Two major oil companies, two major fuel-related launches on the same day. One rolls out a leading environmentalist. The other unleashes a Formula 1 car onto the streets of London. Their mission - to entice more customers onto their forecourts to sell them more fuel?
Well, probably not in the case of BP, which has launched ’targetneutral’, a scheme to ’neutralise’ the carbon emissions caused by driving. Rather bizarrely one might think, for an oil company, its ’top tips for a greener life’ include driving less, and using public transport more.
Shell may fare better as a result of replacing its Optimax brand with a new, more exciting-looking premium performance fuel - V-Power. It was born in a Ferrari Formula 1 workshop (comforting to know when you’re driving a Ford Fiesta) but it is a good deal more expensive than normal fuel - which itself is expensive enough for most of us.
Which is likely to have the bigggest impact? Well, what colour customers do you have - good and green, or red (and yellow) and raring to go? Or do most drivers just want to get home?
BP’s scheme will appeal to all drivers with a conscience about their apparent contribution to global warming, It has got together with some very worthy people from various ’green’ institutions and created the [http://www.targetneutral.com] website, which enables motorists to calculate their personal level of emission misdeeds, and pay the appropriate amount into a special fund that will support carbon-reducing initiatives around the globe.
BP says road transport accounts for 22% of UK C02 emissions. An average car, driven 10,000 miles a year, generates approximately four tonnes of C02. To neutralise this amount via the targetneutral website will cost those signing up around £20 a year.
The scheme is voluntary and open to all fuel users, not just BP customers. BP says it will not profit from contributions made to targetneutral - it has provided all the set-up funding and will meet all ongoing running costs. It will also make a direct contribution to targetneutral when motorists who are signed up to the scheme register and use their Nectar card when they buy fuel at a BP forecourt. The BP contribution is calculated per litre and is up to 10p per tank for regular fuels and up to 20p for BP Ultimate fuels.
The money generated by targetneutral goes to a portfolio of C02 projects, including alternative and renewable energy. Initially there are five projects targeted - none in the UK - including a wind farm in Kamataka, India, and an animal waste management and methane capture programme in Mexico.
The scheme has been developed in conjunction with, and will be monitored by, an independent Advisory and Assurance Panel chaired by Jonathan Porritt, founder director of Forum for the Future.
Peter Mather, BP’s head of Country, UK, said targetneutral is a practical and straightforward step that BP is taking to enable drivers to help the environment. "BP is taking the lead because our extensive research shows there is a huge consumer demand for such a scheme, but a general feeling from customers that they ’don’t know where to start’." He is probably also hoping the new scheme will deflect some of the ’bad news’ days the company has been enduring recently, what with the Alaskan oil spill and last year’s Texas City refinery explosion.
The targetneutral launch is a continuation of the ’green’ marketing approach that saw BP change its logo to a flowery image, build forecourts with solar panels, and try and distance itself from the increasingly unpopular image of a dirty old oil company. It could earn some brownie points, although Phil New, who heads up BP’s biofuels business, had no idea how many motorists were likely to sign up to the scheme. "But if it is successful in the UK it could be expanded worldwide," he said.
Shell’s launch was much more that of the traditional red-blooded oil company. The launch in London was an impressive display of carbon emissions with all sorts of hi-tech sporting machinery zapping between the bollards. The highlight was Ferrari’s Formula 1 driver Felipe Massa - in what turned out to be a greatly-timed publicity move - getting in a bit of practice before his first Grand Prix win the following weekend in Turkey -V-Power obviously works!
Billed as its ’most advanced fuel ever’, Shell says V-Power has been developed by the same scientists who create Formula 1 racing fuel for the Ferrari team, with this technical partnership feeding directly into the development of road fuels. This is being highlighted in a £4m multi-media advertising campaign with the strapline ’Ferrari fuel for the road’.
The new product has an octane rating of 99 RON and is said to contain unique Friction Modification Technology - as used by Ferarri in its Formula 1 fuel - to help the engine turn more freely. It also claims to offer a powerful cleaning formula, designed to remove carbon deposits and boost responsiveness. Rollo Wood, Shell’s Fuels marketing manager, said the new fuel aims to build on the success of Optimax, which was launched in 2001: "Optimax has enjoyed a 40% share of the UK’s premium fuel market. We aim to increase that share with V-Power," he said, adding that Shell was the first oil company to bring a differentiated fuel offering to UK forecourts, with Optimax being followed by premium products such as BP’s Ultimate.
Wood said V-Power will be priced at 7p above Shell’s standard 95 unleaded on company-owned sites. "This makes it 1p more expensive than Optimax, but our competitive pricing strategy means it will still be cheaper than its nearest rival, BP Ultimate."
For Shell dealers - who are free to price the product as they see fit - Wood said: "We expect it to be as profitable for them as Optimax and probably a bit more."
The V-Power brand has already launched in other world markets, and Shell says it is rapidly becoming the best-selling premium fuel outside the UK. "V-Power is our global brand name for our premium product. It’s more well-known than Optimax in other parts of the world," said Wood.
A diesel version is already available in some European countries and is an option being considered for the UK: "It’s too early to say at the moment, but watch this space," he added.