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Royal Dutch Shell has offered to install 50,000 on-street electric vehicle charging devices in the UK in four years, a move that could give the energy group a third of the public charging market by 2025.
Transport is the biggest contributor to UK emissions and the government has pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030.
But there has been recent heavy criticism of the lack of charging infrastructure, particularly for drivers who do not have access to off-street parking, which is hampering the uptake of electric vehicles.
The Competition and Markets Authority warned in a report in July that the rollout of on-street public chargers has been “slow and is very patchy”. The parliamentary public accounts committee warned this year that the UK had a “mountain to climb” to reach its goals on phasing out petrol and diesel.
Shell is planning a rapid expansion through its charging infrastructure business. Ubitricity, acquired in February, installs EV charging points in street furniture such as lamp posts or bollards.
The company said it hoped to drive uptake of on-street chargers by offering local authorities help to finance the installations “at potentially zero cost”.
A government scheme designed to encourage their rollout by councils already offers to meet 75 per cent of the cost of installation, but they have to finance the remaining 25 per cent and have been slow to sign up.
David Bunch, Shell’s UK country chair, said the company wanted “to give drivers across the UK accessible EV charging options, so that more drivers can switch to electric”. It is separately rolling out charge points on petrol station forecourts and at other locations such as supermarkets, he added.
A third of households in England do not have driveways, which rises to 68 per cent for those in social housing, according to data from the English Housing Association. The problem is particularly acute in cities and urban areas where 62 per cent of households do not have driveways.
Shell’s move could add to concerns from the CMA that the structure of the market could lead to restricted consumer choice in on-street EV charging provision. The competition watchdog warned in a July report that “local monopolies could arise” if the market was “left unchecked”.
Ubitricity currently has more than 3,600 on-street chargers in the UK, predominantly in cities, which already makes it the market leader according to Zap-Map, an app that helps drivers locate charging points.
Shell’s target, if met, would account for a third of the 150,000 public charging points that the Climate Change Committee, the government’s advisory panel, has said would be needed by 2025 if the UK were to remain on track for its 2050 goal of achieving net zero emissions. There are currently just over 25,500 public charging devices in the UK.
Other oil majors and utilities have also been expanding rapidly into the market in recent years. BP in 2018 bought the UK charging network operator Chargemaster while EDF, the French state-backed utility, last year acquired a majority stake Pod Point.
The company would not put an investment figure on its UK target but it said in February that as part a move into cleaner energy technologies, it would spend $3bn annually on its global marketing operations, which include its EV charging networks as well as its petrol forecourts business.
Oswald Clint, an energy analyst at Bernstein, estimated the total cost of 50,000 on-street charging points at between $150m and $250m, based on prices for the comparatively “cheap” lamp post chargers, likely to make up a large proportion of the points, of $3,000 to $5,000 per unit.
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