A few days ago, we wrote about how Electrify America plans to create upscale lounges for electric car owners who need to charge their cars while away from home. Ever since the first gas stations emerged, the emphasis has been on getting drivers gassed up as quickly as possible so they could get back on the road quickly. Texaco (remember them?) used to promise its customers “snappy service.”
The key phrase in the paragraph above is “while away from home.” Electric cars are different than conventional cars. They can be charged anywhere there is an electrical outlet. A gasoline- or diesel-powered car cannot. In fact, 85% of all charging takes place at home. Except when longer journeys are required, an EV owner may never visit a commercial charging location.
An Electric Car Is Different
That makes the argument that an electric car takes too long to recharge is a false equivalency. Most of the time, all the charging it needs will be done at home while the owner is sleeping. A typical driver who goes only 25 to 30 miles a day will only plug in once or twice a week. Conventional car owners simply cannot enjoy that level of convenience. Over the course of a year, the driver of an electric car will likely spend far less time refueling than the driver of a conventional car will.
When charging away from home is required, though, it will involve being stationary for 20 minutes (if you drive a Tesla) or up to an hour (if you drive a Chevy Bolt). Starbucks sees an opportunity here. According to Fast Company, it is partnering with Volvo and Chargepoint to install EV chargers in its parking lots along a 1,350-mile route from Denver to Seattle, with stops available roughly every 100 miles. There will be a total of 60 DC fast chargers installed at 15 Starbucks locations along the route by the end of 2022, according to Reuters.
“It’s one of those charging deserts, so to speak. There aren’t too many charging stations available there,”says Michael Kobori, chief sustainability officer at Starbucks.
“This is pairing the idea of electric vehicle charging with the fact that, if you’re on a trip, you’re gonna stop in in the morning anyway to get your Starbucks, to get your beverage, to get your breakfast. And as you’re sitting there, getting ready for the day and planning out your route and checking out, your car is just charging,” he adds.
Volvo and Chargepoint will handle the installation at Starbucks stores in towns like Twin Falls, Idaho, and Uintah, Utah, navigating the fairly involved process of working with local utilities to set up new electrical service. In many areas, the chargers will also help fill a gap for local residents, not just travelers.
“This route goes through several of what are literally federal opportunity zones, economically distressed communities,” Kobori says. “And so we were also thinking as we looked at this, how do we make sure to bring the charging to those under served markets, so that will open them up as well to electric vehicles.”
In the pilot, Starbucks will test usage rates to help it decide whether it wants to expand the service nationally as part of its larger sustainability plan, which aims to make the company “resource positive,” which means capturing more carbon dioxide than it emits.
Someday, EV charging will be as fast as filling the gas tank. Until then, smart retailers like Starbucks are looking at people with money to spend camped out near their locations and asking, “How do we get those people to spend some of that money in our stores?” Expect other retailers to follow the Starbucks experiment closely, looking for business opportunities of their own.
The only constant in life is change and every change brings opportunity. Cumberland Farms was one of the first to recognize that, if you built an attractive facility, people would come inside and buy stuff when they stop for gas. Starbucks is taking that idea and applying it to the new world of electric cars. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.”
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