Will Gas Stations Convert Into Electric Car Charge Stations?
As electric vehicles continue to gain popularity, many wonder what will happen to the hundreds of thousands of gas stations across the country. With over 145,000 gas stations in the United States alone, their potentially uncertain future raises questions about how and where EV drivers will charge their vehicles. However, while the rise of EVs spells change for gas stations, it also presents new opportunities.
Many experts predict that most existing gas stations will convert into EV charging stations. This transition makes sense, as gas stations already have prime locations along major highways and arterials where charging demand will be highest. Their large parking areas also readily accommodate charging infrastructure. Perhaps most importantly, gas stations offer amenities like convenience stores, restaurants, and restrooms that give EV drivers activities while they wait for their vehicles to charge.
Converting existing gas stations into EV charging locations has several advantages over building new charging plazas from scratch. Gas stations already have the necessary space, parking, and grid connections that installing charging infrastructure requires. Repurposing current sites is also more cost effective and faster than acquiring new land and building facilities. Minimal construction allows gas station owners to transition pieces of their property over to EV charging without major disruptions to their business.
Installing high-powered DC fast chargers capable of adding hundreds of miles of range in 20 minutes or less is critical for gas stations to succeed as EV charging destinations. While Level 2 chargers may suffice for topping off a charge during lengthy stays, fast charging is necessary to serve travelers needing to minimize charging time. Fortunately, new technologies like battery-buffered systems now allow ultra-fast charging using a site’s existing electrical service, overcoming previous infrastructure barriers.
Early evidence indicates that becoming EV charging locations can be highly beneficial for gas stations. Charging takes considerably more time than pumping gas, giving drivers more opportunity to patronize on-site businesses. Some stations report that over half of EV drivers purchase food or convenience items while their vehicles charge. Additional revenue from charging service fees also helps offset losses from declining gas sales.
For gas station owners, investing in EV charging infrastructure now allows them to build a loyal customer base as EV adoption grows. Partnering with charging networks like Electrify America and EVgo likewise makes their stations visible to drivers through station locator apps. Promoting sustainability and future-focused technology also helps gas stations stand out from competitors still relying solely on petroleum fuels.
While converting gas stations promises an easier transition to widespread EV charging, it is not the only option. Retailers like Walmart, Target and IKEA are installing chargers to attract customers, as are hotels, apartment complexes and workplaces. Municipalities are adding charging ports at parking meters, transit stations, parks and other public venues. Independent charging plazas dedicated solely to EV charging are also emerging, especially along highway corridors.
Ultimately, a mix of converted gas stations, retail locations, public charging and dedicated charging plazas will together provide the expansive, ubiquitous charging network needed to support an all-electric transportation future. Gas stations with their prime sites and existing facilities will likely form the backbone of this new charging ecosystem. Their ability to reinvent themselves and adapt to changing technologies will allow gas stations to remain vital community fixtures in the coming electric vehicle era.
While gas stations converting to EV charging holds much promise, owners also face real challenges in making the transition. As demand for gasoline decreases over time, gas sales may no longer be enough to sustain stations without adding charging revenue. However, installing high-powered EV charging infrastructure requires major electrical upgrades at most sites.
With few gas stations having existing capacity to support ultra-fast 350+ kW charging, significant investment is needed in new service lines, transformers, and other components. Permits must be secured, trenches dug, and construction coordinated – a complex and potentially costly process. Outdated sites may also need reconfiguring to accommodate new charger layouts as traditional fuel islands become obsolete.
Gas station owners must weigh installing future-proof 800V+ ultra-fast charging systems against less expensive 400V fast chargers that may soon become outdated as vehicle charging speeds increase. They also face uncertainty about what types of connectors EV drivers will need – CCS, CHAdeMO, and Tesla’s proprietary connector are all commonly used now. Too few chargers leads to long waits during peak periods, while underutilized chargers are a poor investment.
Competing profitably as an EV charging location also brings challenges. While charging takes more time than fueling, drivers do not necessarily spend much on ancillary purchases. Many simply wait in their vehicles rather than visiting the convenience store. Charging service fees collected may not provide gas-level revenue, while electricity costs eat into profits.
Despite these hurdles, most industry experts believe that investing to transform gas stations into charging hubs remains the best adaptation strategy. Financial incentives, utility demand charge reductions, and funding programs can help mitigate upgrade costs. Turnkey charging solutions from experienced vendors simplify deployment as well. With thoughtful planning and partnerships, gas stations can overcome the challenges and embrace their pivotal role in powering the coming electric transportation revolution.
Gas stations possess inherent advantages that make them ideal sites for converting into EV charging locations. The stations’ prime highway-adjacent sites put chargers exactly where high-speed travelers need them most. This will become even more critical as EV adoption rises and drivers need convenient, reliable public charging options for long trips. Established truck stops along major freight routes are similarly well-positioned to serve electrified commercial vehicles.
In urban areas, local gas stations already populate conveniently along commuter corridors and near residential neighborhoods. Familiar locations allow these businesses to remain community staples by adding charging suited for local drivers’ needs. Signage and fuel canopy structures readily lend themselves to rebranding for EV charging as well.
Repurposing gas stations’ existing facilities offers cost and time savings compared to alternatives like new retail charging plazas. Stations already have essentials like parking, lighting, restrooms, and grid connections that installing charging requires. Large convenience stores, restaurants, and other amenities make charging stops more enjoyable by giving drivers activities while they wait.
Gas stations’ roomy layouts can accommodate dedicating premium spaces for charging without losing fuel operations. Scalable charging deployments allow incrementally repurposing pumps and islands for chargers as demand rises. This flexibility helps manage the long transition period where gas and electric vehicles will coexist on roads.
Eventually, gas station properties could be redeveloped entirely around EV charging. But for now, their locations, infrastructure and amenities give gas stations natural advantages as EV charging hubs over other retail or public charging options. Capitalizing on these strengths will be key to gas stations’ adaptation and continued success.
While gas station conversions will form the backbone of a comprehensive public EV charging network, relying solely on them would leave gaps in serving all drivers’ needs. To enable the mass adoption of EVs, charging must be conveniently accessible where people live, work, shop and play – not just along travel routes.
Workplace and multi-family housing charging will be especially important for those who lack home charging access. Charging mandates for new construction and incentives for adding charging to existing buildings can aid adoption. Enabling efficient sharing of chargers among workplace colleagues, apartment dwellers, and the public also maximizes limited charging resources.
On-street charging integrated into lamp posts, parking meters, and curbside drop lots can provide options for urban residents without driveways or garages.
Metro areas are beginning to standardize charger permitting and install thousands of such ports to serve their dense populations.
Destination venues like hotels, restaurants, malls, stadiums and tourist sites installing charging can capture EV drivers’ business. Level 2 charging adequate for longer stays fits naturally at locations where people will be parked for extended time periods. Big-box retailers and grocery stores adding a handful of chargers see boosts in customer visits and purchases.
Dedicated, high-powered charging plazas situated along highway routes will also emerge. These EV-only facilities cater specifically to enabling convenient long-distance travel. Truck stop electrification and electric big rig fast charging banks will likewise grow to serve commercial vehicles.
A distributed, diverse charging ecosystem inclusive of workplaces, retail, tourism, public locations and dedicated charging hubs will ultimately be needed. Gas stations will form the primary fast charging sites given their inherent advantages. But investing in charging infrastructure across all location types and demographics is necessary to make the mass adoption of EVs possible nationwide.
A key consideration for gas stations and other charging locations is installing equipment capable of meeting both current and future EV charging needs. With vehicle charging speeds and battery capacities continually improving, today’s cutting-edge systems risk becoming outdated within just a few years.
Current leading-edge EVs like the Lucid Air and upcoming models from Tesla, Mercedes and others charge at speeds up to 350 kW on 800-volt electrical systems. Yet early fast charging standards support only 50-150 kW charging on 400 volts. Owners must decide whether to install future-proof high-power systems now or opt for lower-power, lower-cost chargers that may soon be inadequate.
Power sharing technology that dynamically distributes power between multiple chargers as demand fluctuates can provide a balanced approach. Mixing a few ultra-fast 800V+ chargers to serve next-gen EVs along with somewhat slower 400V chargers for today’s models maximizes