Oil markets ease after three days of gains

An oil tanker is being loaded at Saudi Aramco’s Ras Tanura oil refinery and oil terminal in Saudi Arabia. The kingdom is temporarily halting oil shipments through the Red Sea shipping lane of Bab Al-Mandab. (Reuters)
Updated 27 July 2018

Oil markets ease after three days of gains

TOKYO: Oil prices edged lower on Friday in quiet trading after three days of gains, but took support from Saudi Arabia halting crude transport through a key shipping lane, falling US inventories and easing trade tensions between Washington and Europe.
Brent futures were down 5 cents at $74.49 a barrel by 0319 GMT, after gaining 0.8 percent on Thursday. They are heading for a near 2 percent gain this week, the first weekly increase in four.
US West Texas Intermediate futures were 5 cents lower, at $69.56, after rising nearly 0.5 percent in the previous session. The contract is heading for a 1.3 percent weekly loss, a fourth week of declines.
Saudi Arabia said on Thursday it was “temporarily halting” oil shipments through the Red Sea shipping lane of Bab Al-Mandab after an attack by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
Any move to block the Bab Al-Mandeb, which is between the coasts of Yemen and Africa at the southern end of the Red Sea, would virtually halt oil shipments through Egypt’s Suez Canal and the SUMED crude pipeline that link the Red Sea and Mediterranean.
“The fundamentals of the oil market haven’t really changed. We will have sporadic news coming out of the more volatile regions every now and again, but the market is still oversupplied,” said Peter Lee, Asian oil and gas analyst at BMI Research in Singapore.
“The picture is getting a little better but it is not going to be until 2019 when we start to see more material signs of a deficit building in the market,” he said. “We expect to see range-bound trading till the end of the year.”
An estimated 4.8 million barrels per day of crude oil and refined products flowed through the Bab Al-Mandeb strait in 2016 toward Europe, the United States and Asia, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
However, Saudi Arabia has the Petroline, also known as the East-West Pipeline, which mainly transports crude from fields clustered in the east to Yanbu for export. That could offset a bottleneck caused by Bab Al-Mandeb’s closure.
US President Donald Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, struck a surprise deal on Wednesday that ended the risk of an immediate trade war between the two powers.
A trade war would likely hit demand for commodities like oil, which is used heavily in shipping, construction and other economic activity.
US crude oil inventories last week tumbled more than expected to their lowest level since 2015, the EIA said on Wednesday, as US gasoline and distillate stockpiles fell.


Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

Updated 23 August 2019

Electric luxury vehicles, SUVs ‘more likely to cause accidents’

  • As EV sales rise, French insurer AXA warns that drivers are struggling to adapt to cars’ rapid acceleration

LONDON: Electric luxury cars and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) may be 40 percent more likely to cause accidents than their standard engine counterparts, possibly because drivers are still getting used to their quick acceleration, French insurer AXA said.

The numbers, based on initial trends from claims data and not statistically significant, also suggest small and micro electric cars are slightly less likely to cause accidents than their combustion engine counterparts, AXA said at a crash test demonstration on Thursday.

AXA regularly carries out crash tests for vehicles. This year’s tests, which took place at a disused airport, focused on electric cars.

Overall accident rates for electric vehicles are about the same as for regular cars, according to liability insurance claims data for “7,000 year risks” — on 1,000 autos on the road for seven years — said Bettina Zahnd, head of accident research and prevention at AXA Switzerland.

“We saw that in the micro and small-car classes slightly fewer accidents are caused by electric autos. If you look at the luxury and SUV classes, however, we see 40 percent more accidents with electric vehicles,” Zahnd said.

“We, of course, have thought about what causes this and acceleration is certainly a topic.”

Electric cars accelerate not only quickly, but also equally strongly no matter how high the revolutions per minute, which means drivers can find themselves going faster than they intended.

FASTFACT

Accident rates among luxury and SUV electric vehicles are 40 percent higher than for their combustion engine counterparts.

Half of electric car drivers in a survey this year by AXA had to adjust their driving to reflect the new acceleration and braking characteristics.

“Maximum acceleration is available immediately, while it takes a moment for internal combustion engines with even strong horsepower to reach maximum acceleration. That places new demands on drivers,” Zahnd said.

Sales of electric cars are on the rise as charging infrastructure improves and prices come down.

Electric vehicles accounted for less than 1 percent of cars on the road in Switzerland and Germany last year, but made up 1.8 percent of Swiss new car sales, or 6.6 percent including hybrids, AXA said.

Accidents with electric cars are just about as dangerous for people inside as with standard vehicles, AXA said. The cars are subject to the same tests and have the same passive safety features such as airbags and seatbelts.

But another AXA survey showed most people do not know how to react if they come across an electric vehicle crash scene.

While most factors are the same — securing the scene, alerting rescue teams and providing first aid — it said helpers should also try to ensure the electric motor is turned off. This is particularly important because unlike an internal combustion engine the motor makes no noise. In serious crashes, electric autos’ high-voltage power plants automatically shut down, AXA noted, but damaged batteries can catch fire up to 48 hours after a crash, making it more difficult to deal with the aftermath of
an accident.

For one head-on crash test on Thursday, AXA teams removed an electric car’s batteries to reduce the risk of them catching fire, which could create intense heat and toxic fumes.

Zahnd said that studies in Europe had not replicated US findings that silent electric vehicles are as much as two-thirds more likely to cause accidents with pedestrians or cyclists.

She said the jury was still out on how crash data would affect the cost of insuring electric versus standard vehicles, noting this always reflected factors around both driver and car.

“If I look around Switzerland, there are lots of insurers that even give discounts for electric autos because one would like to promote electric cars,” she said.