By Sara Counihan
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Electric vehicles (EVs) are a hot topic in the convenience retailing industry with plenty of discussion around trends and opportunities. This week’s Convenience Matters podcast episode takes a different approach to the EV topic—the experience. What does the experience look like when people charge their EVs, and more granularly, what’s the experience like inside their EVs?
This week’s guest is Brent Gruber, senior director of global automotive at J.D. Power, the data analytics and consumer intelligence company. Gruber says that J.D. Power captures the voice of the EV customer and looks at all the different experiences and interactions they have with the vehicle—from the beginning when the customer decides to purchase an EV to the full ownership experience, which of course involves charging, both at home and in public.
“Overall, the experience has been relatively positive toward the idea of having an EV,” said Gruber, who added that although overall EV experience for users is positive, not every owner has a positive experience with the specific EV product they own. However, Gruber said that although the owner may not be completely thrilled with a particular EV product, EV owners do like the idea of owning an electric vehicle.
“One thing that we saw with our EVX ownership study was this high level of commitment to EVs. So, despite the experience that they have and how dissatisfying that may have been, it does not necessarily dissuade people from purchasing an EV again in the future. I think that’s really a key takeaway that people seem to be pretty sold on EVs,” said Gruber.
When it comes to EV charging behavior, 85% of people charge at home, according to Gruber, which doesn’t bode well to convenience stores who want that EV owner to visit their locations. However, J.D. Power data shows that if public charging is more readily available, convenient and cost effective, EV owners would consider charging in public.
“They need, and oftentimes want, to charge in public because of the level of convenience that offers,” said Gruber.
What EV owners want in an ideal public charging experience is first and foremost speed, said Gruber.
“But it’s not just a matter of speed, it’s also the combination of having things to do while you’re charging. Whether it’s fast charging or a slower level 2 charging, there’s still a certain amount of wait time,” said Gruber. “Whether it’s shopping or grabbing a bite to eat, they want to have that access to those amenities nearby.”
EV owners also want cost efficient charging, and if charging is free or heavily reduced, consumers are willing to overlook the speed and the convenience factor.
Other factors go into the ideal experience, including charger availability, but also EV customers need to be treated like fuel customers. The fuel customer has a canopy overhead to protect against the elements, and sometimes it’s connected to the convenience store portion and ushers the customer in. Many times, EV chargers are to the side of the business and are uncovered.
“We have to treat [EV drivers] as valued customers. We have to give them squeegees for the windshields, trash cans, canopies, a clear, safe path to walk from the charger to the store, a place to sit inside the store. We need to start accommodating a dwell time of 15 to 20 minutes for a customer that you want to become a repeat customer. And that may require a little higher CAPEX investment to locate the chargers in the ideal customer-centric location,” said John Eichberger, executive director, Fuels Institute, and co-host of this week’s episode.
Don’t miss this week’s episode, “Reimagining an EV Charging Experience,” and find what Gruber thinks the EV charging will look like five to 10 years down the road.
Each week a new Convenience Matters episode is released. With more than 300 episodes to choose from, the podcast can be heard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play and other podcast apps and YouTube and at www.conveniencematters.com. Episodes have been downloaded more than a quarter million times by listeners around the world.
Sara Counihan is contributing editor of NACS Daily and NACS Magazine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.