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EV Charge Stations Can Bring Opportunities to Your C-Store

Capitalize on the 20% of charging that occurs on long routes and intensive local driving, speaker said.
October 19, 2017

​By Norman Turiano

CHICAGO – With all the recent media coverage regarding electric vehicles, it’s not surprising that a Tuesday NACS Show educational session regarding fuel, “Capitalize on the Opportunity the Electric Vehicle Market is Bringing to the Industry,” was well attended. Michael Jones, VP of sales for EV charging station leader ChargePoint, led the session’s presentation with a prediction that no industry would exhibit more change over the next 20 years than transportation, and as a result of demand mobility, electrification and autonomy.

Using slides showing car ownership declining greatly by 2030, Jones shifted gears to focus on a comprehensive explanation of EV charging, and predicted opportunities for convenience retailers that offer charging on their sites. Even though 80% of EV charging occurs at work and at home, he felt that there was great opportunity to address the 20% of charging that will be required on long routes and intensive local driving. Key points Jones made regarding the convenience industry included the fact that drivers desire convenient locations, such as what our industry offers, and that providers require simple, low entry costs and energy management to minimize their costs.

From a retailer’s perspective, Derek Nelson, manager of sustainability at Kum & Go, spoke to how his organization was piloting EV charging at two sites and looking to drive traffic—as well as charging revenue—from the service. Part of this initiative echoed Jones’s thoughts regarding cheap infrastructure to install, as well as the relatively high profit margin and the fact that not addressing the opportunity makes it more attractive for others to do so. In his view, a 10- to 15-minute vehicle charging experience would not be much worse than a customer’s current experience; and success will be driven by targeting the EV customer through offers of outdoor seating, free Wi-Fi and free device charging.

A very engaged audience asked pertinent questions regarding standardized charging equipment (which Tesla does in Europe and the panel felt will eventually occur in the U.S.); how a retailer entering the space should approach it (consensus was to understand your market and start in metro areas rather than suburbs); and whether the low entry costs of EV charging created the threat of QSRs and fast casual restaurants offering free charging, which could easily be absorbed by their higher margins (Nelson called that “a scary thought”).

This volatile subject promises to remain topical, not only in upcoming fuel sessions but well into the future.

Norman Turiano is a former Wawa executive and principal of Turiano Strategic Consulting. Reach him at TSC.USA@comcast.net.