Cars

Published on November 18th, 2015 | by Kyle Field

35

What I Miss Most About Gas Stations

November 18th, 2015 by  

The other day, I was driving down the main street in town in my Leaf and I had an overwhelming desire to stop at a gas station. I really just wanted to pull in, and it wasn’t out of nostalgia, a jelly donut, or for a cup of coffee. I didn’t know the cashier or need to get cigarettes (I don’t even smoke!) but rather, for service. Gas stations are a place where cars were loved on.

shutterstock_229141027

While stopping in for gas, we could conveniently get a car wash on the way out, air up the tires (this, in fact, was the pressing concern for me), grab an air freshener, and clean the windscreen. Occasionally, we could even pony up the extra quarters for a nice vacuum, though with small children, it is often a futile effort to suck out the small snacks spilled everywhere… along with a small toy or two… but nonetheless necessary.

It was a strange thought, and not just a passing one. I believe we do have a rift forming in our society somewhere between the gas stations and the Starbucks’ of the world where an EV service station will make TONS of sense. The best way my brain can shape this up today with elements that will last long enough to withstand the dynamics of today’s broken EV charging infrastructure is to install a LARGE electrical infrastructure that can handle massive flows (think 20+ cars on DC fast charging at 150 amp draw each) paired with a starbucks / truck stop / food place. Focusing on a large electrical infrastructure means the investment is not insignificant, though strategically locating stations with large existing utility installations could mitigate this to a large extent.

ShutterstockBuilding the infrastructure decouples the chargers from the charging standard, and with DC fast chargers under $10,000 each, it’s a venture anyone can raise capital for. This approach buys the entrepreneur a captive audience… 30 minutes of dedicated time to sell them whatever you desire (okay, whatever they desire). Want to hand wash their car while it’s charging? I think this can be done safely, sounds good! Want to air up their tires? Great! Change the brake fluid (the one recurring service item on EVs)? No problem. Selling coffee, donuts, bagels, and even meals becomes a no-brainer.

Just give us the keys and we’ll get you charged up and moved to a non-charging spot, ready for your day. As a dual EV family, I can’t say that we truly miss gas stations because they are nasty — there’s no denying it. Nobody really likes them… except maybe the people that profit from them. But it’s tough to deny the convenience they offered. They are a finely honed sales and service experience that EV owners miss out on… and that presents a huge opportunity. So, yeah, I miss gas stations… heh.


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About the Author

I'm a tech geek passionately in search of actionable ways to reduce the negative impact my life has on the planet, save money and reduce stress. Live intentionally, make conscious decisions, love more, act responsibly, play. The more you know, the less you need. TSLA investor. Tesla referral link: http://ts.la/kyle623



  • Jason Willhite

    Kind of along the same lines, and this is going to sound weird, but if and when everything goes electric I am going to miss the smell of diesel. It’s probably a nostalgia thing and no I’m not addicted to the smell. It’s the smell of big city, delivery trucks/cab and bumper to bumper traffic. And also the smell of diesel jet fuel. Those smells just bring back memories…. but no I won’t the gas when we stop using it.

    • Kraylin

      Good news for you, aviation fuel isn’t likely to go away so you can still smell that jet fuel at the nearest major airport =)

      • Bob_Wallace

        Or you could just buy a quart of kerosene and huff it from time to time…. ;o)

  • If Tesla has anything to do with it, Gas stations will become hot swappable battery exchange centers. Change your battery in 90 seconds! Word is out that’s not fast enough and they are working on getting that time down to 20 seconds or less. That’s nearing racecar pit times.

    • jeffhre

      If Tesla customer reactions remain true to form – the swap stations will continue to be unused curiosities – and eventually exist only in automotive museums.

    • wattleberry

      They’ll be bringing in forecourt speed limiters next! Time and tech devs will tell.

  • Kyle Field

    So this happened tonight…
    https://goo.gl/photos/KETMfLA9Xa86A9vH7

    • Ivor O’Connor

      lol

  • Ronald Brakels

    Self inflating tyres of one form or another have been around for at least 73 years. Electric cars and their lack of service station visits might provide the impetus for them to go mainstream.

    • Kyle Field

      This is another fantastic insight. I’m all for this…c’mon elon…let’s do it! Might be worth throwing a tweet his way to see if he responds…

      • Kyle Field

        Actually…I was kind of thinking airless tires when you said this. Not sure if self inflating is a better solution or not: http://static01.nyt.com/images/2013/01/06/automobiles/06AIR1/06AIR1-articleLarge.jpg

        • Ronald Brakels

          Airless tyres are another way to do it. Self inflating tyres or central inflation tyres can have their pressure adjusted to suit different road surfaces, but this isn’t so important for vehicles that rarely leave sealed roads.

          • mike_dyke

            How are these tyres on punctures? I’ve just recently had to replace two tires due to driving over screws left in the road – still lots of tread left, but not repairable.

          • Ronald Brakels

            Well, central inflation tyres are “normal” tyres, but they are usually big and tough “normal” tyres because they are used on things like logging trucks and Soviet military vehicles. But if self inflating tyres are used on electric vehicles I doubt they’ll go for the expensive of a central system and instead each tyre will individually maintain its pressure.

            Actually, I wonder if car dealerships are the reason why self inflating or airless tyres have not taken off? As a matter of routine, car dealerships under inflate tyres to give cars taken for test drives a smoother ride. Cars that have tyres that are always properly inflated, or always of fuel economical firmness in the case of airless tyres, would be at a disadvantage in the smooth ride department.

  • Waiting to be bribed

    How about bringing back the A&W drive in, with each spot having a charger?

    • Kyle Field

      great idea. lots of opportunity here…can’t wait to see how it all plays out. I think offering a full service model with competitive pricing would be a great start at luring people in. The other services would put it over the top.

  • TedKidd

    It is going to be very interesting to see if there is a place for these stations once most people are getting most of their energy at home or at work, and most cars have 200+ miles of range.

    I suspect these cars will also become part of grid distributed resources. So they will be connected when not in use because the demand and capacity are quite valuable resources. This will further reduce the need for stopping at a station for energy.

    Will they try to make money on the energy sale? Will they provide the energy as a loss leader? Will they offer monthly fee energy clubs?

    • Kyle Field

      Not sure. I could see it either way…but there will still be people traveling long distances (like me tomorrow to LA and around town then back Friday night). I could do it on one charge (w/200mi battery) but it might be nice to stop in and top up. I would gladly pay retail pricing (which they could make money on if they purchase in bulk @ wholesale) and go in to grab a coffee or a bite similar to how many people do at wawa or AMPM today.

  • Dragon

    It would be nice to have a windshield cleaner at the chargers. Hand car wash done with recycled water? Sure. Tire pressure? That should really only need to be done every couple months so I got a home compressor but I guess if it were available at places I often charge at I wouldn’t have bothered with the home compressor. Then again, I never got in to using compressors at gas stations and I’m not quite sure why.

    I do think most charger installers are already trying to locate them near restaurants and bathrooms.

    • Tom Capon

      NRG can barely keep the chargers functional. What makes you think the vacuum or air compressor would be much better?

      Yes! An EV charger without a restroom nearby is an unfortunate surprise.

      • Kyle Field

        Having a station with a full service model built around exceptional, full service would encourage them to keep the chargers running. NRG is just edging into the market and it’s probably all a write off considering how dang expensive the DC fast chargers are to install (today). Also, if there were 20, having 1 down wouldn’t be the end of the world.

      • Michael B

        I think you mean ‘is a fortunate surprise.’. That, or ‘is, unfortunately, a surprise.’. Sorry, can’t help myself. 😉

  • Tim

    Very good article! Thanks. I’ve thought about this concept before.

    I think these service stations need a brand that can be seen from a great distance – similar to how McDonald’s rose to prominence with their golden arches on a tall pole. They became ubiquitous so people started to remember where they have seen them. How a bout a giant kelly green lightning bolt on a pole. There are way more charging stations in the US than McDonald’s but it’s not a conscious fact in our collective conscious because we drive past them and don’t see them. Apps work but there’s nothing like teaching people with repetition.

    I thought of the vacuum cleaner idea before too. Each charging pedestal needs one. That way you can get ridiculously low charge rates – maybe even offer the first 10 kWh free. Also, there needs to be many more pedestals than customers so there’s never a line – which means space. I think this may lead to charging stations springing up in mall parking lots on their periphery. Plus you capture mall shoppers.

    • Calamity_Jean

      “How a bout a giant kelly green lightning bolt on a pole.”

      Sounds like the perfect symbol. Copyright it, quick! Then your can collect a dime from every one of the millions of charging stations that are going to be springing up along the highways.

  • wattleberry

    When battery exchange has become established, those same filling stations will have been converted to their new role, retaining the same facilities as now, just sans fumes and fire risks.
    How civilised.

    • Tom Capon

      No one will pay for a battery swap when a) their 200-mile battery charges in the time it takes to eat lunch, or b) their graphene-laced battery charges fully in 5 minutes regardless of capacity.

      What the gas stations DO need to do to survive is replace their fuel tanks with stationary batteries so they can provide those 5-minute charges without breaking the bank from demand charges. Put enough used EV batteries underground and the required electrical service upgrades will be quite reasonable.

  • Martin

    There are some places already (even in Canada) that have free charging while you stop in for a meal/drink.
    Now add some of the other stuff and you are in business.

    • Kyle Field

      Exactly. There is a small market for this now but as it ramps up over the next few years, it will explode with those who innovate quickly earning share…and business.

    • Calamity_Jean

      Just don’t put the charging station next to a bar. >>HIC<<

  • JamesWimberley

    The rise of the ICE motor car in the USA had an early icon in Route 66, the first proper transcontinental road for cars. You can still buy sounerit mugs and baseball caps if you take it. Tesla could try to rebrand it it with supercharger stations, or invent a new one – “route 77”.

    • Kyle Field

      Hah! That would be great “Tesla – the new classic car.”

      • Kraylin

        Thanks for the article. I like the idea of some sort of ‘Valet” service at a large charging facility. It would coordinate the stop well without the annoyance of waiting for a charging spot which I fear will be a problem at popular spots in the future.

        • Bob_Wallace

          In the future your EV will drop you off at a restaurant of your choice, take itself to the charger, and pick you up when you’re finished eating.
          If needed your windshield will be cleaned, interior vacuumed, and tire pressure corrected while the car is charging. Just leave your trash in a RFID disposal bag on the passenger floorboard.

  • Roger Lambert

    Yes – if I was a restaurateur, I would be very bullish about EV’s!

  • Ivor O’Connor

    Great article. I’ll be thinking about pieces of it all day.

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