LONDON (Reuters) - Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) has partnered with top carmakers to deploy ultra-fast chargers on Europe’s highways, stealing a march on rivals in the race to remove one of the biggest obstacles facing the electric car sector.
Shell’s agreement with IONITY - a joint venture between BMW (BMWG.DE), Daimler (DAIGn.DE), Ford (F.N) and Volkswagen (VOWG_p.DE) - will initially bring high-powered docks to 80 highway sites in 2019, it said in a statement.
Power giants including France's Engie (ENGIE.PA) and Germany's E.ON (EONGn.DE), as well as niche players such as U.S. start-up ChargePoint, are all building vehicle-charging networks in Europe, but Shell says the IONITY technology is key to addressing the problem of journey distances. (See related story here: Energy firms battle startups to wire Europe's highways for electric cars)
While electric vehicles still account for only a small fraction of the global car market, the pace of growth and a sustained period of low crude prices is prompting oil companies to reassess century-old business models as the world move towards cleaner modes of transportation.
Under Shell’s most aggressive projections the company expects the global electric vehicle fleet to grow from about 1 percent of the entire auto fleet today to 10 percent by 2025, displacing oil demand equating to about 800,000 barrels per day.
Rival BP (BP.L) said in August that it was talking to electric car manufacturers on deals to offer battery recharging docks at its stations. (See related story here: BP in talks with electric carmakers on service station chargers)
The number of electric vehicle charging points in Europe nearly tripled from 2014 to 2017 to reach almost 120,000, according to the European Alternative Fuels Observatory.
However, manufacturers have struggled to offer solutions for getting drivers to go beyond short journeys, mostly within cities, because of battery limitations, a lack of charging stations and long charging times.
With the IONITY technology, cars with advanced charging capacity of up to 350 kilowatts will take as little as five to eight minutes to charge, Shell said. It can take several hours to charge a regular electric car today.
“Customers want to go on long journeys in their electric vehicles and feel confident that there are reliable, comfortable and convenient places to charge them quickly,” said Shell’s head of retail Istvan Kapitany.
The 80 charging stations will be deployed in Belgium, Britain, France, the Netherlands, Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
With an additional 20 stations expected to be added in Germany, about a quarter of Shell’s stations along highways in Europe will offer high-power electric charging within two years, Kapitany told Reuters.
Shell will invest in changing power supplies to its stations to meet growing demand, he said, declining to disclose the size of the investment or terms of the IONITY deal.
The IONITY partners joined forces with a plan to build a pan-European network of 400 charging stations by 2020. (See the full story here)
The initiative is latest in a number of small Shell investments in charging technology in recent months, including the acquisition of Dutch-based NewMotion, owner of one of Europe's largest charging networks. (See related story here)
Additional reporting by Christoph Steitz; Editing by David Goodman