The global oil magnet British Petroleum (BP) has bought Chargemaster, the country’s biggest electric car charging operator, signaling the energy major’s concern about the impact of low-carbon vehicles on its core business, as well as its bullish look over the electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure market in the coming decades.
Chargemaster, founded in 2008 and based in the capital London, is a company engaged in designing, manufacturing, selling and maintaining charging units. Now it operates 6,500 electric vehicle charging stations across Britain, making the UK’s largest EV charging network.
With the acquisition of Chargemaster, BP would be capable of expanding its rapid charging network at 1,200 petrol stations it spreads across Britain.
BP was said to have invested £130 million to reach the deal, which was lauded as a significant landmark towards cleaner energy mix in the UK.
“Effectively, BP becomes a leading provider of energy to low-carbon vehicles in the UK. I would like to emphasise the world and the UK needs ultra-fast charging for electric vehicles to scale up,” said Tufan Erginbilgic, BP’s chief executive for downstream operations.
He said BP was doing more on electric car charging infrastructure in Britain than any other market, although the company is also working on a pilot charger project in Germany this year.
Electric vehicle sales have seen remarkable increase across Europe in recent years, and the number is still on the upswing.
“Having an ability to do a fast charge could be a relatively attractive model,” said Dave Greenwood, automotive expert at Warwick University.
In this context, BP has set its goal to become the top provider of energy to electric vehicles, a greener style of transport also encouraged by the UK government with legislation.
By the end of May, 2018, the number of electric cars running on the UK’s roads exceeded 140,000. As most of these electric cars are plug-in hybrid vehicles, they can only run for a short distance on battery power before shifting to fossil energy.
BP estimates the number of electric automobiles will skyrocket to 12 million by 2040, which is in line with the targets that the UK legislation currently sets.
“The UK government has stated that all new cars will need to be electric or long-range plug-in hybrid by that point. Both of those need fast charging,” Greenwood said.
After the ambitious buying deal, the re-branded BP Chargemaster would focus on the research and application of ultra-fast 150KW charging, which can add a 161-kilometer range to an electric car within ten minutes or so.
In fact, BP is not the first energy giant to set foot in the EV charging market. Last year, BP’s rival Shell begun to install chargers at its gasoline stations and purchased the Dutch company New Motion, which owns 30,000 charging points across Europe.
For oil majors like BP, low-emission electric vehicles will definitely pose big threats to their traditional businesses and revenues. People’s turning to EVs will take a hit on oil demand, basically damaging those energy firms. BP obviously understands the threats and sees the opportunity to become part of the EV industry.