Warren Buffett: All Cars Will Be Electric By 2030

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Warren Buffett, the closely watched investor and mega-billionaire, expects that 20 years from now, all cars will run on electricity. At least, that’s what he told Rice University business students at his Omaha headquarters this month when asked for his thoughts on peak oil and replacements for “carbon fuels,” the Houston Chronicle reports (hat tip Gasgoo and GuruFocus).

Such a rapid transition to electric vehicles could work out well for BYD, the China-based developer of electric vehicles and lithium-ion batteries in which Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway investment firm holds a 10 percent stake. But some other forecasts suggest we’re more likely to see a mix of fuels — including gasoline and electricity — powering vehicles for some time to come, rather than a wholesale switch to plug-ins by 2030.

The analysts at Lux Research certainly see hurdles ahead for this giddy growth prediction. Battery prices, says Lux, have to come way, way down for plug-in vehicles to go truly mass, and that will take time. In a report released last month, Lux forecast that even if oil costs $200 a barrel in 2020, just 4 percent of vehicles sold globally will be all-electric or plug-in hybrid because of the high costs of the battery technology. According to Lux, plug-in hybrids could sell 3 million units per year by 2020 if the price of oil reaches those heights, while hybrids can be expected to sell that many by 2020 regardless of oil prices.

Buffett, however, isn’t alone in his high hopes for the adoption of electric vehicles. Google’s (s goog) “Clean Power by 2030” proposal, released last fall, called for almost all of new car sales in the U.S. by 2030 to be plug-ins — although the search giant said such a transition, in combination with other components of a plan to kick the U.S. fossil fuel habit, would cost $4.4 trillion (in undiscounted 2008 dollars). Meanwhile, research firm Frost & Sullivan predicted earlier this year that in China, hybrid cars will be truly mass-market by 2011 or 2012, with the country’s fleet beginning a minimum 10-year transition to plug-in hybrids and battery-electric vehicles as early as 2010.

Li Lu, investor and adviser for Buffett-backed BYD Auto, said during a roundtable discussion at this year’s Fortune Brainstorm Green conference, “We’ve been growing 100 percent for the last five to six years, and I have no reason to believe we will stop.” If nothing else, aggressive statements from Buffett, one of the world’s highest-profile investors, could help build momentum for the EV market and BYD’s growth.

12 Comments

Paul Scott

Buffett is mostly correct. In 20 years, most cars sold, maybe all of them, will have plugs. A certain percentage will still have a liquid fueled engine used to extend range over what a pure battery electric can do. What the relative percentages of so-called plug-in hybrids vs. EVs are is a guess, but the main point is that most all of the daily driving will be on kWh instead of gallons.

Several hundred of us still have the EVs from the early 2000’s that were made for the California zero emission vehicle mandate. These cars are amazing! Mine is still running exactly as it did the day I got it. We’ve driven 80,000 miles, all on kWh generated by the sunlight falling on our roof.

The experience of driving a car that is almost silent, is more powerful than your gas car, smooth as glass, never needs maintenance, charges at home while you sleep, uses 100% renewable, domestic energy instead of dirty, expensive oil purchased from foreign countries, is pretty damn nice. Once you try it, you’ll never want to go back to a smelly, vibrating, polluting gas burner.

The GM Volt and Nissan Leaf will be sold starting this fall. The Leaf is announcing their price on March 31st. I’ve driven this car and can say with assurance that it’s going to sell like crazy.

Patrick at HEF

Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles are electric vehicles too. They are at the same stage in terms of cost-competitiveness according to the auto manufacturers making them.

fronzmetal

Check this concept out. An all electric pick up truck from Nissan thats whats coming;and thats what im saving my money for. Also a plug in hybred pick up truck with all battery range of at least 63 miles (100 km) . with 120v 240v and 240v three phase capabilities. Also cleaner burning autos are healthier which in turn reduce medical bills. Its like if you have cleaner air you will have lower lung disease and cancers. Its a win win for organic life. Go for it

Battery

I can see it happening. And Warren Buffett isn’t usually one to make audacious claims that he can’t back up.

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