Could we soon see EV chargers next to gas pumps at our local filling stations?

According to emails exchanged by Shell and the British government, there’s a chance that could happen in the UK next year.

The emails came to light as part of a Freedom of Information request by a blog that keeps an eye of lobbying done by fossil-fuel companies. The website, called DeSmogBlog, found that Shell was asking the British government how serious it was when it came to the topic of roads that charge electric cars wirelessly, in addition to showing that the oil company is considering installing EV charge points at its gas stations in the UK.

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Shell has previously backed biofuels as an alternative to gas or diesel, so a foray into EV charging tech appears to be a new initiative for the company. Hydrogen fuels were also discussed in the emails.

“You will know more of the challenges around electric cars than me but the availability of fast-charging infrastructure, and how that links to range anxiety, is probably up there with one of the main issues concerning customers,” a Shell staffer wrote in one email to the government. “As a sample of one, I do not have access to off-road parking so buying an EV myself is not currently viable.”

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Another Shell employee inquired about government regulations regarding EV charging. “I have been asked whether Shell will need an electricity supply license if we are to provide a service to customers to charge their electric cars.”

When The Guardian asked Shell if this meant the company intends to install charge points at its stations, a spokesperson said this: “We are examining the potential to introduce electric vehicle charging points across some parts of our UK retail network from early 2017 onwards.”

There are already about 12,000 EV charge points in the UK, provided by companies like Tesla and Chargemaster.

Chargemaster CEO Dave Martell, doesn’t seem phased by the prospect of more competition for his company, which owns more than 4,000 of the chargers in the UK.

“I think it’s great. They see the tide moving toward electric cars and they want a piece of the action. They’d be crazy not to, wouldn’t they? We are in discussion with a number of fuel companies. We fully expect the first charging points to be put in in the next year [by fuel companies].” Martell told The Guardian.

There are about 20,000 pure EVs on UK roads as of the end of 2015, but that’s a small fraction of the 2.6 million cars sold in the UK in 2015.

ExxonMobil’s communications with the UK government were also revealed by the request, and that company took a different stance than Shell. ExxonMobil told the government that instead of focusing on policies to encourage EV growth, it should work to cut carbon emissions from power stations. It further argued that doing so would cost the government less money.

“Switching from petroleum to renewable or alternative fuels [i.e. EVs] is not the most cost effective way to reduce GHG emissions; actions in other sectors (e.g. power generation) typically cost less per ton of CO2 avoided,” the company said in a presentation, adding “liquid petroleum fuels will remain the primary transportation fuels in the foreseeeable future.”

DeSmogBlog found all this by submitting Freedom of Information requests to the UK Department of Transport in order to find out how oil companies were lobbying the government on the topic of EVs.

The Guardian