In the energy sector, affordable batteries are making it possible for companies to store electricity and harvest renewable power. In the auto industry, they are set to challenge the gas-powered engine’s centurylong domination. Costs have come down so far and so fast that most car makers expect that electric vehicles, which are currently more expensive than their gas-powered counterparts, will cost the same amount to build within the next five years.

The gains are likely to continue. Electric vehicles are currently the main source of demand for battery cells. As demand grows and costs fall further, batteries will become even more disruptive across industries. Batteries recently scored a win at General Motors Co., which said it hoped to phase out gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles from its showrooms world-wide by 2035.

The battery boom could erode demand for crude oil and byproducts such as gasoline—as well as for natural gas, which is primarily used in power plants. While mining materials and manufacturing batteries produce some greenhouse gas emissions, analysts believe shifting to batteries in the auto and energy sectors would reduce emissions overall, boosting efforts to tackle climate change.