C-Store Demand for EV Infrastructure Is Growing, Says Owl Services

CSP speaks with tech provider about what convenience stores need to consider when investing in electric vehicle charging stations
Owl Services
Photograph: Shutterstock

As electric vehicles (EVs) continue to rise in popularity among drivers and fleets, Owl Services, a design, engineering and construction service provider to the petroleum and clean energy markets, works directly with convenience stores and other partners to provide the latest EV infrastructure and deploy reliable charging solutions.

CSP spoke with Dave Patrick, vice president of emobility at Troy, Michigan-based Owl Services, about the future of electric vehicles.

Q: How is Owl involved with EV integration? How does the company work with retailers and equipment manufacturers?

A: We work to create and execute comprehensive infrastructure plans for each project, encompassing site preparation, permitting, electrical contracting, capacity planning, power optimization, installation and fleet conversion services. We also offer support services to ensure charging stations maintain their reliability for day-to-day operation.

Q: What is your opinion/outlook on the EV charging business for convenience stores? Should they all invest? Why or why not?

A: Ultimately, each retailer will have perspective of which fueling options their customers are demanding and which fueling technologies they should be investing in; however, in light of recent federal and state programs aimed at supporting EV adoption and infrastructure development, the Owl Services team has seen a significant uptick in demand for EV infrastructure by convenience stores nationally, and we expect these numbers to continue increasing as EV adoption grows. We’ve also seen a heightened focus on service and uptime for EV chargers in recent years as convenience stores work to provide the best experience possible for their customers.

Q: What kind of technology can retailers take advantage of involving EV charging stations?

A: EV technology has come a long way in a very short amount of time—particularly when it comes to high-speed chargers. To ensure a quick and seamless charging experience for their customers, we are seeing a growing demand among convenience stores for faster chargers. We’re seeing many retailers invest in the fastest charging technology possible—most often installing chargers that can provide 200-400 kilowatts of power.

Q: What are some EV infrastructure challenges?

A: There are a variety of challenges in play for convenience stores that are looking to invest in EV infrastructure. The most common challenge businesses experience during the installation process includes long lead times on switchgear and utilities.

Another challenge we’ve heard from convenience stores has stemmed from the recent weights and measures adoption of calibration testing we’ve seen in California via the California Division of Measurement Standards’ expansion of its measuring tool requirements under the California Type Evaluation Program (CTEP) to include all publicly available AC and DC charging stations. Owl Services has an extensive history of working with weights and measures testing nationwide to ensure our customers are positioned to meet these requirements.

Convenience stores have also been facing challenges around ensuring the overall reliability of their chargers and keeping their network up and running to better service their customers that drive EVs. As the energy transition occurs, it's important that EV drivers feel secure knowing that the EV charger they pull up to will work when they need it most.

Q: How can retailers address these challenges?

A: While there are many challenges that may arise during EV installation projects, the majority of these issues can be overcome by retailers if they opt to work with partners that have a longstanding and proven history in EV and fueling installation.

Convenience stores should account for long lead items when planning their installation projects—which can range from six months to two years for most businesses. Engaging with partners early in the installation process can drastically help to reduce this lead time for convenience stores as it allows for proper planning, better program management and early identification of potential issues.

To ensure the reliability of their EV network, convenience stores should contact a servicing partner that understands the demand and responsiveness it takes to meet tight service level agreements (SLAs) and that has the reach and resources required to accomplish this.

Q: What are some best practices that you can suggest for convenience stores that are looking to install EV chargers?

A: When installing EV charging stations, we recommend that convenience stores carefully consider the placement of their new chargers to ensure that the technology will help to provide the best experience possible to customers—including close proximity to the store itself, considering pull-in or pull-through charging stations and protection from the weather and other elements via an overhead canopy, which can also help to extend the lifetime of the charging station itself. We also recommend increasing the number of dispensers on-site to help reduce the costs of the price per stall and to help increase efficiency with volume.

Q: What should retailers know about installing and maintaining on-site EV chargers?

A: It is crucial for retailers to work with installation and maintenance partners that are experts in the field. For maintenance, it’s also important to ensure that they’re working with partners that quickly communicate any issues in real time that may impact the day-to-day performance of their EV charging unit. When issues pop up, it’s critical that businesses seek out service providers who understand the risks and rigorous safety measures required for fuel retailers and who are certified to perform the work.

To provide one example of how EV-specific training differs from that of a broader electrician, Owl Services offers a robust training program for our technicians—in coordination with the top original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of EV chargers—to ensure they are familiar with the specific brand of charger they will be encountering on the job. This helps to speed up the overall service time and reduces errors.

Q: Do you think the United States needs more chargers, more maintenance on existing chargers or both?

A: Both are needed. The U.S. needs more chargers installed to help reduce range anxiety for EV drivers. At the same time, existing chargers require regular maintenance to ensure they are as reliable as fueling stations. Customers need to have assurance that EV chargers will work when they need them and it will take a combination of these factors to help make this happen.

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