The transition to electric vehicles (EVs) isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s going to take global climate-focused policy pledges and announcements by both governments and vehicle manufacturers, according to a report by PDI Technologies. What can retailers do to prepare while the adoption of EVs is unfolding?
When EV drivers need to charge their vehicles, they’ll spend more time onsite than they do with a fuel-up, the report states, and retailers can benefit.
Even if retailers aren’t ready to install EV charging stations today, they can begin evaluating the requirements and opportunities, the report said.
PDI suggests assessing the physical infrastructure available to support fuel pumps and EV chargers. Retailers can also prepare by reviewing their tech systems to understand extensions and upgrades required for EVs. Learning about local zoning and permitting requirements, finding out if local power grids will support EV charging stations and checking the number of registered EVs in the area to evaluate market opportunity and return on investment are additional ways to prepare for what's to come.
This is a chance to re-evaluate the customer experience and how full-service EV charging could add value to each store visit, according to the report. Could retailers deliver food to waiting customers or provide cleaning and detailing services for EVs that are being charged?
When Will the Transition to EVs Happen?
Two of the biggest factors in determining how soon the energy transition will happen are the pace of technology innovation and the level of convenience that consumers experience. Both of these factors will depend greatly on advancements in battery capacity (the mileage range of an EV) and battery charging speeds, the report said.
Many consumers will only consider purchasing an EV if they have a fast, reliable charging option where they live. People who don’t own a home or have easy access to a shared station in an apartment building must rely on public charging stations. Unfortunately, the lack of public charging infrastructure is a clear challenge to EV adoption.
By 2040, 40% of global vehicles in use are projected to be electric, and by the mid-2040s, it’s projected to surpass 50%.
Industry projections call for 30 million charge ports needed globally by 2040, with nearly 5 million needed in the United States alone. Considering that there are fewer than 5 million charging points globally today, it’s easy to understand the enormous scale of that challenge and the significant investment required going forward.
Growth so Far
The United States experienced 70% growth in EV sales volume from 2022 to 2023, according to the PDI report. Even when accounting for a relatively small baseline, this represents significant growth, and annual EV sales in the U.S. are on track to surpass 1 million for the first time.
Even with projected long-term growth in EVs, convenience-store chains still must be prepared to support both internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs long and short term, according to the report.
Is Sustainability Enough for Consumers to Convert to EV?
PDI conducted a short survey of business owners to assess how much they prioritize sustainability and the energy transition to EVs as part of their business strategy in the next 12 to 24 months.
The results revealed that 79% of the survey participants either agreed or strongly agreed that preparing for EVs would be a priority, while only 21% disagreed or strongly disagreed.
This shows a growing number of consumers that are willing to pay more for a product or service if it has a positive environmental impact—even across regional and demographic boundaries.
Although retailers are willing to prepare for EVs, they still face a variety of challenges—and the economics need to make sense before they act. The top consideration for retailers moving forward with an EV strategy is evaluating the market need, with 79% of respondents pinpointing consumer demand as the key influencing factor. The next highest considerations include total cost of ownership and the ability to connect EV consumers with other offerings.
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