The year is 2030. On your usual morning commute to work, the flashing light on the dashboard of your electric vehicle indicates the filling station is likely your next stop. After pulling into the forecourt, you plug your car into a charging point and pop inside the architecturally crisp building for your morning coffee and a freshly made bagel. It’s a sunny spring day and sitting outside for a few minutes in the free WiFi courtyard isn’t a bad idea. Just as you’re finishing your breakfast, your phone buzzes to notify you that your car is fully charged. Time to head to work.
Ten years into the future, as the need for renewable power sources is rapidly increasing, the likelihood of a scenario such as the above becomes more and more imminent for many of us.
Countries such as France and the UK are already putting in place strategies to reduce and even cease the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040, instead opting for a path dominated by renewable power.
These alternative fuels will be a key influencer of when and where we fill up, threatening the core relationship between petrol stations and everyday drivers. Given that vehicles will run on a mix of power sources – electricity, natural gas/CNG, petrol, diesel or hydrogen – it’s imperative that fuel retailers and oil companies devise new strategies to use their real estate. With EVs predominantly being charged at home, and quite possibly shops, gyms or even workplaces offering charging facilities in the future, there will need to be more compelling reasons for consumers to visit filling stations.
Traditional oil companies will either divest completely or devise new economic models for their sites and use filling stations as an opportunity for innovation. Real differentiators that make a genuine improvement to the customer’s overall experience will be the key to survival, with compelling services such as fast charging, speedy WiFi, quality dining and a mixture of other consumer services.
"Traditional oil companies will either divest completely or devise new economic models for their sites and use filling stations as an opportunity for innovation."
Furthermore, filling stations may gain their edge by providing express facilities that can fully charge electric cars in a matter of minutes, reassuring drivers about the availability of charging points on long journeys as well as offering a quicker alternative to charging at home.
Today, a typical EV has a range of approximately 150 kilometres or 90 miles, requiring drivers to frequently recharge, either from standard household connections or at public charging stations. Charging at a fast charging point offers 120kW of power which can take up to 90 minutes to go from a 20% charge to 100% full. In 2018, British Utility provider, National Grid, has proposed the installation of charging points which feed directly off the electricity network and can supply 350kW of power. This will allow drivers to fully charge in up to 12 minutes – significantly faster than the eight or so hours required by standard residential systems.
Whilst visiting a petrol station is the norm for most people, this will decline in the years to come if fuel retailers don’t take action to innovate their strategy in anticipation of the vast requirement for cleaner energy.