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They’ve sold fossil fuels to cars for a century, but now the oil majors are battling it out in a bid to power the future electric motor industry. BP’s recent purchase of the UK’s largest electric charging network, Chargemaster, for £130 million is being seen as a game changer as the tussle moves beyond the forecourt.

The company’s 6,500 charging points will now be rebranded as BP Chargemaster. Over the next 12 months, BP Chargemaster units will be rolled out to the company’s forecourts, including ultra-fast 150 kW chargers capable of delivering 100 miles of range in 10 minutes.

BP owns 1,200 service stations across the UK and is facing plummeting profits on two fronts from the rise of electric vehicles: less demand for fuel and fewer people spending money in their retail outlets. And the challenges are only expected to grow. Experts predict the number of electric vehicles in the UK will increase from 135,000 to 12 million by 2040.

BP denies it’s a defensive move, saying it plans to become the leading provider of energy to low carbon vehicles. BP’s downstream chief executive Tufan Erginbilgic describes the the move as “a key part of BP’s strategy to advance the energy transition.”

But it’s a changing landscape. The overwhelming majority of electric car drivers charge their vehicles at home, removing the need to visit a service station entirely. For power companies this presents a huge opportunity as they step in to fulfil the demand.

Meanwhile BP’s rival Shell has joined the European charging network consortium IONITY, with faster 350 kW charges near major highways across Europe. Shell has gone a step further, buying the Dutch-based NewMotion, the owner of one of Europe’s largest EV charging networks.

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Talking previously, Shell’s Executive Vice President of New Energies, Mark Gainsborough, said: “Sceptics may still say that one of the world’s largest oil and gas companies has little incentive to help electric vehicles flourish. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Meanwhile the Irish government is considering a proposal to force supermarkets and car parks to install charging points as part of its plan to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. The requirement could also apply to new commercial developments.

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