Drones & droids: deliver us from e-commerce

Small, autonomous, electric delivery vehicles are emerging. They are game-changers: rapidly delivering online purchases to customers, creating vast new economic possibilities, but also driving the energy transition. Their ascent could eliminate 500MTpa of CO2, 3.5Mboed of fossil fuels and c$3trn pa of consumer spending across the OECD. The mechanism is a re-shaping of urban consumption habits, retail and manufacturing. The opportunities are outlined in our new, 20-page report.


The average US consumer buys 2.5 tons of goods per year, served by a vast distribution network of ships, trucks and smaller vehicles, collectively responsible for 1.5 barrels of oil, $1,000 of cost and 600kg of CO2 per person per annum (page 2).

Fuel economy currently deteriorates, with each step closer to the consumer. Container ships achieve c900 ton-miles per gallon of fuel. But delivery vans, the dominant delivery mechanism for internet purchases, are least efficient, achieving just 0.02 effective ton-mpg and costing at least $3.6 per delivery (page 3).

The rise of e-commerce has already increased supply chain CO2 by c30%, and supply chain costs by 2x since the pre-internet era. On today’s technologies, CO2 will rise another 20% and cost will rise another 50% by 2030, adding 0.7Mbpd of oil demand, 120MTpa of CO2 and $500bn of cost across the OECD (pages 4-5)

Drones and droids are 90-99% less energy intensive than delivery vans, and 70-97% less costly. The technology is maturing. Thus small, autonomous, electric vehicles will move immediately, efficiently, straight to their destination (pages 6-8).

Retail and manufacturing will have be transformed by the time drones approach 50% market share in last-mile delivery. Tipping-point economies-of-scale mean that they will take market share away from cars and delivery vans very rapidly (pages 9-10).

The second half of the report focuses in on the opportunities. Retail businesses must consolidate, specialise or diversify to “sharing” models. The latter can save $1trn of consumer spending and 100MTpa of emissions in the US alone (pages 11-20).

2050 oil markets: opportunities in peak demand?

Many commentators fear long-run oil demand is on the cusp of a steep contraction, leaving oil and gas assets stranded. We are more concerned about the opposite problem. Projecting out the current trends, global oil demand is on course to keep rising to over 130Mbpd by 2050, undermining attempts to decarbonise the world’s energy system.

Our new, 20-page note reviews seven technology themes that can save 45Mbpd of long-term oil demand. We therefore find oil demand would plateau at 103Mbpd in the 2020s, before declining gradually to 87Mbpd in 2050. This is still an enormous market, equivalent to 1,000 bbls of oil being consumed every second.

Opportunities abound in the transition, in order to deliver our seven themes, improve mobility, substitute oil for gas, reconfigure refineries for changing product mixes, and to ensure that the world’s remaining oil needs are supplied as cleanly and efficiently as possible. Leading companies will seize these opportunities, driving the transition and earning strong returns in the process.

Scooter Wars?

E-scooters can transform urban mobility, eliminating 2Mbpd of oil demand by 2030, competing amidst the ascent of “electric vehicles” and re-shaping urban economies.  These implications follow from e-scooters having 25-50x higher energy efficiencies, higher convenience and c50% lower costs than gasoline vehicles, over short 1-2 mile journeys. Our 12-page note explores the consequences. 


Page 2 charts the meteoric ascent of e-scooters. In their first year of deployment, they matched the peak growth rate of taxi-apps (e.g., Uber) and overtook ride-sharing bicycles which have been under commercialisation for quarter-of-a-century.

Page 3 assesses the leading companies, all of which launched in late-2017 or early-2018, and have since raised $1.5bn.

Pages 4-5 compares the energy-economics of electric scooters with fourteen other vehicle concepts, explaining the physics of e-scooters’ 25-50x higher efficiencies.

Page 6 compares the relative benefits of e-scooters versus electric cars, which are clearest when comparing the relative strain on grid infrastructure.

Pages 7-8 show how e-scooters displace oil demand, outlining our projections for 2Mbpd of demand destruction globally by 2030. This oil demand is not “replaced” by electricity demand. c95-98% of it is simply eliminated.

Pages 9-11 model the per-mile costs of e-scooters, as a function of multiple input variables, showing the most competitive contexts relative to cars and taxis.

Page 12 ends by exploring potential consequences for urban economies. Most of all, we expect economic growth to be supported, particularly for retail; conversely e-mobility may embolden policymakers to ban gasoline vehicles from cities.

Robot delivery: Unbelievable fuel economy…

Stand on a street corner in Tallinn, in the summer of 2019, and you might encounter the scene below: not one, but two autonomous delivery robots, comfortably passing one-another.

The fuel economy of these small electric machines is truly transformational, around 100x better than a typical motorcycle (the trusty workhorse of take-aways past), around 200x better than a typical car and around 400x better than a typical pick-up.

Large implications follow for energy supply and demand, if such delivery-robots take off…

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Our conclusion is to have found further evidence that transportation technology is evolving. Forward thinking energy companies will be preparing for the change, as evidenced by their patents, their projects and their venturing.

De-Carbonising Carbon?

Decarbonisation is often taken to mean the end of fossil fuels. But it is more feasible simply to de-carbonise them, with next-generation combustion technologies.

This 19-page note presents our top two opportunities: ‘Oxy-Combustion’ using the Allam Cycle and Chemical Looping Combustion. Both can provided competitive energy with zero carbon coal & gas.

Leading Oil Majors are supporting these solutions, to create value while advancing the energy transition.


Carbon capture remains an “orphan technology”, absorbing just c0.1% of global CO2. The costs and challenges of current technologies are profiled on pp2-4.

Energy penalties are particularly problematic. Paradoxically, the more CCS in our models, the longer it takes to de-carbonise the energy system (see pp5-6).

Next generation combustion-technologies are therefore necessary…

Allam Cycle Oxy-Combustion burns CO2 in an inert atmosphere of CO2 and oxygen. We evaluate a demonstration plant and model strong economics (see pp12-15).

Chemical Looping Combustion burns fossil fuels in a fluidized bed of metal oxide. We profile the technology’s development to-date, net efficiency and levellised costs, which are passable (pp8-11).

Oil Majors are driving the energy transition. We count ninety patents from leading companies to process CO2, including 30 to de-carbonise power. The best advances are profiled from TOTAL, Occidental, Aramco and ExxonMobil. (See pp16-19).

Aerial Ascent: why flying cars fly

Aerial vehicles will do in the 2020s what electric vehicles did in the 2010s. They will go from a niche technology to a global mega-trend that no forecaster can ignore. The technology is advancing rapidly. Fuel economies and costs will both be transformational. Aerial vehicles accelerate the energy transition.

These conclusions are all explained in depth, in our new, 20-page insight…


Pages 2-3 demonstrate the need for aerial vehicles, as urban mobility has begun deteriorating, after 200-years’ of progress.

Page 4-5 recap the military development of drones, stretching back to the late 19th Century, accelerating with the US’s Predator and Reaper programmes.

Pages 6-9 identify leaders among 110 companies, employing 50,000 people, which have now flown over 40 aerial vehicles; from start-ups to aerospace heavy-weights.

Pages 10-11 describe average flight parameter across the different vehicle concepts we screened, including speeds, range, payload and fuel-economy of aerial vehicles

Pages 11-13 show electric vehicles leading on the metrics above, with unparalleled fuel economies, which we replicated, bottom-up via the equations of flight.

Pages 13-14 shows the future is battery powered for aerial vehicles, at today’s battery densities, creating a vast opportunity for fast-charging infrastructure.

Pages 14-18 calculate exceptional economics can be attained, comprehensively bridging to levels that are 65-85% below today’s ground-transportation.

Pages 19-20 summarise the hurdles, presenting the best counter-evidence we can find to legal, regulatory and “adoption” pushbacks.