Shell just made a big acquisition to expand its EV network.

Volta Inc. has announced a merger agreement under which Shell USA would acquire Volta in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $169 million (USD). The big get here is Volta’s electric-vehicle charging network that doubles as a media board that can display advertisements, public service, announcements, and whatever else Shell might want people to see.

You’ve undoubtedly noticed gas stations with small screens that begin broadcasting corporate propaganda the second you’ve activated the pump. Volta’s EV chargers are the mega-sized version of that concept with the ability to allow customers to track each unit’s status remotely via a mobile application. This comes in handy when determining how much longer a charging station might be in use or whether it’s even functional – saving EV owners the headache of having to set back out to find a different station when there’s not an open bay.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, Shell USA Inc. will acquire all outstanding shares of Class A common stock of Volta at $0.86 per share in cash upon completion of the merger, which represents an approximate 18 percent premium to the closing price of Volta stock on January 17, 2023, which happens to be the last full trading day prior to the announcement of the transaction.

“The shift to e-mobility is unstoppable, and Shell recognizes Volta's industry-leading dual charging and media model delivers a public charging offering that is affordable, reliable, and accessible,” Vince Cubbage, Volta’s Interim CEO, said in the release. “While the EV infrastructure market opportunity is potentially enormous, Volta's ability to capture it independently, in challenging market conditions and with ongoing capital constraints, was limited. This transaction creates value for our shareholders and provides our exceptional employees and other stakeholders a clear path forward."

"Both Volta and Shell have a demonstrated ability to meet the changing needs of customers, and this acquisition will bring that experience together to provide the options that are needed as more drivers choose electric."

This is likely a wise move on the part of Shell. Owning a larger segment of North America’s EV charging infrastructure means it can profit off electrification as it becomes mainstream while also benefiting from the marketing opportunities associated with Volta’s giant screens. Buying the company out likewise means less competition moving forward – something that’ll be advantageous whether or not EVs go mainstream. But this is also a reminder that electrification is not the domain of eco-minded startups. It’s loaded up with – and arguably dominated by – the same energy companies EV advocates frequently bemoan and they’re all vying to get a bigger piece of the pie."