- The acquisition of electric vehicle charging company Greenlots by a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell could signal a wave of coming investment in the EV space as large oil and gas companies look to diversify, say electrification experts.
- Greenlots announced Wednesday that it would become a wholly owned subsidiary of Shell New Energies US, which said the deal aims to make EV charging "more accessible and more attractive to utilities, businesses and communities." Financial details of the acquisition were not released.
- Industry observers say the deal is a clear positive for the sector, signaling oil majors likely see the writing on the wall when it comes to electrification and demand for their products. While the U.S. has only recently topped 1 million EVs on the road, that number is forecast to reach 7 million by 2025.
Big Oil has had a poor track record when it comes to electric vehicles, but experts say the days of GM's EV1 debacle are in the rearview mirror.
"The industry definitely is viewing this as a positive," Eric Cahill, program director at Plug in America, told Utility Dive. "You can look at it another way — maybe Shell is purchasing this to shelve the technology — but I don't see that being the case.
"This is a positive development, a recognition by oil and gas companies that EVs are real and not a passing fad," Cahill said.
The Shell-Greenlots deal is a "great sign for the industry to see parallel infrastructure investments across the value chain," said Jonathan Levy, vice president of strategic initiatives at EVgo.
Automakers have sunk $300 billion into the electric vehicle industry, Levy said, and it is now clear there's no turning back.
"Automakers, fueling companies, retail partners and other key stakeholders all see that it's no [longer] a question of 'if' with electric vehicles," he told Utility Dive. "The momentum in the EV charging industry and in EV sales broadly is only getting stronger."
But what oil company will make the next investment?
Cahill said BP could be the next major oil company to edge into the EV charging space — but whoever is next, likely wont be last.
"I think this is probably one of the first moves you're going to see, and it's not surprising Shell is the first mover on this," Cahill said. "All of the energy producers, the oil and gas companies, are certainly looking to diversify their portfolio as demand for gas wanes over the coming decade."
Greenlots said it will retain its brand and leadership team, and intends to "intensify its growth efforts and expand its range of mobility services." The company's technology will become the foundation for Shell's "continued expansion of electric mobility solutions in North America," Greenlots added.
The deal is "absolutely a good sign for the growth of electric vehicles," Alliance to Save Energy's Vice President of Research and Analysis Natasha Vidangos told Utility Dive in an email. "More companies are seeing that electric vehicles are an enormous business opportunity, and they want to be a part of the transformation."
But she added a note of caution, saying, "We also know that these markets still need a push from policymakers to help them reach the point where they stand on their own and can competitively deliver cleaner, more efficient transportation for all."