Big Oil and utilities square off for piece of EV charging dollars

Posted Jul 11, 2018 by Karen Graham
The world's automakers are ready to release more than a dozen new hybrid or all-electric cars by the end of 2020, and oil companies, who have for years sold gas to fuel cars are now moving into the EV sector — but so are traditional utility companies.
A Volt EV at a charging station
A Volt EV at a charging station
Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine
As electric vehicles become more affordable and efficient, at the same time, the world is becoming less dependent on fossil fuels. Petroleum companies and big utilities have not been sitting idly by as this transition to clean energy and lower emissions have been taking place, though.
If anything, the huge spurt in electric car growth has also created a war for the pocketbooks of the driving public by both utilities and the petroleum industry.
In May, fossil fuel consumption in the electric power sector fell to 22.5 quadrillion British thermal units (quads) in 2017, the lowest level since 1994, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Because British sales of electric cars will no longer count towards carmakers' EU carbon dioxid...
Because British sales of electric cars will no longer count towards carmakers' EU carbon dioxide targets after Brexit, manufacturers may choose to sell to other European countries instead
But this statistic underscores the fact that many electric utility companies are adding renewables to their portfolios as renewable energy continues to take hold. And with electric vehicle use increasing, they are counting on supplying increasing quantities of juice, especially during off-peak hours to make their operations more efficient, while at the same time, helping their profit line.
Big petroleum companies have also been watching as renewable energy sources have taken hold and electric vehicles have become more popular. Back in September 2017, JP Morgan Cazenove joined the ranks of those who believe the EV revolution is happening a lot faster than anyone expected.
In a note to investors, the investment bank pointed out widespread electric car adoption will happen faster than many analysts expect and there will be some losers and winners.
Automobiles are an integral part of our lives and the transition from fossil fuels to electrons is going to impact a wide range of businesses in addition to the oil and gas industry. JP Morgan noted that "ironically, automakers may not be among the big losers."But that is because they will be making hybrids and EVs.
But oil companies, who for years and years have supplied the gasoline used to run our cars, and fuel oil for furnaces and power plants have finally come to realize that fossil fuel use in on the decline, and to make up the profit loss at their gas stations, they are now getting into renewables and in particular, the EV charging market.
Blurring the lines between big oil and the alternative energy
Traditional electric utility companies have started focusing on the EV charger market, with at-home charging stations, battery storage, and smart meters. And this means improving the electrical grid which will lead to improving their bottom line. It should be noted that at this time, 90 percent of EV charging is done at home.
Petroleum companies depend on profits from gasoline stations. And London-based British Petroleum has been sifting through the numbers. BP estimates that electric-car sales will explode by 8,800 percent between last year and 2040. Now, that's a big bang. So they are looking into "fast charge" stations for those drivers needing a quick fill-up of electrons.
So this led to BP's takeover of Chargemaster in June this year, including its 6,500 charging stations within the UK as part of its bid to “support the successful adoption of electric vehicles." BP is going to be introducing 50kW “rapid chargers” that promise to power up an electric car for a 100-mile journey in just 10 minutes.
BP's news of its acquisition of ChargeMaster came less than a year after rival Royal Dutch Shell, signed an agreement to purchase Amsterdam, Netherlands-based NewMotion, one of Europe's largest electric vehicle charging providers.
NewMotion operates more than 30,000 charging stations in the Netherlands, Germany, France and the UK. The company also provides access to a network of more than 50,000 public charge points across 25 European countries, serving more than 100,000 registered charge cards.
Both of these Big Oil acquisitions in such an obvious direction is further proof that many petroleum companies are looking to the future and the growth of electric vehicles and decline of gasoline and diesel-powered cars and trucks.
 Energy storage is changing the paradigm on how we generate  distribute and use energy. The demonstr...
"Energy storage is changing the paradigm on how we generate, distribute and use energy. The demonstration of new technologies will help facilitate wider adoption across the nation," said Matt Roberts, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Energy Storage Association.
Duke Energy
This is a way of broadening our offer as we move through the energy transition," Matthew Tipper, Shell's vice president of new fuels, told CNN Money in an interview. "It's certainly a form of diversification."
Fast charge networks, such as Tesla's Superchargers and VW's Electrify America in the U.S. and Ionity in Europe, are expanding rapidly to provide public charging, even though some critics say less than 3.0 percent of consumers will use the public chargers. But Shell is betting on 20 percent, with 40 percent charging at home and another 40 percent at work.
Of course, there are other ways petroleum companies can get into the clean energy market. Royal Dutch Shell announced in October 2017 it would open a China branch of its venture fund, Shell Technology Ventures. The announcement comes just two weeks after the oil and gas company launched a Singapore-based accelerator called IdeaRefinery supporting energy-related technology startups.
Tesla Greenwich North Supercharger Station in a rest area of Merritt Parkway in Greenwich  Connectic...
Tesla Greenwich North Supercharger Station in a rest area of Merritt Parkway in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Aleksandra O'Donovan, an advanced transportation analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance, believes both Big Oil and the utilities will have a part to play, and demographics and geography will determine each sector's success in this cleantech revolution.
"It won't be one solution fits all," O'Donovan said. "The split will vary from country to country depending on how people live. It will be a different story in Norway versus Tokyo."