Oil company buys electric charging

Buy some electricity and an overpriced sandwich, says Nigel Boothman… BP HAS acquired the UK’s biggest electric car charging network, Chargemaster, for £130m. The network already consists of more than 6500 charging points and will add to that number with fast chargers appearing at most if not all of BP’s 1200 petrol station forecourts over the next 12 months.

It’s one more demonstration of the trend that some petrolheads would like to ignore – electric vehicles are taking over more and more of the market, even if they currently make up just a few hundred thousand of the 31.3 million cars licensed in the UK. If oil companies such as BP are driven to acquire direct technological rivals, change is afoot – and it gives the likes of BP some control in both the distribution and number of charging points, and therefore how attractive EV ownership looks. But any cynicism about BP’s motives was waved away by Tufan Erginbilic, the company’s chief of refineries and petrol stations.

‘Effectively, BP becomes a leading provider of energy to low-carbon vehicles in the UK. I would like to emphasise that both the world and the UK need ultra-fast charging for electric vehicles to be scaled up.’ BP’s own predictions place the number of electric cars on UK streets by 2040 at 12 million, meaning that we’ll need to add an average of more than 500,000 per year between now and then – an annual sales figure that represents about a fifth of all cars sold here, and which is a big jump from the current annual sales of electric and hybrid-powered vehicles of around 120,000. However, it’s vital for oil companies to keep electric charging points associated with petrol stations, partly because they claim to make good returns in supplying electricity to EVs, and partly because it drives trade in forecourt retail. BP’s new 150kw fast-chargers could potentially add 100 miles of range to a modern EV in 10 minutes – just enough for an expensive coffee and a sandwich. So it’s not surprising to learn that BP aren’t alone in moving to charging point supply – Shell has started installing charging points in UK forecourts and bought a Dutch network with 30,000 of them across Europe.

Fast charge units at BP petrol stations.

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