Shell buys European electric vehicle charging pioneer NewMotion
Royal Dutch Shell, one of the world’s largest producers of fossil fuels, has agreed to buy one of Europe’s biggest electric vehicle charging companies, marking a significant push into a market that threatens to one day upend the oil industry.
The company said on Thursday it had agreed to buy NewMotion, a Netherlands-based provider of more than 30,000 private home electric charging points for EVs, with plans to eventually roll out the technology across the majority of Shell’s 45,000 branded service stations globally. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The move marks the most significant push yet by “Big Oil” into the electric vehicle refuelling market, which is forecast to grow dramatically in the coming years.
Shell itself has forecast that oil demand could peak as soon as next decade, providing an existential challenge to an industry that has enjoyed almost uninterrupted growth since the first commercial well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859.
Matthew Tipper, Shell’s vice-president for new fuels, said: “Today’s announcement is an early step towards ensuring customers can access a range of refuelling choices over the coming decades, as new technologies evolve to coexist with traditional transport fuels.
“When you add this customer offer to our current rollout 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.”
NewMotion will continue to operate under its own branding, Shell said. As well as home charging kits it has a network of more than 50,000 public charge points across 25 European countries, with more than 100,000 registered charge cards.
Shell has already added a handful of EV charging sites to its service station network in Europe, with plans to increase the number in coming months.
While EVs and hybrids still make up a relatively small percentage of the overall vehicle fleet, moves by governments in Europe and further afield to place restrictions on petrol and diesel cars in the coming years are expected to accelerate their adoption.
Sytse Zuidema, NewMotion’s chief executive, said: “We are very pleased to have such a strong investor that fully supports our mission, enabling us to further expand across Europe at a time when the transition to electric vehicles is gathering pace.”
Shell is also exploring other alternative fuels such as hydrogen and liquefied petroleum gas, which may yet compete with electricity as the future energy source for transport.
The company is also positioning itself as a larger producer and trader of natural gas, with its $47bn deal to buy BG Group in 2015 seen as a bet that it is backing the fuel to potentially play a bigger role in the company’s long-term future than crude oil.
Some companies and analysts are, however, sceptical about the looming end of the oil age, forecasting that demand will keep rising due to global economic expansion, petrochemical growth, freight and air travel even if passenger vehicles eventually shift away from oil-based fuels.
The International Energy Agency, which advises governments on energy policy, predicts oil demand will not peak until 2040 at the earliest and even then will be above 100m barrels a day — higher than it is currently.