BP fuel cards could be used to pay for charging plug-in vehicles on UK forecourts within two years.
The availability of charge points has long been a barrier to wider uptake of plug-in cars and vans, especially for higher mileage company car drivers.
However, the head of BP Fuel Cards in the UK, Andy Allen, told Fleet News that the introduction of charge points, and using its fuel card to pay for the electricity, is a ‘logical step’ for the fuel giant.
Currently, there are 6,648 electric vehicle (EV) public charge points in the UK at 4,343 locations, including 1,005 rapid chargers, according to Zap Map, a website which tracks charge point location and information.
But, the Government is keen to grow the network further and set out its plans in the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill (previously the Modern Transport Bill), last month (Fleet News, March 16).
It includes possible powers for the Government to force large fuel retailers and motorway service operators to provide EV and/or hydrogen refuelling facilities on their forecourts.
Speaking to Fleet News prior to the bill’s publication, Allen said: “EV charging is a logical move and it will happen within the next year or two.”
BP, which operates a branded network of 1,300 sites, has already launched a similar scheme in the Netherlands after multiple fast-charging systems were introduced at some of its service stations in 2011, as part of a nationwide trial.
The Dutch have been early adopters of the technology, with plug-in vehicles achieving a record 9.7% share of the country’s new car market in 2015. That compares to 1.1% of the market in the UK. But, while EV uptake here has lagged behind the Netherlands, the increasing adoption of both pure electric and hybrid vehicles is now driving BP’s thinking in the UK.
The latest figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that plug-in registrations for January and February were up by 12.6% year-on-year – 3,822 units compared to 3,395 units. It means there are now some 87,000 plug-in cars registered in the UK, compared to more than 113,000 on Dutch roads.
It is worth noting, however, that according to BP’s long term energy outlook, the introduction of 100 million electric cars on the road globally by 2035 will only reduce global oil demand growth by 1.2 million barrels.
Allen says that the continued growth in light goods vehicle (LGV) sales has driven demand for diesel and he does not think that will change.
However, he said: “Over the past couple of years we have seen a couple of percentage points drop in petrol demand every year, but I think we may now see that change as people switch from diesels to petrol hybrids.”
BP is not the only fuel provider which is recognising the need to change its forecourt offering. Shell previously told Fleet News it was “examining the potential to introduce EV charging points across some parts of our retail network from 2017 onwards”.
However, so far it has refused to say how many EV charging points will be installed and how much it will charge drivers to recharge their vehicle’s battery.
Meanwhile, Total is said to be working on a similar move in a bid to capitalise on the emerging electric car market and Texaco, which does not own its fuel stations outright, said it would be up to each retailer to decide whether they wanted to install EV charging points.
Esso also told Fleet News it would be up to the independent owners of fuel stations to install charging facilities, while it had “no plans” to install them at Esso-owned facilities. Of the 1,100 Esso-branded service stations around 500 are owned by the fuel retailer.
Allen concluded: “From a fleet manager’s perspective, what they want is consolidated invoicing. It doesn’t matter if you’re lifting petrol, diesel or electricity.”