The future of EV charging stations
This blog post will be more of a creative brainstorming process to be honest, because the market has not fully matured to understand what the future will hold. While most home charging is done through AC power, DC power is still reserved for fast charging needs.
Whether you plan on making a cross country trip or visit a park across town, you will likely find yourself in a situation where you need a quick charge. The speed at which your EV charges is based on the DC chargers themselves and how many kW they charge at, as well as the amount of Amps your EV is able to receive. 120-480 kW seem to be the most likely options in the next decade along with Amperages of 32, 40, 50, and other combinations according to need.
Much money is being invested into fast chargers and infrastructure specifically to persuade the internal combustion folks to adopt EV’s as well as make EV’s a viable means of transportation for those who need more range. What’s unknown is the shape and form the new charging stations will take on.
Converting existing gas stations:
The easiest and least imaginative way to prepare for an electric future would be to convert existing gas stations into EV charging stations. Although this may prove a bit difficult.
For one the decision would need to be made on how many pumps to convert. Would it be all at once? Slowly over time?
Secondly, there would need to be a re-design of the layout for many stations because not only will they likely not have enough charging stations, they may not be optimized for charging times and flow of traffic.
Some already existing stations in the US, notably Quik Trip and Buc-ee’s are known for massive-all-encompassing stores that sell a wide variety of hot and cold foods and offer more than just a gas pumping experience.
However, many stations do not have world record holding 6162 square meter facilities (1*), so they will have to be more creative. The question to ask for the smaller stations is if the charger is fast enough to get people in and out in a relatively short time then will customers actually sit there and wait? Initially if busy, to be able to charge, then waiting for their charge to finish.
Adding charging to already large retailers and big box stores:
This idea would be to utilize the already large parking lots that some big stores take up and add chargers somewhere on the perimeter or dispersed throughout. The highlights of this idea is it would use up already wasted space that is most often not being occupied and offer value to people who could stop in for a quick shopping trip while charging their EV.
In this scenario the charging time wouldn’t be very important because the customer would be able to go shopping while waiting. We’re not sure how realistic the infrastructure is setup for this concept, but it definitely makes some sense for those places which have way too much parking space.
One of the caveats is who would pay for the stations? Would it be a business who sells the chargers to the parking lot owners, or possibly a business provides the chargers and takes the profit or a profit share from the money made from customers? Costco already does this in a similar fashion with its gasoline often selling at a low price.
Although, we’re not sure if the low priced gas attracts people to go shopping at Costco, or the people who are already planning on shopping at Costco go to fill up their tank after buying their goods. It’s possible the malls or big retailers could offer incentives like a reduced charging price during certain times to bring the customers in to shop. The option of converting existing open parking lots to charging stations is definitely an avenue that some companies have already considered or are figuring out the economics for.
This one is self-explanatory. The idea is to add EV chargers to restaurants or fast food outlets in order to get people to stop to eat there. These chargers could be subsidized when a customer spends xxx amount of money, they could be free to really entice people to come eat, or they could charge the customers whatever the normal fee is.
Recently Taco Bell in the United States— a fast food Mexican franchise—decided to offer DC fast charging at a San Francisco store in order to attract more customers. Their plan is to expand rapidly to more restaurants (2*). They might be the first movers in this area, but will hardly be the last. Cheap calories and cheap electricity may just be a winning combination.
Highways and public parks:
These two places, highways and public parks are a difficult one. On one hand they are necessary for people who need to charge when traveling long distances. On the other hand they are not the most trafficked areas which means they may have a lower ROI than higher trafficked areas. For parks specifically, you would need to have a reason to put fast chargers there.
The EV Company Rivian who currently sells an electric EV truck, is taking the adventure route in North America with plans to install 3,500 chargers through 2023. A number of those chargers are expected to be at public parks which goes along with Rivian’s branding and message of being an adventure EV brand (3*). Highways are naturally needed for the adoption of EV’s to take full hold and ease range anxiety for those who are afraid of running out of electricity while out.
The question is again who will be the ones to invest in these areas? Will it be the charging network operators who are competing for customers and coverage? Or it will it possibly be EV manufacturers like Rivian who want to have a connected in house network to offer their customers a streamlined platform without the need to go out of network?
Standalone new EV charging station designs:
This concept would be the one that might make a few savvy investment heavy businesses very wealthy. With our lives being so hectic and fast paced, along with the massive amounts of data we take in everyday, there may be a market for a new concept for an EV charging lounge.
Instead of gas stations which will have someone in and out in a few minutes or 10 minutes tops, if an EV takes 30 or more minutes to charge it might make sense to offer a “rest and detox” type experience. We can envision a place where certain car brands get preferential treatment or customers buy a membership card to certain brands.
These branded relax and detox (for lack of really knowing what they will be called) stations could go one of a few different directions. One would be similar to an airport gold member lounge with free light snacks and drinks. Another option would be to set it up as a wellness or relaxing endeavor with massage therapists or chairs waiting to knead out those tired muscles. The whole experience could be heavily robotic to save on costs with only a few employees staffing the place, or it could be the opposite with stellar customer service as the selling point and games or ways to keep people entertained. If we really want to think big picture, maybe there will even been napping pods available for a quick afternoon 30 minute nap to get a little brain boost (4*).
One thing is likely sure, whoever does find the winning recipe or recipes will need to scale quickly and also have the right type of charging available. If the wait is too long, then someone may go and find a faster charger. If the wait is too short, then that means they likely have super-fast chargers which is a higher up-front cost for the business. There won’t be a specific magic recipe, the same way small gas stations and the larger ones can both do well based on factors aside from store size. If recent history repeats itself, with the continuation of the “sharing economy,” you may find yourself paying for a monthly membership for the right to charge and access to the store or lounge.
What are your thoughts? If you have good ideas on the future of EV Charging stations, leave us a comment below.
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