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25 November 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 12:14pm

The clean transport transition

Shell UK is developing more climate-friendly choices for our customers

By Jo Coleman

Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your background?

Jo Coleman: I am an engineer by background. My role at Shell is to both drive the energy transition-related activities that are happening in our various businesses in the UK, and to integrate them into a coherent country strategy.

What do you feel is the role of electric vehicles in meeting the 2050 net zero target?

JC: The net zero target is technically possible and economically achievable as well. But it is hugely challenging, and it requires a massive scale-up across the entire energy system. We know that we need to stop using fossil fuels in light-duty vehicles to achieve the target, and electric vehicles (EVs) will be the route to take for many of our journeys in the future.

But they have a really long way to go. We need to make sure that there is a coherent package of policy and incentives that supports drivers in making that transition and provides the energy infrastructure to ensure that charging can happen, where and when people want it.

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Does Shell support bringing forward the ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2040?

JC: Yes. We support the UK’s net zero ambition and the Paris Agreement. To meet these goals, we need to be ending the sale of new internal combustion engines by about 2030. It requires a real commitment from the government in supporting consumers and fuel retailers to deliver the infrastructure to be able to achieve that. As a business we are always looking for clarity around what is the ambition, what is the target and what is going to drive the transition towards it, and then we can work within it to bring it about.

What should the policies and drivers be?

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JC: The two biggest things that hold people back from buying an EV are the up-front capital cost and concerns about whether and where they’ll be able to charge the car. So, we need to increase the rollout of EV infrastructure such as charging points and grid upgrades, and continue to support the purchase of EVs. It has to be an easy choice for consumers to make.

Is Shell investing in the electric vehicle revolution?

JC: Shell want to be able to offer consumers choice, so we are expanding charging options for homes and businesses, as well as providing fast high-power charging. We now have over 80 rapid charge posts operating in the UK. We were aiming for 200 by the end of the year, but due to Covid-19 that has now slipped into 2021. All of our charge posts at the forecourts are supplied with 100 per cent certified renewable power. We are aiming to have the first fully electric station, where we take the petrol and diesel pumps off and replace it entirely with a full EV forecourt.

A few years ago, we also bought one of Europe’s largest providers of EV charging, a company called New Motion. They have a network of over 165,000 public charge points across Europe, 2,500 charge points at homes and workplaces in the UK, and a similar number in the UK roaming network. Even during Covid-19, we have been expanding this network and have recently signed deals with Mazda, Aldi and Alphabet, three different types of companies we are look to work with. Mazda is a provider of EVs, Aldi is one of the major supermarkets and Alphabet is a provider of business mobility solutions. So, there is a fair amount of partnering involved in this, but it is really about expanding from home and business and rapid charging into destination charging as well.

What is the role for hydrogen in transport?

JC: Typically, we think of hydrogen as what to do when you have reached the end of where you can electrify. In transport, there are customers where hydrogen fuel cell EVs potentially make more sense, particularly for people who do not want to stop or go on long journeys with multiple refuels in the day, so think people like taxi drivers or fleet drivers. Probably the place where hydrogen will have the biggest role is in heavy-duty vehicles, which carry heavier loads and need a more powerful fuel.

Shell has three hydrogen refuelling stations in the UK and I think the shift to net zero has really changed the narrative and the story around heavy duty vehicles. Now we need to see the same level of action for them that we have in terms of support for customers and the infrastructure for light-duty vehicles.

What is Shell’s carbon-neutral driving initiative and how is that going?

JC: We have set out to provide our customers with choices of lower-carbon products. For some that is around electric vehicles and the choice of where they can charge them. But not everyone is ready for, or can afford, an EV and driving is an essential part of how they run their lives. So we have given people the option of being able to offset their emissions when they refuel at Shell. We calculate for them the lifecycle and the carbon emissions generated through that fuel, and we are able to tell them how much that is. Then we buy carbon credits to compensate for those emissions. This month, we have reached a total of two million credits bought for customers through this system, which is the equivalent to taking about 750,000 cars off the road. This is not the end game but it is empowering customers to do something today while they are not yet in a position to buy an EV

Jo Coleman is energy transition manager for Shell UK

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