BP has acquired Chargemaster, the UK’s largest electric vehicle charging company, making a statement of intent to gain a strong position in the EV charging market. Earlier this year, BP had announced that it will add rapid charging points for cars at its petrol stations in the UK supported by the company’s reported investment of $5 million in Freewire Technologies, a US-based company which provides fast charging units for cars at the petrol pumps.
The acquisition is a logical move for BP given that EV car sales could be as high as 90% of all car sales by 2050 according to the 2017 Future Energy Scenarios report published by National Grid. This follows the UK government’s announcement last year that all new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned from 2040, as part of its ‘clean air plan’.
Another plus for BP’s acquisition is that the growth in charging infrastructure has not kept pace with the growth in electric vehicles. According to IEA’s Global EV Outlook 2018, the number of EV charging stations in the UK has increased from 1,503 in 2011 to 13,534 in 2017, showing a CAGR of 44.2% during this period. However the electric vehicle stock in the country has grown at a much higher CAGR of 89.35% during the same period from 2,900 in 2011 to 133,670 in 2017. This highlights the need for major players to enter the space, and the fastest way for them to do this is through mergers and acquisition.
As EV penetration increases, consumers will be using different ways to charge their cars – some using the public infrastructure, while others preferring to have private charging points at home. This presents a risk of stranded infrastructure for pure-play EV charging companies, which is why merging with a large energy retailer is an increasingly attractive proposition.
With the rapid shift we are witnessing in consumer transport fuel choices, oil and gas retailers have the inherent advantage of an established network of filling stations, which they can easily leverage to get into a dominant position in the EV charging market to remain competitive. BP’s competitors such as Shell and Total have been making rapid strides in this direction, by opening charging stations at their retail points and acquiring charging infrastructure providers.