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It’s Not Just The CEO’s Car: Shell Converts Corporate Fleet To Plug-In Hybrids

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Shell CEO Ben van Beurden made headlines worldwide when he told an interviewer in July that his next car would be an electric vehicle, but he stopped short of a full disclosure: van Beurden’s new car is part of a company-wide conversion of the corporate fleet.

Shell Technology Director Harry Brekelmans clarified this month that he too is getting a plug-in vehicle, though it’s a hybrid:

“Indeed Ben’s next car is electrical, but what he also says time and again is that fossil fuels will remain a part of the energy mix for decades to come, so his next car’s a hybrid, not a full EV,” Brekelmans said in appearance at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “And I know because my next car also will be a hybrid, because we’re changing the corporate fleet.”

Shell has long acknowledged the relationship between climate change and emissions, Brekelmans said, and it has also acknowledged the necessity of electrifying transportation. The CEO’s comments were meant to emphasize that conversion is accelerating, he said, so it’s time to act.

But Shell is buying hybrids, not full EVs, to emphasize that fossil fuels won’t be vanishing any time soon.

“It’s to testify to the fact that for some time to come we feel that renewable electrical and fossil-fuel related energy supply will have to cohabitate,” Brekelmans said.

van Beurden made his announcement in an interview with Bloomberg’s Manus Cranny, who had asked him how Shell would respond to recent announcements that the UK is banning diesel cars, France is getting aggressive toward them, and Volvo is going electric. “Do you want to buy an electric company?” Cranus asked. “Do you want to diversify? Give me your quick take in terms of the news flow over the past 48 hours.”

“Well, the next buy I do is my next car which will be an electric vehicle,” van Beurden said.

The statement ricocheted around the planet. One commentator likened it to a butcher announcing he was going vegetarian. Shell’s PR apparatus clarified that van Beurden is buying a Mercedes-Benz S500e, a hybrid, and out that Chief Financial Officer Jessica Uhl was already driving a BMW i3—also a hybrid. Shell did not respond to a request for comment sent Friday.

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