OAKBROOK TERRACE, Ill. -- As Tesla and Chevy ready their mass-market electric vehicles (EVs), convenience-store retailers are positioning themselves to serve the next wave of EV drivers by installing charging stations.
La Crosse, Wis.-based Kwik Trip Inc., which has installed more than two dozen 110-volt outlets (Level 1 charging, providing a full charge in about 22 hours), is dedicated to EV charging and ready for a potential upgrade as the market expands. Kum & Go LC, West Des Moines, Iowa, has tested Level 2 chargers, which provide a full charge in about 8 hours.
Other chains are jumping straight to Level 3 DC Fast Charging stations. While these chargers are considerably more expensive—costing up to $100,000 each, according to EV coalition Plug In America—they provide a mostly full charge in about 30 minutes.
Four of the more notable c-store entrants include:
- Spinx. This May, The Spinx Co. Inc., Greenville, S.C., will unveil its first of seven Level 3 charging sites at a store in Greenville. Five of the sites, which Spinx chose based on their traffic counts and closeness to highways, will be in the upstate market, with the remaining two in the Columbia and Charleston markets. The more than 200-store chain first tested the EV waters in 2011 with Level 1 and 2 charging stations at five sites in North Carolina. The Spinx sites are part of Nissan’s “No Charge to Charge” program, which provides qualifying Nissan Leaf owners with 24 months of free 30-minute fast charges at participating public fast-charging sites.
- Royal Farms. Baltimore-based chain Royal Farms is building on its fresh, fast and green credentials by installing a network of DC Fast Chargers at 15 of its Maryland sites, funded in part by a state grant that aims to build a charging corridor stretching east to west. Currently, a dozen of Royal Farms’ charging stations are operational, with the remainder poised to go online this year. The chain also has a DC Fast Charger in Ridley Park, Pa., and two Level 2 chargers at a site in Bridgeville, Del. It plans to build out a Level 3 network in Delaware over the next two years by an additional five sites, Thomas Ruszin, fuel and environmental leader, recently told CSP.
- Ricker’s. Ricker Oil Co., Anderson, Ind., which has more than 50 Ricker’s stores throughout the state of Indiana, also partnered with Nissan on its No Charge to Charge program to install nine Level 3 chargers at stores in the Indianapolis area. The charging stations first came online in March 2015. “The fuel slate that we sell is changing,” Jay Ricker, Ricker’s founder, said at the grand opening of the sites. “We are a fuel-agnostic company. Whatever our customers want, we will provide.”
- Sheetz. In 2014, Altoona, Pa.-based Sheetz Inc. installed DC Fast Chargers at five sites in Pennsylvania to develop a charging corridor between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh. In their first six months of operation, the chargers were used about 400 times, Tarah Arnold, public relations manager, told CSP in 2015. Sheetz has incorporated seating areas in all of its stores that feature the charging stations. The more than 500-store chain has had enough success with the chargers that is exploring the option of expanding the network.