The United Kingdom’s Chargemaster will now be known as BP Chargemaster.
The British oil and gas giant announced on Thursday its $170 million acquisition of the largest charging company in its home country. Chargemaster owns and maintains 6,500 chargers located at homes, businesses, and in public spaces. BP already owns 1,200 chargers in the U.K.
The purchase is another vote of confidence from European majors in grid edge technologies, and particularly the transition to electric vehicles. BP expects 12 million EVs on U.K. roads by 2040. Last year there were just 135,000.
In announcing the sale, chief executive of BP Downstream, Tufan Erginbilgic, said the union between a major charging company and major fuel retailer marks “an important step toward offering fast and ultra-fast charging at BP sites across the U.K.” BP added that developing convenient and fast charging formed a keystone of its approach to the energy transition.
Oil and gas majors are increasingly putting money into grid edge investments that might offer a competitive edge in a future where their main products are no longer at the center of global generation. That’s especially true of European giants, who last year set out on a “grid edge shopping spree” that’s bled into 2018, according to GTM Grid Edge Research Manager Elta Kolo.
Several of those purchases and investments have centered around e-mobility. In Q1 2017 Engie acquired charging developer EV-Box. In the fall of last year Shell bought charging company NewMotion and Enel purchased charging station company eMotorWerks, and in the winter EDF invested in vehicle-to-grid startup Nuuve.
According to GTM Research, Chargemaster is the fifth EV charging infrastructure acquisition in 2018 and the third in June alone. The surge in activity this month includes telematics company GeoTab’s acquisition of FleetCarma and Webasto Group’s acquisition of AeroVironment's Efficient Energy Solutions division. Earlier in the year, Swedish battery maker CTEK acquired ChargeStorm and Danish utility SEAS-NVE acquired Clever.
But the Chargemaster acquisition is the first EV purchase from a major this year. BP also invested $5 million in mobile charging company Freewire in January of this year and $20 million in fast-charging company StoreDot in May.
As battery costs continue on their precipitous decline, electrification experts have cited a lack of charging infrastructure as the next barrier to large-scale EV uptake by consumers. Many suggest oil and gas companies, as well as utilities, are the best equipped to provide that service because of their contact with customers and fuel supply.
Brook Porter at G2VP told Greentech Media in November that the rise of EVs and clean energy has oil and gas majors reconsidering their strategies. “They have stated that their current business of extracting oil from the ground is a short-term business,” he said.
BP is attempting to position itself as a leader in fast charging — a technology that aims to ease the transition between gas and electricity and reduce range anxiety.
As part of the acquisition, BP said it plans to roll out 150-kilowatt rapid chargers that can charge a vehicle in 10 minutes to travel 100 miles. Chargemaster currently has 300 fast chargers, and its current charging network, called Polar, has over 40,000 customers. An increasing number are choosing to use its chargers as part of a monthly subscription that costs £7.85 ($10.28).
Projections of EV growth place the number of vehicles on the road above 100 million by 2030, according to Wood Mackenzie, and up to 530 million by 2040, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
BP said it will roll out Chargemaster chargers at its U.K. stations over the next year.