Retail Mindshift

Plan for a future transition from a fuel provider to an energy provider.

October 04, 2019

ATLANTA—Forward-thinking convenience retailers are well-positioned to serve and capitalize on the fast-growing but still-niche electric vehicle (EV) market—if they take steps to ready infrastructure for fast-charging and equip their stores with the amenities that EV drivers expect. Those are some of the key takeaways from Thursday’s education session: “EVs: Shifting from Fuel Provider to Energy Provider.”

“At NACS, we want to make sure that convenience stores continue to be the transportation energy source for our customers,” said John Eichberger, executive director, Fuels Institute. Eichberger was joined by Glen Stancil, president, eMotive Solutions, and Karl Doenges, Internet of Things consultant, FSG Smart Building.

There were 27,137 EV charging stations in the United States as of August, up 37% from 19,826 EV charging stations in November 2018. Still, there’s a huge lack of infrastructure.

When considering charging stations, DC fast chargers are a must to maintain the “fast and quick” model of convenience, Stancil said.

EV charging requires a significant amount of infrastructure—switchgear equipment and transformers, for example—and is more space intensive than gasoline fueling.

“You’ll need about 4 ½ parking spaces for four spaces of charging,” Stancil said.

Although capital and operating costs vary by location, expenses run about $150,000 to install one high-speed 150 KW charger. Once installed, gross margins are high. With gasoline sales, stations can see a fast clip of customers filling up but are making less money per session per fill-up than they’d make on EV charging.

With EVs, retailers need four charging sessions per day to achieve monthly cashflow breakeven, but occupancy limits use to eight to nine sessions a day. The upside is that EV drivers will stay longer on site than fuel customers.

IoT consultant Doenges urged retailers to think of EVs as a holistic offer. To rent charging time, drivers will need to use a loyalty app, which can be used to tailor coffee offers, for example, to get them into the store.

Early EV adopters are usually more affluent, with higher expectations of their store visits.

“Cleanliness is absolutely paramount,” Doenges said. “They want the clean bathroom; they want the aesthetics. It’s not the cokes and smokes. [The EV customer] wants to sit in a nice area, read his newspaper, have a cup of coffee.”