CHICAGO -- Disruption is forcing major oil to retool the gas station for the future.
A variety of forces are shaping this evolution, according to The Wall Street Journal. They include electric vehicles (EVs), which are expected to trim U.S. gasoline demand up to 20% by 2035, according to energy research firm Wood Mackenzie, and tougher fuel efficiency standards. Meanwhile, automated vehicles and car-sharing could further scramble the current retail fuel model.
With those factors in mind, oil companies are testing a variety of technologies, services and offers to stay relevant in retail. Here are six potential features of the fueling station of the future ...
1. Alternative fuels
Major oil will be testing several alternatives to gasoline and diesel in both the United States and Europe in the coming months, according to the report.
Compressed (CNG) and liquefied (LNG) natural gas. Royal Dutch Shell PLC is testing LNG, a diesel alternative, at five locations in the United States along interstates, as well as four sites in the Netherlands. French major oil Total SA plans to install 350 natural-gas fueling sites in Europe within the next five years, after acquiring the third-largest natural-gas fueling provider in Europe.
EV charging. Royal Dutch Shell plans to add EV fast-charging stations at fueling sites in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, where the government is weighing a ban on the sale of fossil-fuel-powered vehicles beginning in 2025. Total SA is planning to add 300 charging stations in Europe. BP PLC, meanwhile, has been testing EV charging at 50 sites across the world.
Hydrogen. Total SA is planning 400 hydrogen stations in Germany by 2023. Shell already is testing the fuel in California, and recently announced plans to partner with Toyota on adding seven more hydrogen sites in the state.
2. High-octane fuel
As automakers introduce more vehicles with highly efficient, turbocharged engines to meet increasing fuel-efficiency standards around the world, oil companies are formulating high-octane fuels to help them meet their potential.
ExxonMobil engineers in New Jersey, for example, are developing a gasoline formulation that would help these turbocharged engines deliver the same acceleration as a large SUV with modest fuel economy, the Journal reported.
3. Mobile payment
BP is testing a mobile-payment app that aims to make the fuel buying process faster. Customers would select a gas station location, which type of fuel they want to buy and how much. The app would direct the user to an available pump at that site, already preset with their purchase specifications. The customer would then fill up and pay with a credit- or debit-card stored on the app. Shell is also reportedly looking at developing a mobile-payment app.
4. Online pickup lockers
5. Grocery delivery
MOL Group of Hungary is determining how to connect its retail offer to the autonomous vehicle and ride-sharing trends. Peter Ratatics, corporate center vice president, predicts a future only 10 to 15 years from now when MOL Group would run a fleet of autonomous vehicles that could pick up customers from work, for example, and already be loaded with preordered groceries.
6. On-demand fueling
Several app-based, on-demand fueling services have popped up in the past couple of years. Now Shell is testing an app-based fuel-delivery service in the Netherlands. Through the app, customers order a fill-up for their vehicle parked at home, work or another location, and may soon even be able to order coffee on demand as well.
“We try to disrupt ourselves,” said Istvan Kapitany, executive vice president of retail for Royal Dutch Shell. “Whatever is good for the consumers should be good for us.”