ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Sheetz, based in Altoona, Pennsylvania, calls itself the “mecca for people on the go” and operates 645 locations in Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, but recently, the c-store company has worked to offer more than just fuel for customers’ rides. Close to 14% of Sheetz locations offer electric vehicle charging through partnerships with Tesla Inc., Electrify America and EVgo, reports Bloomberg.
“We’ve been very early adopters of EV charging,” Trevor Walter, vice president of petroleum supply management, Sheetz, told Bloomberg. “We installed our ﬁrst EV chargers in Pennsylvania in 2012.”
Tesla-branded fast chargers, or Superchargers, make up 70% of the EV chargers at Sheetz. The author of the Bloomberg article took a road trip in a rented Tesla Model Y and charged up at Sheetz three times during the trip. At a Sheetz in Breezewood, Pennsylvania, she spent $9 to top off the Tesla’s battery and over $10 on treats from inside the store.
“Convenience stores see EV charging as an opportunity,” John Gartner, a senior director at the Center for Sustainable Energy in Colorado, told Bloomberg. “With EV charging, there’s longer ‘dwell times’ where people are spending more time in the store, and their chance to make money on things like food and drinks that have very high margins is greatly increased.”
Sheetz realized early on that how Americans fuel their vehicles is shifting.
“We work very closely with Tesla to install Tesla-branded chargers at our locations,” Walter told Bloomberg. “We work hand in hand with Tesla. Our real estate department works with their real estate department. We have biweekly calls with them.”
Sheetz started installing EV chargers a decade ago, which was the same year Tesla started deliveries of its ﬂagship Model S sedan.
“In the early days, at some of our ﬁrst locations in Pennsylvania, we’d have ﬁve or maybe 25 charging sessions a month,” Walter told Bloomberg. “You now have a lot more EVs coming onto the market.”
Sheetz reported that in April, it surpassed one million charging session a month.
Demand charges make it challenging for c-stores to turn a profit on charging, and when Tesla users charge up at a Sheetz location, they pay Tesla for the charge, not Sheetz. The c-store is betting that during the half hour or so it takes to charge an EV, customers will come into the store and buy a drink or order food.
The Biden Administration is planning to build a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers, investing $5 billion to fund the deployment of EV chargers along the nation’s highways.
In January, Walter testified before Congress on behalf of NACS at a hearing about EV investments and rural America. Walter made the point that consumers are already in the habit of refueling at stores like Sheetz, so the idea of going to a new, one-oﬀ charging station with no amenities doesn’t make much sense.
Walter also shared several barriers to developing a competitive market that exist today that make it difficult for fuel retailers to offer EV charging to their customers.
Sheetz told Bloomberg that the retailer is “future-prooﬁng” most locations to be able to add charging and is considering Sheetz-branded charging.
“We want to help EV customers navigate the road, and have an opportunity to charge,” Walter told Bloomberg. “We’re agnostic in terms of the fuel we sell, whether it be traditional fuels or electricity.”