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.

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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.

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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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