Will EV Charging Help or Hurt Convenience Stores?

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A recent article at Retail Wire asks an important question: will EV charging be good for convenience stores, or will it hurt them? I’ve seen EV fans (including myself) opine on this topic, with some saying that they’ll help, while others think it will be the end of convenience stores. But, I hadn’t read much on it from the perspective of the convenience store industry, so we may be missing out.

One possible upside is that it could help offset the loss of traffic stores have seen. Gas sales are declining, and not due to EVs. More fuel efficient vehicles are a factor, as are greater vehicle ranges (which tend to hurt rural convenience stores more). Adding chargers should bring in new people, or at least help convenience store owners hang onto their existing customers who make the switch, right?

Another big advantage to EV charging is that people have to stay around for longer. Instead of gassing up, peeing, buying a soda and a snack, and then hitting the road, people have to stay for 20-45 minutes in most cases. This leaves room for convenience store operators to offer more premium services, like a small cafe or a nicer lounge-type environment.

But, the gas station model of vehicle fueling faces stiff competition from many other kinds of stores that are putting in charging. The article mentions Subway, Taco Bell, and Starbucks as companies that are horning in on the action. Starbucks in particular is already set up to offer a better experience for EV drivers who are stuck there for longer. Walmart and Sam’s Club are also a major player in the space, as Walmart moves to do its own charging network on top of existing partnerships with charging companies like Electrify America.

At the same time, there may be room for growth in EV charging for the C-store and the competition. The article cites an S&P Global Mobility study that predicts a need for EV charging to grow by 8x or more to keep up with anticipated growth. That’s only for 40% of vehicles going electric, so even more growth will be needed during the 2030s. It’s also true that most EV drivers already believe that convenience stores need to have an EV charging station, so it’s natural to provide one.

The article also cites a study that gathered valuable information from store owners and executives themselves. Most find it to be important already, and a little less than half are planning on expanding their offerings. Store owners are also generally very confident that they need to improve the store’s offerings to better serve EV drivers.

My Thoughts On This

What we may see here is that convenience stores are about to go through a sifting process. Stores that only offer “hit and run” services from a tiny cinderblock building probably won’t be attractive enough to EV drivers to be seen as a good place to stop. These stores seem like they’re likely to get eaten by other businesses, like Starbucks and Taco Bell. But, convenience stores that already offer expanded services or who do that soon enough will probably be a very attractive place for EV drivers to hang out.

Featured image by Jennifer Sensiba.

 


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Jennifer Sensiba

Jennifer Sensiba is a long time efficient vehicle enthusiast, writer, and photographer. She grew up around a transmission shop, and has been experimenting with vehicle efficiency since she was 16 and drove a Pontiac Fiero. She likes to get off the beaten path in her "Bolt EAV" and any other EVs she can get behind the wheel or handlebars of with her wife and kids. You can find her on Twitter here, Facebook here, and YouTube here.

Jennifer Sensiba has 1886 posts and counting. See all posts by Jennifer Sensiba