The Future of Gas Stations Might Return to Their Roots

The answer lies in how convenience stores will reimagine their business model.

May 14, 2021

Gas Station and Convenience Store

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—What will the gas stations of the future look like? It might entail a migration back to the service stations of the past with a futuristic twist, according to Brian Cooley in CNET.com’s Road Show.

NACS estimates that 120,000 convenience stores also sell fuel, constituting the vast majority of gas stations. In contrast, Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculated that by 2035, between 25% and 80% of gas stations could be unprofitable if they only rely on gasoline to drive sales. BCG predicts that by 2030, sales of electric vehicles will exceed combustion engine cars, citing California and Washington state’s plan to halt sales of new ICE vehicles by 2035 and 2030, respectively. Coupled with General Motors’ and Volvo’s plans to transform to pure electric brands by 2035 and 2030, respectively, EVs are beginning to be a threat to gas stations, Cooley wrote.

With more people permanently working from home, miles driven are dropping, further eroding sales of gasoline. While some gas stations also have car maintenance bays, EVs don’t need oil changes, for example.

“Beyond the changes in cars themselves are other pressures: Local bans on new or updated gas stations, and the expansion of food and meal delivery services that may connect people with those much more fuel-efficiently than all of us making trips in our own cars,” Cooley said.

BCG suggested several ways gas stations can revamp for the future, which included adding EV charging stations, digital ordering and mobile fueling. For example, Wawa recently installed its 50th EV charging site in Crystal River, Florida, and expects to be rewarded by the many installations by reaching over one million EV charging sessions by the end of May. Additionally, 7-Eleven incorporates a 7Rewards loyalty program and a 7-Eleven App in order to provide customers ways to save money and be alerted to special offers. Other ideas would be enhancing the experience with services like Amazon lockers, fast-causal foodservice and dark or ghost kitchens for food delivery options.

To read more about the ever-evolving incorporation of EVs and how they and other services such as last-mile delivery are impacting c-stores and how convenience stores can use these services to bring in more consumers, read “Weak Signals No More” in NACS Magazine.

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