Electric vehicles are starting to make a serious dent in oil use.
Last year, EVs displaced roughly 1.5 million barrels per day, according to a new analysis from BloombergNEF. That is more than double the share EVs displaced in 2015. The majority of the displacement is coming from an unlikely source.
Two- and three-wheelers — not e-bikes, but mopeds, scooters and motorcycles — have dominated the avoided oil use. Those EV options are especially prevalent in Asia, where they have been adopted rapidly. In 2021, the share of oil displaced by these smaller vehicles alone hit 1 million barrels per day. Meanwhile, the shares displaced by buses and passenger vehicles remain much smaller, but have increased steadily for the last six years.
This is undoubtedly good climate news. But it comes with a caveat; the amount of oil use displaced represents only a small share (3.3%) of the total global demand for transportation fuel, which landed at roughly 43.7 million barrels of oil per day in 2021. Oil demand has to fall 37% by the end of this decade to keep the 1.5-degree-Celsius target in reach, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2018 report. Widespread EV adoption will play a huge role in determining whether doing so is possible.
This data comes as a part of BNEF’s work for the Zero Emission Vehicle Transition Council, an international forum to accelerate the transition to electric and other zero-emissions vehicles. The latest update found that global passenger EV sales grew by 103% in 2021, to nearly 6.6 million cars sold. These accounted for 13% of total passenger vehicle sales in the fourth quarter of 2021, including plug-in hybrids.
According to BNEF, the displaced oil demand is nearly equivalent to one-fifth of Russia’s total exports before its invasion of Ukraine. The European Commission recently proposed banning all Russian oil and petroleum imports, as Europe tries to both punish the Kremlin and speed its own transition to renewables.