BP aims for key role in EV charging, MaaS and leasing
The energy giant behind the Aral and BP brands is looking to fill a much greater role in the fleet sector.
Ultra-fast chargers hold the key to unlocking the mass uptake of electric vehicles across Europe, according to BP, which is investing heavily in solutions for transport electrification as it pursues a goal of becoming a carbon net zero company by 2050.
The energy company’s vision for the future also includes a strategic investment in Mobility as a Service – last year it invested €10million in MaaS Global, the Finnish firm behind the Whim app – and could see it enter the leasing industry.
Research commissioned by BP in France, Germany, Spain and the UK last year revealed that the availability of charging points was second only to price as the most significant barrier to the adoption of electric vehicles. But the same study also revealed that fast-charging could be one of the biggest motivators to encourage the uptake of EVs.
Roy Williamson, Vice President of BP Advanced Mobility, said ultrafast 150kW chargers are needed to support electric vehicle drivers. While a 50kW charger takes 30 minutes to deliver enough power for 160 km of range, a 150kW charger takes only 12 minutes, and an ultra-fast 350kW charger needs only four to five minutes (although few cars can recharge at this top rate).
“Thirteen minutes is the maximum time that people are willing to spend charging an electric vehicle [at a public charger],” said Williamson.
Minimising this downtime is particularly important for high utilisation fleets, whose businesses come to a standstill while drivers plug in their vehicles.
In these early days of electrification Williamson understands why fleets might want to charge vehicles at a depot or workplace to maintain control of their charging – some fleets still operate depot-based diesel refueling - “But over time they will find that they do not need to install hugely capital-intensive charging infrastructure,” he said.
Ultrafast charging will cost more than workplace or domestic charging, but businesses and private drivers will pay this premium for the convenience, said Williamson, adding that subscriptions to charging networks will offer lower electricity costs.
“People want safe charging, a reasonable price, and reliability, but the differentiators and the reasons new people will come into this space are around convenience and the ease of charging. We want charging to be as easy as it is to refuel a car today,” he said. “The economics and the availability of charging at home is not available for most of the population. So we are looking at fast, efficient public charging.”
In Germany, where BP owns the Aral fuel station network, Aral is piloting ultra-fast 150kW chargers (there are 10 on five forecourts).
In the UK, BP has opened the first 14 of 400 ultrafast chargers it plans to install on its forecourts by the end of 2021. The company’s first fast-charging hub has already opened in London and utilisation rates are now at 30 charges per charger per day, each of about 15 to 20 minutes.
BP enters MaaS market
The same focus on convenience explains BP’s investment in MaaS Global, whose Whim app lets customers access taxis, ride-hailing services, buses, bicycles, rental cars, e-scooters and e-bikes all from a single platform.
“Whim is super convenient. It offers users a single digital key that unlocks the full spectrum of city transport. It takes the hassle out of planning travel, taking on board users’ preferences and connecting and booking their ideal transport choices,” said Williamson.
The collaboration offers an example of BP’s vision for the future of transport and mobility, which could see the company enter the leasing sector. With fuel accounting for about 30% of TCO, and engine oil (BP owns Castrol) representing about 20% to 30% of service and maintenance costs, the company already has strong links with the fleet sector.
“Many fuel card customers are coming to us and asking for help to cope with clean air zones, and we are also finding that people are asking how to integrate solutions across fleet management, procurement, maintenance management and leasing,” said Williamson.
“We have plans across that sector – some will be partnerships, some will be joint ventures, and some we will do ourselves.”
Credit pictures: BP