Article Source The Guardian
Electric car charging points could appear alongside petrol pumps at Shell’s UK service stations as soon as next year, the oil giant confirmed after emails between the company and government officials revealed discussions on introducing them.
The company also asked the government how serious it is about wireless charging roads which could top up an electric car without the need to plug in, as mooted by Conservative MP Oliver Letwin.
The diversification into infrastructure for battery-powered cars would mark a new departure for the company, which has largely backed biofuels as a greener alternative to petrol and diesel in the past. It could also suggest a softening of stance from an industry which Telsa co-founder Elon Musk has accused of using misinformation campaigns against electric cars.
Emails released after a Freedom of Information request by DeSmogBlog, a site which monitors fossil fuel lobbying, shows that Shell staff and government transport officials discussed both electric cars and hydrogen fuel this year.
In one exchange, a Shell staffer on secondment from the Department for Business writes to the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles to suggest electric cars are being held back by a lack of public charging points and the cars’ range, which is typically around 100 miles for many models.
“You will know more of the challenges around electric cars than me but the availability of fast charging infrastructure, and how that links to range anxiety, is probably up there with one of the main issues concerning customers,” they wrote. “As a sample of one, I do not have access to off road parking so buying an EV myself is not currently viable.”
In a later exchange, a Shell employee appeals for more detail on the regulatory regime for charging point operators. “I have been asked whether Shell will need an electricity supply license if we are to provide a service to customers to charge their electric cars.” Shell also asks about whether the idea of wireless charging roads in Britain “has legs” and how ambitious the government is about the idea.
Asked if the emails show Shell is moving into charging points, a spokeswoman said: “We are examining the potential to introduce electric vehicle charging points across some parts of our UK retail network from early 2017 onwards.”
Shell will be going into competition with companies such as Chargemaster, Ecotricity and Tesla, which have all been building out networks of charging points in the UK. According to Zap Map, there are more than 12,000 chargers in the UK.
David Martell, CEO of Chargemaster, which owns more than 4,000 of the UK’s chargers, said: “I think it’s great. They see the tide moving toward electric cars and they want a piece of the action. They’d be crazy not to, wouldn’t they? We are in discussion with a number of fuel companies. We fully expect the first charging points to be put in in the next year [by fuel companies].”
It is not yet clear how many of Shell’s 1,000-plus service stations will get the chargers, or who will provide the technology.
There were 20,000 100% electric vehicles on the road at the end of last year, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, though they still make up a minuscule fraction of new car sales, which numbered 2.6m in 2015. Nissan said on Tuesday that it had sold 15,000 of its electric Nissan Leaf model since it launched in 2011.
Policymakers see electric cars as a key way to tackle air pollution and meet climate targets, but MPs warned earlier this month that the UK was failing to encourage their take-up fast enough.
Shell’s stance on electric cars is in stark contrast with that of ExxonMobil, whose communications with government officials are also shown in the email and document cache.
The US oil company, which has more than 1,000 Esso-branded service stations in the UK, sent slides to Department for Transport officials saying the government should avoid policies that support electric cars because cutting carbon emissions from power stations was cheaper.
“Switching from petroleum to renewable or alternative fuels [i.e. EVs] is not the most cost effective way to to reduce GHG emissions; actions in other sectors (e.g. power generation) typically cost less per ton of CO2 avoided,” one presentation said. The company told the government that, in its opinion, “liquid petroleum fuels will remain the primary transportation fuels in the foreseeeable future.”
Exxon and Shell’s discussions were disclosed after DeSmogBlog lodged several freedom of information requests with the Department for Transport, to discover how oil companies were lobbying the UK government on electric cars.
Article Source The Guardian