How Tesla and EV filling networks threaten the future of gas stations

How Tesla and EV filling networks threaten the future of gas stations

Slowly but surely, electric cars and trucks are taking over American highways. The White House aims to have half of the new vehicles sold in the United States EV until 2030, and automotive giants like GM and Volvo want to be fully electric in a similar time frame. As utility companies rush expand the number of charging stations – a critical step for the EV transition – the future of the petrol station is in doubt.

Currently, gas stations are a regular part of American life, a place that drivers go to on a daily or weekly basis to refuel and sometimes grab a snack. But the fuel pump plus trade concept has much less to offer but in the country an increasing number of electric vehicle owners.

While some gas stations have made a step forward and installed charging ports in addition to their pumps, people tend to do so lion’s share their EV charging at home. And since EV chargers can be installed in almost any location that is connected to the mains – they are now available in office garages and rest areas, and will soon be in some Starbucks parking – The gas station is increasingly unnecessary for some Americans.

“The beauty is that you’re not locked up at a gas station,” said Rob Barroso, senior director of sales and marketing at Electrify America, an electric vehicle charging network and a subsidiary of Volkswagen. “How do we get power where we want it?” It’s much easier to solve the problem than to deal with large, huge gas tanks that you have to bury in the ground. ”

This is worrying news if you are dealing with gas stations. Boston Consulting Group analysts assessment that if EVs take off, as much as 80 percent of the retail fuel market could be unprofitable by 2035. If the demand for gasoline completely disappears, many of more than 100,000 stations throughout the country they would be in danger of extinction. If they are unable to sell fuel, gas stations would struggle to make money because people usually buy products in their stores while refueling.

So, if these companies want to survive, they have to start redesigning themselves for the world outside of gas. That could be difficult, or even impossible. Installation of EV chargers at existing gas station locations can be quite expensive. Meanwhile, those locations may become irrelevant as carmakers, charging companies and the government race to build a whole new network of EV chargers.

Some are already imagining what the future might look like after the gas station. This can be as simple as electrified parking spaces set up all over the city or next to them futuristic travel stations where people can go to the gym or walk the garden while their EV vehicles are charging. Still, one thing is for sure: EV will surely change our built environment.

How to retrofit an EV gas station

Gas stations currently serve as intermediaries between the fossil fuel industry and drivers. Oil companies need a place where they can easily distribute their products to customers, and drivers need a convenient and reliable place to fill their gas tanks. And again, gas stations are not just about selling gas and diesel. They also make money by selling food, alcohol, cigarettes and lottery tickets, among other things. Some gas stations offer mechanical services; some have restaurants in them.

To adapt this business model to the era of electric vehicles, some gas stations are now being installed Level chargers 3which can deliver as as much as 20 miles of range per minute, along with their old pumps and shops. Some of these fast chargers make filling the EV almost as fast as filling the gas tank in the old-fashioned way, and they are much faster than what people usually use at home. Several gas station owners who have or install Level 3 chargers told Recode that their goal is to become “fuel agnostics” and to please electric vehicle drivers as well as those who have gas cars.

Charging an EV is often as easy as parking.
Frederic J. Brown / AFP via Getty Images

But for many gas stations, the price of an EV charger outweighs the benefits. The charger itself can cost Tens of thousands dollars, which is a heavy cost for small businesses. The total cost can be much higher, because the installation often includes drilling asphalt and laying electrical installations, and sometimes gas stations have to buy transformers in order to increase the total electrical capacity of their locations. Chris Bambury, who runs several gas stations in California, told Recode that installing just four EV chargers at one of its locations would have cost about half a million dollars had state and utility programs not covered about 90 percent of the bill.

An even bigger challenge is that gas stations are already facing intense competition from other public chargers for electric vehicles. Data collected by the Ministry of Energy shows that, of the locations of public chargers fully monitored by the agency, there are currently more public chargers located in hotels and inns, shopping malls and government buildings than at gas stations and shops. This is a limited picture of the national charging network and does not include a large number of chargers made by private companies such as Blink, Electrify America and Chargepoint. These companies seem to prefer to install these chargers in places with network-connected parking spaces, where drivers of electric vehicles can find something to do while charging, such as going to the store or restaurant.

Fighting about the future of charging

For a number of reasons, the government really wants to convince people that EVs are just as easy to use – and can go as far – as gas vehicles, by building a huge number of charging stations in convenient locations. To speed up this effort, the White House plans to spend $ 5 billion as part of a goal to build more than 500,000 public chargers nationwide by the end of the decade. That money will be distributed among states, and hopefully in the end there will be at least a charger every 50 miles on the U.S. Interstate Highway System. Meanwhile, local and state authorities are giving grants to companies that install chargers on their premises.

Gas stations aren’t exactly thrilled with the government’s efforts to put EV chargers anywhere and everywhere. In Georgia, where several carmakers want to build new EV-focused production facilities, gas station trade groups are pushing for a law that would limit government power potential role in charging electric vehicles. At the national level, lobby groups representing the gas station and store industry have dropped proposals in Congress to make EV chargers in public rest areas on interstate because, they argue, it would jeopardize the ability of gas stations to compete.

But perhaps the biggest hurdle facing gas stations is: charging an electric vehicle is often as simple as parking. Many electric vehicle owners buy plug-in chargers standard home wall outlet just like their laptop or phone, which virtually eliminates the need for frequent refueling trips. These are usually cheaper level 1 chargers that take several hours to fully charge the battery, which is quite acceptable for charging a vehicle overnight. And since the average EV can travel 260 miles with one charge, most people only need to turn on their cars once a day.

How Tesla and EV filling networks threaten the future of gas stations

Electrify America is opening luxury charging hubs in California and New York, and concepts suggest they could include salons and solar canopies.
Courtesy of Electrify America

So, even if gas stations install fast chargers, people who travel long distances can be their main customers. This situation is already happening in Norway, where it is approximately 90 percent of new cars electric or hybrid are now sold. While gas stations have quickly moved to install refueling connections, many electric vehicle drivers in Norway just visit them on a monthly basis.

The rise of EV could actually lead to a new generation of boxing stops. Some private companies, e.g. they open their own luxury destinations with multiple charging stations. Electrify America plans to open a series of leading, EV-focused travel salons with solar canopies and event spaces that could possibly offer room service and delivery in California and New York later this year. Car manufacturers are also experimenting with the idea of ​​premium charging stations. Tesla is already open in California charging hub for its vehicles which include a saloon, espresso bar and free WiFi. Porsche i Audi develop similar plans for their own stations.

None of this is necessarily surprising. New innovations often make old technology obsolete. After all, the gradual abolition of horse travel meant the collapse of the horse-drawn carriage industry conversion of the barn. Now, after a century spent building complex infrastructure around gas vehicles, another transition seems inevitable. This means that electric vehicles change not only the type of cars that people drive, but also where they drive them.

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