. . . Over the past couple of decades, the business of selling fuel to drivers has radically changed. In the US, the iconic “filling station,” where a rumpled mechanic was on hand to check your oil and fix a flat, and the culinary selection was limited to a Coke machine and bags of stale peanuts, has been replaced by a mini-supermarket, with twenty touchscreen-equipped gas pumps and 500 flavors of designer coffee.
Even as retail fuel outlets have evolved, their number has been declining for decades. A recent article in Sky News notes that since 1970, the number of stand-alone petrol stations in the UK has shrunk by 75%. In Japan, the number of EV charging points surpassed the number of gas stations in 2015.
One reason for the transformation of the retail gas business is that margins on selling fuel are razor-thin. Gas is increasingly seen as a loss leader to attract customers who will spend money on drinks and snacks. Of course, that’s exactly how EV charging is seen by many industry observers, so it makes perfect sense that some oil purveyors (again, mostly European brands so far) are installing chargers at their retail locations.
Last year, Shell began installing EV charging points at gas stations (“forecourts” to our British mates) in the Netherlands and the UK (in partnership with Dutch charging operator Allego), as well as in Norway and the Philippines. It has also acquired Dutch charging network operator NewMotion, which manages over 30,000 charging points in 25 European countries.
BP, the dominant petrol retailer in the UK, recently acquired a stake in FreeWire, a developer of mobile rapid charging systems. Motor Fuel Group, the UK’s second-largest independent operator of forecourts, also has plans to offer fast charging. . . .
Why is Europe leading the way when it comes to charging at the gas station? Demographics may be one reason: in contrast to the US, where suburban drivers charge at home, many UK drivers (perhaps up to 80%, according to research by National Grid) live in flats with no assigned parking spaces and must park their cars on the street. This is also the case in China, and in dense urban areas around the world. If EVs are to become a viable option for all drivers, some solution to this dilemma must be found, and rapid charging at public locations could be an option. . . .
Until lots of 800 - 1,000V BEVs arrive, the difference in dwell time and lack of parking space at the typical gas station strike me as an argument against BEVs that will be difficult to overcome. 150kW QCs will work for some, but I think it will take the more powerful ones to make this a viable business model - how many people want to spend 20-30 minutes at a gas station? Restaurants and other retail businesses, theaters etc. strike me as better venues for now.