Transforming gas stations into energy hubs

The market is switching to electric vehicles far faster than anyone expected. For roadside services that offer EV-charging, that’s a big opportunity.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming, big time. In just 20 years, more than 50 percent of new cars on roads worldwide will have an electric powertrain, researchers predict [1]. The scales are tipping fast: just three years ago, they expected that only around a third of new cars would be electric [2]. Improved technology, increased consumer demand and growing public awareness of environmental issues are bringing the date of the big EV-switch closer and closer all the time. In Norway, the future has arrived already; almost 60 percent of new cars on the road are now electric [3].

This rapid transformation poses a serious question for gas stations, service stops and other roadside businesses that need to attract motorists: how can they best capitalize on the electric vehicle revolution? And what other services can they offer to tempt EV owners to spend while they charge? Operators have a huge opportunity at their hands and should be preparing for the change.

This is the right time for first movers to transform their gas stations into energy hubs. The infrastructure and technology needed to give EV owners a fast and seamless charging experience already exists. It’s easy to fit. It’s scalable. And for gas station owners, it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd, build brand loyalty, future-proof their business and attract a new wave of consumers.

With the right infrastructure, the EV revolution brings instant wins and a long-term advantage

In the United States, a 2019 study investigated the habits and preferences of current and prospective EV owners. It asked participants what they would consider to be a “convenient” EV charging experience. Eighty-six percent said that using a fast-charging facility at a gas station or similar facility would be “completely” or “very” convenient [4].

And convenience is the key. To win over EV owners, gas stations must turn themselves into energy hubs that offer fast, easy-to-use and standards-based high power EV charging. However, that’s only possible if gas station owners have put the right electricity infrastructure in place. The good news is that the technology required to do this is already commercially available.

Gas stations, shopping malls and other venues that provide public parking can install — today — the electrical infrastructure they need to connect their EV chargers to the medium-voltage grid that is designed to offer a premium charging experience, which is customized for the user’s vehicle, preferences and use case. The business case is very straightforward: if EVs are not catered for, drivers will simply go elsewhere.

With the right electrical infrastructure in place, these new energy hubs can offer EV owners the charging speed and the price that suits them. They can also offer intelligent charging features such as the ability to monitor charging and even pay for the charge using a smartphone app [5/6]. Offering these kind of features builds convenience into the charging experience and is a great way to encourage customer loyalty.

Be future-ready with a scalable, intelligent solution

Today’s most advanced e-mobility electrical infrastructure is easy and quick to install, and because of its modular design it’s also highly scalable. If the right electrical infrastructure is in place from the word go, then operators can gradually expand their EV charging offering by adding additional modular infrastructure to increase the power output for faster, high-power needs [7].

Attract higher buying power

This advanced physical electrical infrastructure is not only flexible and scalable, but also provides a valuable contribution to the business today. It is an investment that gives gas stations and other businesses that offer parking to customers a competitive edge and makes them futureproof. Investing in the right EV infrastructure today is also likely to rapidly deliver returns because early adopters of EVs tend to be premium customers with discerning tastes and higher buying power. Operators that fail to introduce EV charging points now are set to lose out on this valuable customer demographic.

The fact that EV adoption is accelerating makes the business case for installing the right electrical infrastructure building blocks, which are modular and scalable, more compelling than ever.  Electric vehicle owners are a fast-growing segment of all drivers. Any business should want to attract them now and keep them coming back in the future.

Visit solutions.abb/e-mobility to learn how investment in electrification solutions today impacts the transport of tomorrow.

  1. https://edition.cnn.com/2019/05/15/business/electric-car-outlook-bloomberg/index.html
  2. https://about.bnef.com/blog/electric-vehicles-to-be-35-of-global-new-car-sales-by-2040
  3. https://www.npr.org/2019/04/02/709131281/electric-cars-hit-record-in-norway-making-up-nearly-60-of-sales-in-march
  4. https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/attach/2019/07/2019-EV-Survey.pdf
  5. https://new.abb.com/news/detail/7955/lidl-adopts-abb-fast-charging-technology-across-finland
  6. https://search-ext.abb.com/library/Download.aspx?DocumentID=9AKK107046A6237&LanguageCode=en&DocumentPartId=&Action=Launch
  7. ABB_EVI_US_Slides_201908-HF.pptx (slides 62 and 63)
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About the author

Brian C. Johnson

I am the Global Manager for ABB’s Packaging and Solutions product group. We develop products and integrated solutions, using technology from across the global ABB portfolio. These include compact secondary substations, eHouses, electro-mobility solutions, energy storage products, and packaging and electrical solutions across a variety of segments.  I have spent many years in ABB, with a primary focus in Medium and High Voltage solutions, where I have had the joy of working with many good people. I am excited to continue to provide support and satisfaction as our abilities continuously become more sophisticated in order to help our clients succeed.
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