Anticipating a possible decrease in fossil-fuel consumption from the mass deployment of zero-emission vehicles, one of the world's largest oil companies is hedging its bets.

Royal Dutch Shell is becoming increasingly involved in hydrogen fueling infrastructure, which will be needed if fuel-cell vehicles are ever to grow beyond their current minimal numbers.

The company is already involved in efforts to build hydrogen-fueling stations in Germany. Now, it is expanding its efforts to other parts of Europe.

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It recently opened the United Kingdom's first public hydrogen station, located at the Cobham service station just outside London, according to the Financial Times (subscription required).

Shell's goal is to create a "string of sites," Matthew Tipper, the company's head of fuels, told the newspaper.

The company has operated hydrogen fueling stations in other European countries since at least 2011, when it opened its first station in Germany.

Shell fuel station in Europe

Shell fuel station in Europe

Since October 2015, Shell has been involved in the H2 Mobility Germany venture, along with French oil company Total and the Germany government.

That project's goal is to open 400 hydrogen-fueling stations in the country by 2023.

Shell and Total, along with several automakers, are also part of the Hydrogen Council, a consortium of corporate interests created to promote hydrogen and invest in infrastructure.

ALSO SEE: How Shell Oil Sees The Future Of Energy And Vehicle Fuels In 2050 (May 2015)

In the U.S., Shell is also partnering with Toyota on seven fueling stations in California.

This week, the two companies announced that California Energy Commission had posted a Notice of Proposed Award that included potential grants for the project totaling approximately $16.4 million.

California has a goal of putting 100 public hydrogen stations online by 2024, but development of the network has been slower than expected.

2017 Toyota Mirai

2017 Toyota Mirai

But hydrogen is far from the only alternative to oil that Shell has invested in.

Electric-car charging stations will be installed at certain Shell fuel station in the U.K. and The Netherlands starting later this year, the company said earlier this month.

While the oil giant does not believe fuel-cell or battery-electric cars will overtake internal combustion in the near future, its interest in the infrastructure that supports these vehicles is an acknowledgement of their potential to decrease oil demand.

MORE: Shell fuel stations in U.K., Netherlands to add electric-car charging

Estimates of fuel-cell or battery-electric-car market share in the coming decades still vary wildly.

But that doesn't mean oil companies would be correct to continue assuming that oil demand will remain high indefinitely.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: Green Car Reports thanks our tipster, who prefers to remain an International Man of Mystery.]


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