HANOVER, GERMANY - MARCH 14:  A host holds up two different kinds of electric car charging plug interfaces, the left one more common in Japan and the right one more common in Germany, at the ABB stand at the 2016 CeBIT digital technology trade fair on the fair's opening day on March 14, 2016 in Hanover, Germany. The 2016 CeBIT will run from March 14-18.  (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)
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Royal Dutch Shell has opened its first charging points for electric vehicles at UK filling stations in a further sign of the Anglo-Dutch group’s diversification beyond fossil fuels.

Drivers will be able to recharge EVs at 10 locations, mostly in London and south-east England, by the end of the year.

The launch on Wednesday follows Shell’s acquisition last week of NewMotion, one of Europe’s largest EV charging companies with 30,000 private home charging points and 50,000 public sites.

While smaller in scale than the NewMotion business, this new service provides the first Shell-branded charging points alongside petrol and diesel pumps at its own filling stations.

Istvan Kapitany, head of retail for Shell, said EV charging would join an increasingly varied “mosaic of options” for drivers at its filling stations around the world, alongside biofuels, LNG, hydrogen and traditional fuels.

EVs still account for only about 1 per cent of global car sales and an even smaller fraction of cars on the road but the market is growing rapidly.

This is forcing oil companies to confront an increasing likelihood that global oil demand will slow and eventually decline over the next few decades as cars and some other forms of transportation switch to cleaner forms of energy.

Shell has gone further than most oil and gas groups in preparing for this transition, including a big shift in its portfolio from oil to lower-carbon gas and a series of investments in the electricity supply chain.

As well as building an EV-charging business, Shell has also moved into wind and solar power generation, electricity trading, and, from next year, consumer power supplies direct to business customers in the UK.

The EV charging service — branded as “Shell Recharge” — will initially be available at three sites in London, Surrey and Derby with seven further locations within Greater London and Reading due to open by the end of the year and more planned in 2018.

Rapid-charging technology will allow most EV batteries to reach at least 80 per cent-charged within 30 minutes.

While EVs threaten to cannibalise sales of petrol and diesel, Shell sees an opportunity to increase sales of high-margin food and drink from its convenience stores because of the waiting time while batteries are recharged.

Shell has built partnerships with Costa Coffee and other retail brands to make its filling stations more attractive and BP has done the same with Marks and Spencer.

Some analysts think that roadside filling stations will eventually become a relic of the fossil fuel era with people choosing instead to charge EVs at home or work.

Jane Lindsay-Green, manager of future fuels for Shell in the UK, said the launch of Shell Recharge together with the acquisition of NewMotion meant the company would be able to provide charging points at a range of locations to suit different customer needs. “This is a new space for Shell and we will be learning,” she added.

Shell already offers EV charging provided by third parties at some filling stations in Norway but the UK locations are the first provided direct by the company.

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