BP buys UK's biggest electric car charger network for £130m
BP has acquisitioned Chargemaster, the UK’s biggest electric car charger network for £130m. This is being spun in certain sectors as a milestone towards cleaner motoring
with 6,500 charging points. This is the latest sign of a major oil producer addressing the threat that low-carbon vehicles pose to their core business.
British Petroleum estimates the number of electric vehicles will reach 12m by 2040, although some analysts are actually putting the figure much higher. The acquisition of Chargemaster, which has more than 6,500 charging points across the country, will begin to result in the deployment of fast chargers at BP’s 1,200 forecourts over the next year.
At the moment, there are more than 140,000 electric vehicles in Britain but at the moment most of these are plug-in hybrid vehicles that can run for a short distance on battery power before switching to petrol or diesel. The chief executive of BP’s downstream division, Tufan Erginbilgic doesn't think that this acquisition is a defensive move, saying the company had good returns in powering electric cars, comparable to other parts of its business. “I don’t think this is defensive at all,” he said:
“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.”
Erginbilgic said BP will do more on electric car infrastructure in the UK than any other country, although they are also piloting chargers in Germany later this year. The rebranded BP Chargemaster will prioritise ultra-fast 150KW charging, which can add around 450-600 miles of range per hour of charging. That would mean a car such as Jaguar’s new I-Pace could add about 100 miles in 10 minutes. At the moment, charging your car at home could take anywhere from six to 12 hours, unless you have an upgraded charging point.
BP is actively moving deeper into the greener energy markets and the £130m paid for Chargemaster is part of the £382m the UK-based oil firm has pledged to spend on low-carbon activities. This, however, is just a tiny slice of the total $15-16bn that BP will spend this year alone.
Earlier in January, BP invested $5m in the US firm Freewire Technologies. BP’s Anglo-Dutch rival Shell took its first steps into the market last year, installing chargers on its forecourts and buying the Dutch firm New Motion, which has 30,000 charging points in Europe. Asked if the company could be expected to make further steps into the electric car market, Erginbilgic said:
“Yes, but not for the sake of investment; they must be in line with our strategy. I don’t believe the fastest person in this space will succeed.”
Albert Cheung, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, said: “Oil majors like BP face a double threat from electric vehicles. They’ll take a hit on oil demand but they’ll also face declining customer traffic at their petrol stations. BP understand the threats and see the opportunity to be part of the EV industry.”