian oligarchs, the Chinese government and ISIS. It funds everything evil and wrong about the world. We need to stop using it and the best thing one can do is get solar for your house and buy an electric car.

Yes, Big Oil has been jacking up the prices in Australia like 20% around Christmas and various School holidays , when families have to fill up often on vacation. I saw $1.48 per litre two days ago here.
Governments have a whopping share of those increases in Tax, so they dont care.
So let them all start to think how they can live on less, instead of them gouging us with “gun to the head ” increases in gas prices . Turn the tables a bit.. finger the gas stations as you drive past in electric mode. …And .. tell all your friends… hurry up Tesla, Kona, anyone with a 300 mile range.. oh, and we have no ev subsidy here as Coal and Oil run our government.

Don Anair should know better than to think an 80% reduction will be adequate. We are going to need closer to a 100% reduction. Airplanes and other uses that are more difficult to change should get the most time.


No more oil and gas means those sand no gooders can kiss my a$$. F Jerry, his “kids”, and his gas tax! Let my solar array, power wall , and Chevy Bolt EV do da talkin’ in this war!

Big oil successfully reduced
Natgas Vehicles
Flex fuel vehicles that can run on biofuels.

And now they are setting their sights on electric vehicles.

But this is going to be a tough sell.

Still there are 50 million flex fuel vehicles and 25 million natgas vehicles.

Wierd piece especially from tesla mouthpiece since its daddy lost 15% of its value in stocks must cope 3 billion by the end of next year own a billion to suppliers and moody downgraded thier credit to negative

There is one factual error in the article. Qatar has the 3rd largest natural gas reserves no oil. So technically they benefit from proliferation of EVs as natural gas is used in generation of electricity and your article suggests otherwise.

5 years now with my silent and big BEV (Fluence ze) and no more fuel/oil needed. Game Over to Oil Companies.

That’s just not true.

“Ironically, as countries announce plans to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles in favor of battery electric vehicles, new fuels and engine designs are making internal combustion engines greener than ever, and far more efficient,” Al Khowaiter said.

Yes, gasmobiles are lately becoming more efficient. A lot of that is due to two factors:

1. Increased competition from alternative fuel vehicles

2. Adoption of EV tech, such as stop/start systems, into what otherwise are gasmobiles

Both of those factors are a sign that the EV revolution is progressing, and not a sign that that Big Oil and legacy auto makers are succeeding in slowing that revolution. Competition with EVs is forcing gasmobiles to become more energy-efficient, and therefore more expensive… which only accelerates how quickly EVs are becoming competitive with gasmobiles! Hooray!

Up the EV revolution!

“I’m not worried about big oil’s efforts against EV adoption. They have very little leverage. Change is coming and it is unstoppable.”

Well said, sir.

Economics trumps politics, every time. Big Oil’s lobbying efforts may slow the EV revolution a bit, but lobbyists won’t prevent people from choosing EVs over gasmobiles, once EVs improve enough that they are seen as preferable.

@Scott Franco:

Vladimir Putin loves it every time you use the hateful term “libtard”.

Please stop being a useful idiot for Russian attempts to create tribalism, divisiveness, and strife in American and other Western countries.

Also, if one has to be a “libtard” to understand how Big Oil has rigged the tax system to provide themselves with benefits that ordinary Americans can’t use, then I’m happy to be one.

asdfasdfsadf said:

“I just don’t see the day (in the US at least) where there’s a charger at every single parking spot.”

A bit over a century ago, at the end of the horse-and-buggy era, people like you would have said “I just don’t see the day (in the US at least) where there’s a paved parking spot in front of every single house.”

Where do you think those parking spots came from, Asdfasdfsadf? Do you think they just appeared overnight, like mushrooms? No, cities and counties had to use taxpayer money to build those streets and curbs and parking spots and sidewalks, all to accommodate motorcars, due to the motorcar revolution.

Do you really think it’s going to be different in the EV revolution? Do you think there is something fundamentally different about EVs that will cause our culture to resist changes accommodating the new tech, as always happens with a disruptive tech revolution?

Do you think that electric utilities are not going to want to install EV chargers at every possible public parking spot, to generate more revenue?

If you think so, then that’s pretty short-sighted of you.

“the media churns out “EVs are a bust” articles on a daily basis, ” I read yahoo news which is more or less an indiscriminate news aggregator multiple times a day and have never a seen an “EVs are a bust” article. just saying fighting sensationalism with sensationalism wouldn’t be my go-to.

Biggest worry for EV’s to go mainstream- COBALT. the knowledgeable folk commenting here know the problems-
1. 90% of known resources are in DCR, politically unstable, child labor, all that stuff.
2. There has been no substitute found for Lithium batteries & it seems unlikely any will be
3. Miners are scrambling to find viable deposits as the price goes ballistic. Sure, only a tiny amount goes into each cell but as cell production runs into billions, the total amount gets unsustainable.

Cobalt is not as big as a worry as you make it out to be. Short term, maybe, long term no.

1. No way. DCR has 3.5 million tonnes of cobalt reserves. Australia has 1.2 million tonnes of cobalt reserves. That already shows DCR can’t have 90%. There is a sizable cobalt reserve in Cuba of half a million that can easily be tapped. That said, the thing we must understand is cobalt hasn’t been used much before, so there are also a ton of unconfirmed reserves that no one bothered to check.

2. That is also wrong, the chinese have been using LFP chemistry which has no cobalt.

3. Of course they are, cobalt used to be worthless, now it has a value. So there is increase in demand and production.

Good news- greener power- new nuclear.
Not ideal but a big step towards smaller, cheaper, more efficient reactors. Faster build and start-up.

‘DCR’ typo- DRC, or just ‘The Congo’?

Big Oil is coming under immense pressure within 5-10 yrs. This is another source of fear for B.O.