Tesla Eyes 20-Minute Charging Locations

By some accounts, the convenience store could become Tesla’s new Supercharging station.

September 26, 2017

NEW YORK – Fortune reports that Tesla wants to turn Supercharger stations into full-service convenience stores. On Sept. 24 at the FSTEC restaurant technology conference, the news source writes that Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel suggested the luxury electric vehicle maker might be eyeing the c-store industry as its next business venture.

First reported by Restaurant Business, Straubel said Tesla drivers typically spend 20 to 30 minutes at Superchargers, and while they’re waiting, he said drivers “want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, they want to use the bathroom.”

A similar sentiment was shared at the NACS Insight Convenience Summit–Europe in June, where Jelle Vastert, director of global charging at Tesla, led a discussion on the growing EV driver segment and how the convenience retail industry will be impacted by higher EV demand.

However, although there are emerging opportunities for convenience and fuel retailers to adopt EV charging, Vastert suggested in June that the current EV customer profile is not today’s time-starved c-store customer who wants to refuel and leave, or go inside the store to grab food and drink to go in less than four minutes.

“Charging is not analogous to refueling a car,” said Vastert, noting that unlike a gasoline-powered car, charging an EV happens mostly at home or work. He explained that EV drivers “don’t go to a charger every week like they do a c-store; they charge an EV like they would a smartphone,” as in few hours a day, or overnight while it’s parked at home.

“We see a distinct customer segment emerging where people are taking 20- to 40-minute charging breaks on longer trips, which is the bulk of what we see happening at our Supercharger locations,” Vastert told CSE attendees in June, adding that the average gas station with a small c-store offer is probably not a favorable Supercharger location for a family with kids to stay for 30 minutes. “People want amenities nearby while charging,” he said.

Fortune, meanwhile, writes that Straubel said Tesla doesn’t have interest in running c-store operations, but is instead looking at partnership opportunities. “Tesla already partners with restaurants to install either lower-power chargers or Superchargers in their parking lots, so this wouldn’t be entirely new territory,” notes the news source.