Major automakers and start-ups are delivering new models of battery-electric vehicles while governments set ambitious BEV targets to move away from traditional internal-combustion engines. The continued influx of BEVs means drivers will need more charging points to comfortably transition to electric. According to IHS Markit, public spaces and workplaces need an additional 600,000 charging units by 2026 to meet BEV demand.
As the sector looks to transition from fossil fuels to electrification, fueling stations are considering how to change their forecourts to support OEMs’ electric-vehicle pledges and an electric-prominent future. The auto industry and fueling stations need to collaborate to increase consumer EV comfort and promote seamless EV adoption.
The Role of Gas Stations in Energy Transition
Gas stations already play a critical role in the electric transition. Research from the Fuels Institute shows the availability of BEV charging is one of the U.S. market’s primary concerns. OEMs can provide the electric vehicle, but without consistent charging access, drivers will experience range anxiety, one factor affecting consumer preferences.
Consumers over the decades have come to rely on the familiarity of fuel stations and convenience stores to replenish both the drivers and their vehicles, and there is no reason to think BEV drivers won’t follow the same behavior.
If drivers can count on available vehicle chargers at gas stations, their hesitancy will subside, which will support OEMs’ sales of new electric models and push the U.S. closer to meeting targets for electrification established by regional and federal entities.
Gas stations already are learning how to build relationships with a new type of customer through integrating BEV charging. The average electric charge takes significantly longer than a traditional fuel stop, so the store can position new products, offerings and services toward a more present clientele. Gas stations are well-positioned to lead this evolution and meet enhanced customer expectations with consistent payment and user experience.
Installing BEV chargers can be considered during new convenience-store build conversations or as existing properties explore new technologies. This trend will increase the uptake of installs and assist communities in transitioning to electric, but collaboration is needed to help with that uptake.
The Challenges and Considerations of BEV Implementation
BEV charging infrastructure has made great strides. Yet it is important to understand the variables gas stations must consider when thinking about retrofitting a station with BEV charging or including chargers in a new build to ensure adoption and BEV sales continue.
For starters, convenience stores must consider their local markets. BEV charging demand isn’t everywhere yet and convenience stores must evaluate registered BEVs in the area, local laws and incentives supporting BEV charger development. Stations also must consider placement of the chargers in relation to pertinent safety standards and traffic flow. New site construction should consider supporting electric service to facilitate the installation of chargers in the future.
Next, it’s important for both OEMs and convenience store owners to consider how onsite behaviors will shift while consumers are charging. For example, since charging a battery takes longer than filling a fuel tank, automakers are using that extra time as an opportunity for in-vehicle entertainment via television shows or games on interactive displays.
On the flip side, fuel retailers can add services that complement those entertainment features, such as offering store-to-car delivery and expanding food service or adding out-of-vehicle personal services such as workout facilities, nail salons or dry cleaners in-store, as well as providing free Wi-Fi and comfortable indoor or outdoor seating areas. These additions will drive traffic for fuel retailers and create an enjoyable BEV charging experience.
The Future of BEV Fueling
As governments and automakers work to meet battery-electric-vehicle targets to support the path to zero emissions, fueling and convenience stores will play critical roles. As these entities strive to become the go-to charging destination, they need to understand their importance in the energy transition and how they play a part in developing plans for BEV charging integration to help support growth of the vehicle type.
Beyond being good business, encouraging BEV adoption by supplying charging points will help transition drivers to electric, enabling the move to a more sustainable, lower carbon ecosystem. To meet OEMs’ BEV goals, automakers and convenience stores must collaborate to support the transition and prepare for the electric future now.
Scott Negley (pictured, above left) is senior director of product management at Dover Fueling Solutions.