Shell Gets An Electric Vehicle Charging Network, Just In Time For New ZEV Challenge

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Earlier this week Royal Dutch Shell threw a curveball at the climate change denial movement by suggesting that the UK should shorten up its timetable for banning internal combustion engines, and today here comes the knockout blow from something called the ZEV Challenge. The newly announced global initiative aims to rally the purchasing power of governments and businesses to ramp up sales of electric vehicles and get the necessary infrastructure in place, too.

Okay, so we’ve heard this one before. Basically the idea is that if fleet managers switch from ICE — internal combustion engines — to electric vehicles, their purchasing power will provide the economic footing for the auto industry to offer ZEV’s to individual consumers at more affordable prices. That hasn’t quite happened yet, so why do the ZEV Challenge folks think they’ve got the answer this time around?

C’mon People Now, Buy An Electric Vehicle

The folks at ZEV Challenge provided CleanTechnica with an embargoed press release to go with a press conference this morning, so we don’t have the link yet, but we do have the lowdown.

The effort is spearheaded by the multinational nonprofit organization The Climate Group and C40Cities, “a data-driven network of more than 90 megacities commited to climate action.”

Here’s the happy recap:

The ZEV Challenge is being supported by: The State of California, New York City, EDF Energy, LeasePlan and Unilever. In addition the cities of Paris, Milan, Copenhagen, Pittsburgh, Mexico City, and the regions of Australian Capital Territory and Navarra.

The ZEV Challenge will see states, regions, cities and international business use their purchasing and policy influence to massively accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles around the world.


Duel Of The Corporate Titans

Not for nothing but if you’re wondering what’s up with Unilever — aka the brand home of Axe and Dove among other popular items — that leads into some interesting territory.

A few years back, CleanTechnica noted that the battle between sustainability and fossil fuels was not a lopsided duel between little happy hippies and corporate giants. It was quickly turning into a real slugfest between corporate giants.

Here in the US, you could measure the schism partly by the number of major companies bailing out of the powerful, fossil-friendly organization ALEC, including the global powerhouses Google, Coca-Cola and Ford. The US Chamber of Commerce has also come in for its share of hits due to its position on climate change among other issues.

With the support of Netherlands-based Unilever, the ZEV Challenge ramps up corporate-side action on electric vehicles to the next level:

This marks the first time some of the world’s largest states, regions, cities and businesses are uniting to show the global auto industry the full scale of demand that already exists for electric vehicles. It brings together existing, world leading programs, which up to now have been focused on separate sectors, to amplify their collective purchasing power and influence on the market.

So, That’s Why Shell Bought An EV Charging Station Network

That brings us back around to Shell. In 2016 Shell dedicated a new division for clean tech investment, and the company’s 2017 Annual Report took note of climate change risks. Shell has also diversified into EV charging stations, wind farms and solar farms, and it has pulled back its interests in Canada’s notorious tar sands oil fields.

Last March the company also published a scenario for a “low-oil” future, though it appears to be making up the gap by digging its heels deeper into natural gas. Be that as it may, the key idea is that Shell sees the future of internal combustion engines growing dimmer, and it jockeying for position as the “clean” fuel company for the future.

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that Shell CEO Ben van Beurden suggested that the UK move up its 2040 timetable for transitioning to EVs (sure makes that charging station investment look good!):

“If you would bring it forward, obviously that would be welcome. I think the UK will have to go at a much higher speed than the speed the rest of the world can go.”

Helen Clarkson, the CEO of The Climate Group, pretty much said the same thing in today’s press release:

“It is time to talk about the endgame for the combustion engine and speed up the move from vehicles whose emissions pose health risks and a growing contribution to climate change. We want automotive companies to do more to help us get there.”

How Exactly Is This Going To Work?

Aside from putting the squeeze on automakers, the ZEV Challenge will leverage the Climate Group’s EV100 group of multinational companies, which is already committed to fleet electrification by 2030.

The Climate Group is also assembling the electric vehicle buying power of state agencies, regional authorities and cities in a new group called the Under2 Coalition. Though a new organization, Under2 already represents almost 40% of the global economy through its 200 member governments.

So, the wheels are already in motion. The challenge now is to rev up the transition to electric vehicles and make it go faster.

In that regard, Monday’s big electric vehicle announcement from the UK may be a little disappointing. The newly unveiled roadmap for its “Road to Zero” plan reaffirms the 2040 deadline for banning “conventional” gas and diesel passenger cars and vans.

The Climate Group favors a much tighter schedule that makes electric vehicles “the new normal” by 2030.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to The Climate Group for some additional insights into the US situation so stay tuned for more on that score.

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Photo: Formula E electric vehicles.

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Tina Casey

Tina specializes in advanced energy technology, military sustainability, emerging materials, biofuels, ESG and related policy and political matters. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on LinkedIn, Threads, or Bluesky.

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