Shell buys Volta network and its free EV charging

Volta, a charging company distinguished by its partly free, partly ad-supported EV charging, announced Wednesday that it will be acquired by oil giant Shell.

The two companies have signed a “definitive merger agreement” under which Shell will buy Volta in an all-cash transaction that values the charging company at $169 million, according to a Volta press release.

The transaction involves Shell acquiring all outstanding shares of Volta Class A common stock at $0.86 per share in cash, which represents an 18% premium over the January 17, 2023, closing price of Volta stock, the company said.

Volta charging

Volta charging

In the release, Shell said that it sees growth in what it describes as Volta’s “dual charging and media network,” which sums up the charging company’s appeal.

Volta is a relative newcomer and started to build out its DC fast-charging network in 2019 and 2020. Although Volta didn’t appear to have any game-changing tech, its ad-supported model made it different—essentially allowing EV drivers to charge up free of any out-of-pocket cost.

Volta’s free DC fast-charging went away last year, but its free Level 2 charging continues to be offered.

In 2019 it suggested that its model of free, albeit ad-supported charging might save EV drivers as much as $1,155 per year. Given recent energy inflation, that figure is undoubtedly higher now. In 2021, Volta added air quality to the readouts at charging stations.

Volta charging

Volta charging

Volta has pointed out with a study that the urban/suburban divide plays a significant role in charging—as home-charging availability can vary so much within just a few miles based on types of houses or neighborhoods with owners vs. renters.

Shell has been a big investor in charging over the past several years. Most noteworthy were its acquisitions of Greenlots, to help get a handle on the technology behind the charging network, and Ubitricity, for city-based Level 2 charging.

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