RESTON, Va. -- Interested in adding a charging station? You might want to check out what Volkswagen is doing.
The German automaker, once known for diesel, is rebuilding its reputation after the emissions scandal by investing in electric vehicles (EVs). As part of its settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it has promised to invest $2 billion over the next decade in zero-emission-vehicle infrastructure and consumer awareness, with more than $1 billion for national efforts and $800 million toward California alone.
Volkswagen created the subsidiary Electrify America to spearhead the spending and plan the rollout of EV charging stations. Leading the effort is Mark McNabb, who has spent 30 years in the automotive industry at a slate of manufacturers.
“When you see EVs and their potential, we have a chance to really change the industry forever,” McNabb, CEO of Electrify America LLC, Reston, Va., told CSP Fuels. “It’s an exciting opportunity.”
McNabb and Adam Cook, senior vice president of JLL, a Chicago-based firm conducting feasibility studies and siting locations on behalf of Electrify America, spoke with CSP Fuels about Electrify America’s EV charging plans and how convenience stores and gas stations fit into them.
Here are the details ...
Electrify America is installing the EV charging stations in investment cycles. By the end of the first national investment cycle in 2019, it plans to install more than 2,500 EV chargers at more than 450 sites at high-traffic corridors between cities and along highways. The stations will be available in configurations of four, six, eight or 10 chargers per site. The markets Electrify America is targeting include:
- Portland, Ore.
- Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego, Fresno, Los Angeles and San Jose, Calif.
- Raleigh, N.C.
- New York
- District of Columbia
The c-store advantage
Electrify America is paying for all costs related to the design, operation and maintenance of the charging stations, Cook said. Retailers, meanwhile, will have the opportunity to capture new customers, along with their dwell time and spend while their EVs are charging.
As hosts for charging sites, gas stations and convenience stores’ potential is unmistakable, McNabb said.
“There’s a nationwide network already out there—it’s already built, the infrastructure’s already there,” he said of the more than 150,000-location gas-station count. “It’s very visible, it’s lit well. In a lot of stations, they operate 24 hours a day.”
On the site level, Electrify America is prioritizing convenience.
“It really is the No. 1 driving factor,” Cook said. “This national and urban network strategy is pretty finitely designed. For it to work correctly, travelers have to be able to leverage chargers across the highway network, so these have to be placed at regular intervals.”
Other critical factors: lighting, safety, bathroom access and proximity to power.
With the time it takes to fully charge an EV running from 20 to 30 minutes, a strong retail offer on site is also key.
“Any type of retail component—especially quick-grab food items, small sundry shopping that come with c-store SKU profiles—that’s really aligned with this type of shopper,” Cook said.
For the retailer, there is a higher possibility of a potential sell. According to one survey, an EV driver has an 83% likelihood of making a purchase while waiting for his or her EV to charge, and four out of five EV drivers plan to make a purchase during their wait.
For fuel retailers looking to enter the EV charging business, Electrify America’s infrastructure could be an ideal opportunity, Cook said.
“It is truly a free amenity to the property that is then also maintained fully and upgraded fully by Electrify America,” he said. “The opportunity is really unique because it removes the element of cost and says, ‘Hey, we can do it right now. Why don’t we?’ ”
For more on Electrify America’s infrastructure rollout, see the December 2017 issue of CSP magazine.