EV drivers can access a growing network of ultra-fast chargers from July, as BP Chargemaster begins its roll out of 150kW units. The UK's largest electric car charge point provider will install 100 at forecourts by the end of the year and 300 more by 2021.
The move underlines BP’s commitment to support the wider adoption of EVs and follows its acquisition of Chargemaster last year.
The ultra-fast chargers supply enough power to charge up to 100 miles equivalent in 10 minutes. Currently, the fastest chargers on the network are rapid EV chargers delivering 50kW, enabling a charge time of around 30 minutes. The imminent rollout was announced at a landmark event in London co-hosted by BP and industry group CharIN.
The Powering the Charge conference saw key government and industry figures discuss ways to boost EV numbers in the UK. At present, EV ownership stands at just 2% in Britain. One of the recurring themes was the need for collaboration. To demonstrate the point, Downstream heads from BP and Shell shared a stage to consider the importance of electrification to lowering emissions and improving air quality. “We all recognize that we can make better and quicker progress by working together,” said Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive of BP’s Downstream business.
But the widespread rollout of EVs faces several challenges. One of the biggest is time. BP is one of several stakeholders looking to reduce the time it takes to charge an EV to roughly the time it takes to fill up a tank. “BP sees an especially important role for building a national network of ultra-fast charging that closely replicates the current fuelling experience,” said Erginbilgic, who oversees BP’s large retail network. “We think this will give confidence about the ability to travel greater distances, without worrying about whether they will run out of power.”
Another challenge is ensuring the right technology is in place. “Ultra-fast charging is critical to support the latest electric cars and the new models in development, many of which will charge at 150kW as standard,” he added. “We are pioneering the installation of these type of charging points on forecourts and we have accelerated our investment in developing this infrastructure.”
Minster of State for Transport Jesse Norman MP welcomed the rollout of BP Chargemaster’s ultra-fast charging units. “I couldn’t be more pleased to hear the announcement made by BP. We’re delighted by the energy and the leadership that you in BP are bringing to this task,” he said.
Getting the shape of the charging infrastructure right is vital, he said. “And its delivery to the people who need it, when they need it and where they need it.” He said almost 800 charging points have been installed across the UK in the past 30 days.
Having the right car at the right price will be a ‘game-changer’ for EV ownership, AA President Edmund King told the conference. He said AA research had shown that the biggest stumbling block for more than one third of drivers (35%) is the higher cost of electric vehicles. Access to more charging points in car parks and rapid chargers across strategic roads would also increase uptake, according to its survey of 19,350 drivers.
National Grid’s David Wright was also at the conference. He addressed the question of whether the grid would cope with the mass rollout of electric cars. The electricity transmission director and group chief electricity engineer said: “Don’t worry about the low carbon electricity being there. The pace of that change will be there. The issue is how you actually get the electrons from the networks through to the car parks and individual charging stations.”
In the run-up to the conference, BP, National Grid and others came together to release a joint statement calling on the government to work with industry to set out a vision to significantly improve ultra-fast charging technology and ultra-rapid charging infrastructure.
After the event, BP’s Erginbilgic echoed the importance of collaboration to rapidly scale up the development of an EV ecosystem. He said: “The event allowed BP to show up as the strategic thought leader in this space, shaping the future and having a lead role in advancing the energy transition. “It will take a number of large industry businesses to work together to deliver a consumer experience that will encourage a greater adoption of EVs.”