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Shell is acquiring a provider of power for electric vehicles


Big Oil seems to know that its days of making gobs of cash from fossil fuels are running out.

So it’s looking at control of power for electric vehicles.

Shell is acquiring EV charging operator Volta for $169 million. The company operates more than 3,000 charging stations across the United States and a few in Europe.

“While the EV infrastructure market opportunity is potentially enormous, Volta’s ability to capture it independently, in challenging market conditions and with ongoing capital constraints, was limited,” the company’s interim CEO, Vince Cubbage, said in a statement.

“Both Volta and Shell have a demonstrated ability to meet the changing needs of customers, and this acquisition will bring that experience together to provide the options that are needed as more drivers choose electric,” he said.

Be that as it may, it’s hard not to conclude that Shell recognizes a global shift away from gas-powered vehicles, and intends to hit the ground running in being a conduit for EV owners to charge their cars and trucks.

That may be seen as cynical or opportunistic by some, considering Big Oil’s efforts over the years to undermine concerns about climate change and slow the adoption of alternative fuel sources.

Yet it’s also a positive development insofar as it demonstrates an industry awareness that times have changed and business as usual is no longer feasible from a planetary-survival perspective.

Whether Big Oil will now seek to dominate EV charging remains to be seen. Shell’s move could simply be an attempt to diversify its holdings without giving ground on fossil fuels.

Or it could be the first in a series of acquisitions by industry players to play the same role in EV charging that they now play in trips to the gas pump.

If nothing else, it’s incumbent on lawmakers and regulators to ensure that pricing of power for EVs remains transparent.

Building out our EV infrastructure will be expensive, and Big Oil isn’t lacking for cash.

But most consumers will be wary of seeing the same practices at work for gas prices shifting over to EV charging.

That could short-circuit adoption of an important new technology.


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