Like the saying goes, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over — but it’s over. The reign of the conventional gas-powered is coming to a close and electric vehicles are poised to dominate. In the most recent development, last Friday the leading global oil company Royal Dutch Shell announced that it is buying one of Europe’s largest and most highly regarded EV charging providers, NewMotion.
Those of you steeped in petroleum history may recall that back in the early 20th century, millions of people lost access to EV transportation when gasmobile manufacturer General Motors systematically bought up — and promptly shut down — electric streetcar companies. So, is this another bait and switch?
No, Really, It’s Over: Shell Dives Into EV Charging Biz
Shell’s new venture into electric vehicle infrastructure is not likely to result in the same bait-and-switch. The basic idea is to install EV charging stations at existing Shell gas stations, in order to keep the Shell brand front and center as drivers switch to EVs.
That’s not a bad idea. In fact, could help accelerate the EV trend. EV sales are rising but so far, most consumers have been skittish about investing thousands of dollars in new automotive technology. Anything that connects the EV experience with an existing, familiar brand could help shepherd new car buyers over to the EV aisle.
Shell has been working along those lines since at least 2010, when a company official suggested that Shell would transition from a gas station model to an “energy station” model for retail sales.
Things were pretty quiet until last fall, when Shell hinted that it was taking a good look at outfitting its EU gas stations with charging stations.
Sure enough, in February Shell announced that its UK and Netherlands gas stations would soon offer EV charging. The company did not let the grass grow under its feet. It began rolling out the first charging stations last month, courtesy of the company Allego.
Just a few days ago Shell let drop that it is already thinking ahead to the role that its EV charging station can play in load balancing and other aspects of “smart grid” technology.
So, What’s All This About NewMotion?
The NewMotion acquisition is another indication that Shell is super serious about EV charging. Shell VP for New Fuels, Matthew Tipper, enthused:
This move provides customers the flexibility to charge their electric vehicles at home, work and on the go. When you add this customer offer to our current roll out of fast charging points on Shell forecourts, we believe we are developing the full raft of charge solutions required to support the future of EVs.
If you caught that thing about home charging, you’re on to something. Recent surveys indicate that most EV owners prefer to charge at home, where they can go about their business while the car attends to its business. Workplace charging comes in a close second. The challenge is to get more EV drivers to use public charging stations.
NewMotion isn’t just any old leading charging station company. The research firm Navigant placed NewMotion at the top of its proprietary Leaderboard reporting program, in a comparative analysis of the 12 top public charging networks and EV charging services in major markets for plug-in EVs.
Navigant’s criteria are: “vision; go-to-market strategy; partners; product strategy; geographic strategy; market presence; marketing and distribution; product performance and reliability; product and service capabilities; and staying power.”
NewMotion beat out familiar names including ChargePoint, Greenlots, and EVgo among the top 10 vendors.
It looks like Shell is planning to leverage NewMotion’s base of residential and business customers to draw more traffic to its public “energy stations.”
NewMotion’s website underscores the value to Shell:
No matter your lifestyle, business, car or budget, we are committed to making electric driving as simple and convenient to as many people as possible.
We do this by designing, building and supporting award-winning smart charge services including charge points, a mobile app and charge card allowing access to tens of thousands of charge points across Europe.
Circling round yet again to the familiarity pitch, Shell may have been attracted by NewMotion’s emphasis on educating and supporting their customers’ venture into unfamiliar technology:
We help our customers understand the basics of charging smart and provide advanced insight, control and guidance for optimising their (fleet of) vehicles or charge locations, delivering the best charge experience tailored to their everyday.
Okay, so far so good.
Shell is certainly not off the hook for its fossil fuel past, and as recently as 2014 the company still seemed to be greenwashing its efforts. However, more recently Shell has been working toward a more sustainable business model.
Ummmm … okay. Game on, Exxon!
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Image (frame added): via NewMotion.