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BP to put 'flexible' mobile electric car chargers on petrol station forecourts

Joseph Flaig

A BP/FreeWire charger charges a Nissan Leaf (Credit: BP/FreeWire)
A BP/FreeWire charger charges a Nissan Leaf (Credit: BP/FreeWire)

BP will place mobile electric chargers at petrol stations in London before expanding elsewhere in the UK and Europe this year.

The multinational oil and gas company announced the move after investing $5m in American charger manufacturer FreeWire. The US company builds portable chargers with up to 50kW power, capable of fully charging a typical electric vehicle (EV) such as a Nissan Leaf in less than half an hour.

“I would expect initially they will be at forecourts in London, because that’s where the demand is right now, but that is changing really, really quickly,” said BP spokeswoman Shannon Wiseman to Professional Engineering.

The chargers’ mobile nature means BP can monitor demand and adapt accordingly, perhaps adding an additional unit at a particularly busy station or moving an unused one.

The energy company is investigating several charging technologies worldwide. “This is one of a number of things we are looking at,” said Wiseman. “The flexibility that this offers us is greater than the flexibility of anything else we’re looking at.”

The flexibility also gives the option of moving chargers away from forecourts, she added, although the units themselves will be charged with BP infrastructure at its garages.

“BP is very sensibly experimenting with new ways to get into car charging,” said Chris Goodall, a director at car charging company ChargePoint Services and industry commentator.

“The problem it faces is that a single 50kW rapid charger on a station forecourt costs several tens of thousands of pounds,” he said to PE. “But it doesn’t yet know which forecourts will work well as EV charging locations. So one good reason for the FreeWire investment – and commitment to install the product at some locations in the UK – is that it can begin to work out the best types of site to install charging infrastructure.”

The trial comes as BP tries to adapt for a future that will be less reliant on fossil fuels and more reliant on high-capacity electricity storage.

“Mobility is changing and BP is committed to remaining the fuel retailer of choice into the future,” said BP Downstream chief executive Tufan Erginbilgic.

“EV charging will undoubtedly become an important part of our business, but customer demand and the technologies available are still evolving. Using FreeWire’s mobile system we can respond very quickly and provide charging facilities at forecourts where we see the greatest demand, without needing to make significant investments in today’s fixed technologies and infrastructure.”

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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