The British-Dutch oil and gas company Shell still makes about ten times as much annual sales as Tesla, but unlike that with electric cars and stationary batteries, its business does not threaten to have a great future. As early as the early 2000s, Shell therefore tried alternative energies, initially unsuccessfully with solar module production, among other things. Since the end of 2017, however, the goal has been to halve its own emissions by 2050. And when it comes to the end-customer business in German-speaking countries, Shell seems to be making a remarkable decision on battery electric cars.
Evaluate data like Tesla
This can be seen in a current interview on the electrive.net portal with Jan Toschka, Head of Shell’s gas station division in the DACH region. In Germany, Shell initially entered cautiously together with EnBW and 100 fast charging points and this February announced an additional 100 of its own. By the end of the year, only about a dozen from the second wave will be active, which is slower than planned, Toschka said in the conversation. Part of the problem are different specifications of each network operator and a shortage of technology – “many components are in demand across Europe”.
In the stations that are already running, expectations are met on average, said Toschka. However, there are still problems in operation such as unreliable recognition of cards. And sometimes electric car pillars are even parked at filling stations because someone “takes a three hour walk”.
When choosing a location, Shell has the advantage of being able to evaluate its own data, unlike completely outsiders to the infrastructure. Tesla knows where and how many of its electric cars are on the road – and the petrol station operator at least knows where customers fill up which fuel. There is a high correlation between the spread of electric cars and purchasing power, said Toschka. And Shell can tell, among other things, from where many of its expensive V-Power variants are refueled.
Hydrogen “super”, but expensive
In addition to electric car filling stations, Shell is also active in hydrogen electrolysis and electric fuels (e-fuels). But the manager was cautious about both in the electrive interview. Shell believes that different fuels and forms of energy are part of the bigger picture, he said. That is why research is being carried out on both, but it applies to both that it must make economic sense – and a customer “who buys it”. Shell’s 40 hydrogen filling stations in Germany are “great”, but the effort is out of proportion to the few hundred vehicles that they can use.
Toschka therefore said, “We have to be moderate with this” regarding the further expansion of H2. Specifically, he said that offering 1000 stations would make no sense. In 2015 Shell had spoken of 400 German hydrogen filling stations by 2023; the first opened in 2011.
E-fuel for 4.50 euros before tax
And the Shell manager didn’t have a lot of positive things to say about power to liquid, i.e. fuels produced using (clean electricity). He spoke of 90 percent conversion losses, which raises the question of sustainability. And there is also the need for financial feasibility: “We have to be very careful what we do,” he warned.
Both e-fuels and hydrogen are being positioned as alternatives to battery-powered cars by (shrinking) parts of the German auto industry. Shell as an important energy supplier for the car operation no longer seems to be one of them. In addition, Toschka named a number that could also put off fans of e-fuel: There are several studies on the question of the price, he said that he had 4.50 euros per liter in his head – without taxes.