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BP becomes latest oil giant to invest in electric vehicle charging

BP, the British oil company, announced today an investment in a US-based electric vehicle charging station manufacturer in order to trial charging technology at its own retail sites by the end of the year.

Oil companies have been increasingly interested in electric vehicle charging as they start to see electric vehicles slowly taking over the car industry.

Shell is leading the charge through its involvement in the new Ionity charging network in Europe, building its own chargers at its own gas stations, and recently acquiring a charging network with over 30,000 chargers.

BP’s entry in the field is a lot more cautious than Shell’s broad investment.

The company announced today a $5 million investment in FreeWire, a manufacturer of mobile rapid charging systems for electric vehicles – pictured above.

Furthermore, BP announced that they will deploy the chargers at “selected BP retail sites in the UK and Europe during 2018.”

Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive, BP Downstream, said:

“Mobility is changing and BP is committed to remaining the fuel retailer of choice into the future. EV charging will undoubtedly become an important part of our business, but customer demand and the technologies available are still evolving.

Arcady Sosinov, CEO of FreeWire Technologies, also commented on the announcement:

“We applaud BP’s commitment to providing a wide range of charging methods for its global customer base. The Mobi Charger can be quickly and cost effectively scaled across vast transportation networks — flexibility that delivers benefits all along the EV charging value chain. We are thrilled that BP, which is such a significant provider of transportation infrastructure, has acknowledged the promise of our solution through this investment and partnership.”

They plan to start the rollout of the first chargers in the next few months

Electrek’s Take

While it’s a clear recognition of the potential effect of EVs on their business, I have to say that BP might have taken the most cautious approach possible here.

Using mobile chargers that rely on batteries reduces the installation cost to virtually nothing and they can be easily moved to another location if they don’t see enough use at a specific location or even sold if BP gives up on the technology.

But those chargers, at least DC fast-charging ones, are limited to their battery capacity, which is just 48 kWh according to their website. That means that they can’t even charge half a Model S 100D before having to recharge their battery pack.

In a sense, it’s smart in terms of cost of deployment, but it also shows that they are not yet convinced that EVs are taking over. Otherwise, they’d just be adding full charging stations to their locations like Shell.

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