Roll-out of Shell-IONITY fast-charging network begins

SPIE appointed to plan and design UK portion of Europe-wide fast-charging network

Rapid-charging provider IONITY has appointed SPIE to plan and design the UK portion of its planned pan-European network of charging stations. SPIE will prepare 66 stations in total, across the UK, Netherlands, France, Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia, as part of a planned 400-strong network across the continent by 2020.

Around 40 out of those 400 are set to be installed in the UK, and it's hoped that the first to open here will be on the M20 at Maidstone, which IONITY has outlined as “a good link to Europe” thanks to its proximity to the English Channel crossings at Dover and Folkestone.

IONITY came about following Shell’s acquisition of charging company NewMotion – one of the largest charging providers in Europe – and builds on the portfolio of the Shell Recharge fast chargers already located around the UK.

It’s the second example of a major oil company investing in electric vehicle charging, after BP’s takeover of Chargemaster in 2017.

IONITY is joint venture involving Daimler (parent company of Mercedes), BMW, Ford and VW Group brands Audi and Porsche.

“Back in November last year, Shell and IONITY announced a common goal - to enable convenient, long-distance travel with electric vehicles across Europe by providing reliable fast-charging infrastructure,” said Michael Hajesch, IONITY’s CEO. “One year on, the first IONITY stations operating in partnership with Shell represent a significant step in achieving that goal.”

Meanwhile, Shell Europe’s vice president David Bunch said: “Electric vehicle drivers should be able to travel long distances confidently and with ease. Creating a convenient network of reliable, powerful chargers is vital for getting many more electric vehicles on the road. We are one of IONITY’s major partners because we share that vision.”

What is the Shell-IONITY fast-charging network?

The Shell-IONITY fast-charging network is set to be rolled out across Europe over the next couple of years, providing charging speeds of up to 350kW via CCS charging cables.

This would enable cars be charged in as little as 10 minutes, as opposed to the 40 minutes that it currently takes to top up the Tesla Model X to 80% capacity.

In the case of the Jaguar I-Pace, it would also address the fact that there are currently no fast-chargers available to it in the UK, given that Tesla’s Supercharger network is exclusive to Tesla cars only.

Right now, there are no cars on sale capable of charging at 350kW, although the forthcoming Porsche Taycan is set to become the first when it arrives in 2020.

IONITY says that customers will pay a flat fee of £8 via a smartphone or contactless card in order to charge, regardless of the speed or quantity of energy used.

“By having the target of a full-blown network in 23 countries with 400 stations, we would like to give clear signal to the customers,” explains Hajesch. “Charging something has a cost point. Until we achieve the dedicated amount of [chargers on the] network, then we can think of inventing a different pricing scheme.”

Why is Shell opening fast-charging stations?

Given Shell’s core business in the oil industry, its interest in electric charging may come across as odd. But as Bunch explains, the company perceives itself as an energy provider with an opportunity to grow its business.

“A customer who drives an electric vehicle, hydrogen vehicle or diesel vehicle is equally important to me,” he says. “So we have a vested interest in enabling and supporting energy transition and the move to cleaner fuels.

“I’m absolutely committed and focused on this, and obviously we want to take a big role in this both from serving our customers and creating a sustainable business model for our shareholders.

“What’s most important is that we do what we can, and do everything that we can, because it’s going to take everybody pulling in the same direction to affect - as our colleagues from IONITY said - a speedy transition. That’s very much where our energy is focused.

“The thing that we really value about this partnership with IONITY is that we’re able to satisfy customers today, but we’re prepared for the customers of tomorrow as well. That’s a nice position for us to be in.”