EDF, the French state-backed energy giant, is drawing up secret plans for a stock market flotation of one of Britain's biggest providers of electric vehicle charging infrastructure amid soaring demand from motorists.
Sky News has learnt that EDF, which bought a controlling stake in Pod Point less than a year ago, has instructed investment bankers at Barclays to begin working on the timing and structure of a public listing.
City sources said this weekend that an initial public offering (IPO) could value Pod Point at many hundreds of millions of pounds, crystallising a big paper fortune for Erik Fairbairn, the company's founder.
EDF's plans are at an early stage, but underline the burgeoning interest in capitalising on the accelerating shift to electric cars, with the government now having established a 2030 target for banning the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, and 2035 for phasing out hybrids.
Sources said that EDF would be likely to retain a large stake in Pod Point after an IPO as it seeks to meet its target of becoming the leading energy company for electric mobility in the UK, France, Belgium and Italy.
Pod Point says it has powered more than 459 million miles of electric driving, and has a public network of nearly 4,000 charging bays.
According to recent parliamentary research, nearly 29,000 charging points will be required across Britain by 2030 to meet demand, with the number of public chargers for top-up charging needing a tenfold increase by the end of the decade from 2016 levels.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said recently that 2020 had been the best ever year for electric cars in the UK, with the market share of battery and plug-in hybrid vehicles reaching 10.7%.
"Investment in charging infrastructure and battery gigafactories [is] now essential to reboot industry and meet post-Brexit electrification challenge," the SMMT said.
Pod Point was backed by a group of venture capital funds and other early-stage investors prior to EDF announcing the takeover of the company last February.
As part of that transaction, Legal & General (L&G), the FTSE-100 insurance and pensions giant, retained a 23% stake in the technology company.
By drawing up plans to float, Pod Point will join an unprecedented queue of promising British tech companies which have set their sights on a London listing as investors embrace a wave of coronavirus winners.
In a statement, a Pod Point spokeswoman said: "We are of course very pleased that the market for electric vehicles has continued to grow so strongly over the course of a very challenging year.
"Unfortunately, we are unable to comment on questions relating to investment as these enquiries are handled directly by our parent company EDF."
EDF declined to comment on the possibility of an IPO.
Its UK country manager, Simone Rossi, said at the time of the takeover of Pod Point: "Electric vehicles will be crucial in reducing the UK's carbon emissions and fighting climate change.
"With the addition of charge points, we can help our customers to reduce their carbon footprints and benefit from lower fuel costs by going electric.
"The additional electricity demand from EVs will require urgent investment in low carbon generation from renewables and nuclear."
Pod Point, which was founded in 2009 by Mr Fairbairn, competes with rivals such as Chargemaster, which is now a subsidiary of BP.
It has partnerships with Tesco and Lidl, with charging points installed at their supermarket car parks, and counts British Land, Gatwick Airport and Pepsico among its other corporate partners.
EDF data published last year suggested that a low carbon grid, featuring new renewables and nuclear, and switching the 32 million petrol and diesel cars on UK roads to electric, would avoid 65 million tonnes of CO2 emissions, and shrink Britain's overall carbon footprint by more than 10%.