EV subscription service Onto partners with Shell to expand access to charging

British electric vehicle subscription service Onto has partnered with Shell to give its users access to charging stations in preparation for a wave of new EVs coming to market over the next several years. 

The partnership, which Shell announced Tuesday, will give Onto customers access to more than 3,400 Shell Recharge charge points in the UK, plus over 17 charging partners within Shell’s network. 

“Buying an electric car is a big, scary switch for most drivers,” Onto CEO Rob Jolly told TechCrunch in a recent interview. “Charging anxiety is an issue for them, so we’re trying to make EVs as accessible and affordable as possible, and the Shell partnership is a step up from that.”

This isn’t Onto’s first partnership. The company, which is an “all-inclusive” subscription model that covers servicing, road tax, insurance and charging in its monthly fee, has already locked up network partnerships with BP and Tesla. Onto has been expanding its electric fleet beyond its base of Tesla, BMW, Jaguar and Renault vehicles to Hyundai, which joined last month.

Sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids climbed to more than 3 million and reached a market share of more than 4%, according to preliminary estimates from the IEA. While 4% can hardly be considered market saturation, automakers, charging network companies and energy experts expect existing infrastructure to be squeezed as new electric vehicles come to market. VW, GM, Ford, Hyundai and Rivian are just a few of the automakers that are introducing new electric vehicles in 2021. 

A subscription (ev)olution

In the UK, more than 90% of new car buyers finance their vehicles, a transition from a decade ago when the common practice was to buy a car outright. Jolly believes the EV subscription model is going to be the next evolution in the auto market, especially as the UK and other countries move to ban gas and diesel cars and drivers cozy up to the idea of having a flexible, accessible, all-inclusive means of getting into an electric car. Jolly’s pitch to consumers is that the startup’s EV subscription prices are competitive with premium financing deals, but they don’t include the big upfront deposits or the hassle of having to locate and pay for charging. 

“Forty percent of the UK population doesn’t have access to off road parking,” said Jolly. “They’re going from knowing exactly how and where to refuel to being unsure of how charging works. Will they leave it on a street nearby their house or will they charge it on the way to work, or will they charge it at work? That’s the ambition of working with Shell. It’s making the options available to them and making sure our charging infrastructure footprint is as far and wide as possible.”

Shell’s British network includes more than 950 charge points, including Shell Recharge rapid and high-powered chargers (50 kWh and 150 kWh respectively), which are powered by renewable energy sources, and the Shell Recharge and Ionity network of ultra-high power (350 kWh) charge points. Customers can find all of Onto’s participating charging stations through the company’s app or online map, and all customers have been issued Shell Recharge cards so they have fast access to energy company’s network. 

Shell’s move to partner with the EV subscription startup is in line with the company’s plans to move away from gas stations and towards charging stations. The energy giant made its first move in this space in 2019 when it acquired Los Angeles-based EV charging developer Greenlots. Earlier this year, Shell also acquired Ubitricity in the U.K. and announced its plans to launch 500,000 new EV charging stations in the next four years.

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