Shell is planning to be the first fuel retailer in the UK to take out traditional fuels from an operating service station and replace them with an electric vehicle-only charging hub. An application for planning permission for the development on the company’s site in Fulham, west London, was made at the end of October, with the hope and expectation that the hub would be operational by the middle of next year. The announcement was made as Shell celebrated the installation of its 50th UK EV (electric vehicle) charging point, and the installation of the first 150kW post on a service station. It also followed an announcement a week earlier about Shell’s ’carbon neutral’ programme, giving drivers the chance to offset their carbon dioxide emissions free of charge when they buy fuel at its UK service stations using the Go+ card. The scheme went live on October 17 and will cost the oil major £10m over the next 12 months. Bernie Williamson, Shell UK Retail’s general manager, said she was "super excited and proud" with the milestones that have been achieved so far as well as the company’s plans going forward. "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. We’re ideally placed for that we have a fantastic network where over 75% of the population are within 15 minutes of a Shell service station."
The EV-only hub will feature up to 10 charging spaces, with 150kW chargers, canopies featuring solar panels, with flower beds and a grass-roofed store creating a pleasant environment. It will also feature solar panels on the canopy roofs over the charging hubs and a convenience store offering a "warm welcome", somewhere EV drivers can stretch their legs, with a sit-down area, and a great standard of facilities, such as free wi-fi, top-up shopping, coffee, breakfast, lunch, food for tonight, plus clean toilets.
"However, it won’t just serve EV customers. We know that one in three of our customers come in just for the shop," explained Williamson. "So it’s very much capitalising on the convenience retail business we see ourselves in. The site will be very clearly branded so it will be obvious to motorists that it’s an EV hub. But while we’re planning this at Fulham to serve EV customers and provide a place where people know they are going to get a charge point that works and not have to queue it won’t cause massive inconvenience to our traditional fuels customers as we are well-served with other Shell service stations in the area."
In terms of the EV network, Shell expects to have 70 charging posts by the end of the year and 200 by the end of next year.
"We’re trying to look at customer demand, and to be slightly ahead of that demand. Where customers are able to have a second car, it may be electric. Either way, they’ll be able to fill up at Shell. There’s big demand in the cities, and then it will be the joining up of the cities. In London our busiest site is in Holloway, where we have two chargers, handling about 200 customer visits a month.
"We’ve started with 50kW posts, but are gradually moving to 150kW. Our charge posts are supplied by 100% renewable electricity so by definition if you’re an EV driver and you’re charging up at Shell, you’re driving carbon neutral."
As for the nature-based solutions, research shows that 71% of customers want to do something about their carbon footprint, but only half know what actions they should be taking towards it, according to Williamson. "Our carbon offset programme gives an immediate solution for those who are unable to move to an electric vehicle at this stage for various reasons some are concerned about range, others can’t afford to move at this stage. We’re using Go+ because it enables us to talk to our customers about carbon off-setting, because we know our customers details and they’re willing for us to talk to them; we can share with them at the end of their 10 visits, a carbon statement.
"How many other things in your life do you get a carbon statement for? We’re starting that journey it’s hugely exciting."
National Grid: We’re equipped for EV future
here is enough clean energy to cope with an electric vehicle future, according to Graeme Cooper, project director electric vehicles, at the National Grid. "Energy consumption in the UK peaked in 2002, and since then demand has fallen by 16% through various efficiencies. With the advent of electric cars, demand is estimated to rise by only 10%," he said.
The National Grid is responsible for the national network power lines, and responds to market demands traditionally big power stations and big-demand customers such as a steel works. "But we’re in a world where we’re moving towards decarbonising heat and transport. That’s as new for us as it is for forecourts," explained Cooper. "Forecourts are at the consumer end looking up; and we’re at the big networks end looking down. There’s a role for all of us in that. There’s quite a synergy between the strategic road network and our power lines, and we’re here to help forecourt retailers."
He said that by a combination of legislation, ambition, and some clear foresight, the power sector has got cleaner and continues to do so: "From a UK perspective the dirtiest thing we did for the whole of the industrial revolution up to about 2016 was make electricity. We burnt coal and gas to make power. But what we saw as we rolled from 2016 into 2017 was that transport became the dirtiest thing we do in this country, because the energy network has got cleaner. In 2018, an estimated 33% of CO2 emissions came from the transport sector."
This year the National Grid reported that net zero power beat the fossil fuel-fired generation for the first time. "Where you end up is that decarbonising transport makes renewable generation better and renewable generation makes electric transport better." However, where there could be a problem is with the need to smooth out the peaks and troughs of energy demand: "What I think you’ll see with EV charging on forecourts is that retailers will likely have battery storage, so they’ll top up the battery when the energy is cheap and the grid is not stressed; and then if someone is charging their car at peak time adding to the grid and the cost of energy they’ll be charging from the battery.
"I suspect what you will see is some very smart solutions, which is why the grid can cope."