Total, the major French multinational oil and gas company, announced today a $300 million investment to install about 200 MW of solar capacity at 5,000 gas stations around the world. The investment is being presented as a way for Total’s operations to reduce its carbon footprint, but what if its the first step to convert the gas stations into electric vehicle charging stations?
As the global car fleet transition from being powered by gasoline and diesel to being powered by electricity, the refueling infrastructure is also bound to change. Gas stations have already mostly all become convenience stores, but they still depend on the traffic from drivers refueling their tanks.
Obviously, we will need less charging stations than gas stations when electric vehicles will be more common since the majority of the charging happens at home, but a significant number of stations will still be required for long distance travel and for EV owners without home access to charging, like apartment dwellers.
If you are to offer charging, you might as well produce the electricity from solar energy on location where it is economically viable, which is far from being everywhere yet, but it is quickly expanding in different markets.
Total didn’t specify where its new solar installations will be deployed other than at “5,000 of its service stations worldwide” including “800 in France” and they will be deployed over the next five years.
The panels will be supplied by Sunpower, which is owned by Total.
Philippe Sauquet, President of Gas, Renewables & Power at Total, commented on the announcement:
“The project is fully aligned with Total’s ambition of becoming the responsible energy major and its commitment to developing solar power. It will reduce our carbon emissions by 100,000 tons per year and cut our electricity bill by $40 million per year. The panels will be supplied by our affiliate SunPower, which offers the world’s most efficient solar technology. This project demonstrates Total’s confidence in SunPower, especially its ability to bring our customers competitive, clean energy.”
But it wasn’t a first globally. Last year, we reported that Tesla sold 12 Superchargers to the Manaseer Group to be installed at three of their gas stations in Jordan. Those are privately held Superchargers and not officially part of Tesla’s network.
With charging stations and solar arrays being installed (separately for now) at gas stations around the world, I think we are seeing a glimpse of an important part of our future transport infrastructure starting to emerge. Soon enough, we should see stations with large solar arrays storing the electricity in battery packs and charging electric vehicles.