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Shell is planning to redevelop fuel forecourt into an EV charging hub in a UK first

Tags: #charging-infrastructure

In a UK first, Shell is in the process of redeveloping one of its filling stations into an EV charging hub. Rather than simply installing rapid chargers alongside traditional fuel pumps, it will instead remove liquid fuel altogether and replace it with new chargers capable of up to 150kW. The question is could Shell's scheme become a trend among fuel retailers?

Shell's scheme will see its site in Fulham, west London, redeveloped from a run-of-the-mill petrol station into an EV charging hub with ten spaces and chargers capable of up to 150kW. It will be an all-singing, all-dancing clean energy space, too, with the on-site shop being rebuilt featuring a grass roof and solar panels. This is extended to the canopies over the ten charging spaces, which will also feature solar panels, whilst all of the energy supplied through the chargers will be from renewable sources.

Despite the fact that 150kW chargers can deliver a lot of range in a short space of time, Shell is planning to join in with the new appreciation of the entire EV 'experience' – something highlighted by Engenie's Ian Johnstone in a recent interview with us. Rather than refrigerator units filled with sad looking sandwiches, the fuel giant is planning on creating a sit-down area offering coffee, breakfast and lunch, free Wi-Fi, and the usual array of top-up shopping groceries.

Noting that most fuel retailers make next-to-no profit on the petrol and diesel they sell, and that a third of customers are simply using the shop, Bernie Williamson, Shell UK Retail General Manager, said in an interview with Forecourt Trader: “We know that one in three of our customers come in just for the shop, so it’s very much capitalising on the convenience retail business we see ourselves in.”

Williamson continued: “This is about us thriving through the energy transition. We’re looking at the next evolution and the needs of our customers in the broader sense. We’re doing nature-based solutions, giving motorists the opportunity to do something about their carbon footprint as we continue to invest and ramp up long-term solutions of electric vehicle charge posts for those people when they’re ready to move to EV transportation.”

With regards carbon footprint, alongside the announcement of its Fulham EV charging hub, the company also launched its Go+ carbon offsetting programme for customers. Through this, drivers who have a Go+ card or have signed up via the Shell app will automatically offset their fuel purchase each time they scan upon payment. The offsetting is achieved through projects that protect and regenerate forests, and are independently audited to ensure that the offsetting is having the intended impact.

Other forecourt providers getting in on the action

Whilst Shell is the first UK fuel supplier to directly redevelop one of its forecourts into an EV charging hub, BP Chargemaster was actually the first supplier to open a purpose-built ultra-fast charging hub in London. In fact, whilst Shell opened its 50th EV charging station and first 150kW charger back in mid-October 2019, BP is way ahead of the game with its Polar network.

Tom Callow, Head of External Affairs at BP Chargemaster, told us: “We have already installed more ultra-fast chargers onto forecourts than any other provider, with 150kW chargers already live on six BP forecourts, with around 20-30 more sites now in the installation phase. Our existing sites include the first – and currently the only – ultra-fast charging hub in London, at BP Hammersmith Flyover, as well as our first locations at motorway service areas, which will be critical in giving drivers confidence for longer range electric driving along the Strategic Road Network.”

Shell’s roll-out of its ultra-fast 150kW chargers is still in its infancy, but when we spoke to them, they gave us a feeling for what will be a rapid expansion of both its standard 50kW and ultra-fast 150kW network. The company’s plan is to have 200 Shell Recharge points (representing 20 per cent of Shell forecourts) across the country by the end of the year, with a yet-to-be-decided split between the two power levels. Much of that decision will be down the local grid capacity and viability in terms of the location’s usefulness to customers. Essentially, they’re going to be focussing on putting ultra-fast chargers where EV owners already are.

Like BP, the Shell network of Recharge forecourts will follow strategic routes where viable, but one ace the company does have up its sleeve is an agreement with IONITY. Shell will offer 350kW charging points across ten European countries, beginning with 80 of its motorway service stations. In conversation, Shell confirmed to us that locations in the UK would be included in the scheme. Of course, like the company’s own Recharge units, it’s going to take time to come to fruition.

BP Chargemaster continues to push ahead in its quest for forecourt leadership, though: “We believe that offering ultra-fast charging will be a critical component of encouraging mass EV adoption, as it helps to meet consumer expectations around charging speed and convenience. By the end of this year, I would expect us to have as many locations live or at least in the installation phase, as Tesla does today in the UK with its Supercharger network,” Callow told us.

Like its fuel giant rival, BP has its own plans for carbon neutrality, aiming to fall into line with the UK's plan to hit net zero by 2050. However, within this it stops short of stating that it will drop fossil fuel altogether, so whilst we won't go into the detail here and as well-meaning as such plans are, any oil company statement that talks about net zero or carbon neutrality without stating that it'll ultimately drop fossil fuels needs to be taken with a hefty pinch of salt.

Discover EV's take

Shell's plan to drop a fuel filling location and replace it with an EV charging hub can be seen as a new take on the increasing trend of charging 'hubs'. However, that it is dropping a fuel filling site is an interesting prospect and whilst there are no signs that fuel providers will suddenly start replacing their petrol stations in a similar manner, it could work as a proof of concept. After all, in urban locations like London real estate is at a premium, so repurposing what a company already owns makes a lot of sense during the EV transition. In the meantime, its focus is simply on upgrading its existing forecourt locations with chargers.

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