Convenience stores and gas stations are the perfect place for an EV charger. Everyone is already used to stopping at one for a quick top-off, grabbing a drink, or other quick items. Plus, they’re everywhere. However, you’ll rarely see an electric car charger at a gas station, but why?
At first, the answer might seem pretty obvious. Most vehicles on the road are gas-powered, and many EV owners charge at home. Store owners are simply aiming services at the biggest customer base.
Still, putting an EV charger at a gas station seems like a smart move with the rapid expansion of electric cars. You can certainly find chargers at your local convenience store, but they’re few and far between, for now, for several reasons.
Charging At Home is Cheaper
More Convenience, Less Gas
In today’s current landscape, gas stations want to serve as many customers as possible. Hit the pump, come in for a soda or hot dog, and leave a few minutes later. The faster the better. With EV charging, it takes much longer than filling up a gas tank.
A store owner doesn’t want one vehicle taking up the same spot for 20-30 minutes when a gas vehicle would be in and out. More importantly, many public charging stations don’t offer the fastest speeds available, meaning patrons must wait even longer.
Then, many older electric vehicles employ slower charging technology, making them less than ideal for a gas station. However, we’re starting to see even faster charging options emerge, and as speeds improve, expect to see more places to charge an EV at gas stations.
Perhaps the biggest reason we’re not seeing a ton of EV chargers at gas stations is cost. Electricity is expensive, and that’s without mentioning the cost of installing chargers, the maintenance, and all the additional changes (like extra parking) a gas station would need to make.
Not only is this true for big chains with thousands of locations, but it’s especially true for smaller or private convenience store owners. The high electric utility fees aren’t ideal, and in some cases, it might not be profitable, depending on the speed, up-front costs, and location.
Speaking of location, depending on the state, energy prices are sky-high. Certain states will be more likely to install EV chargers in more places, like gas stations, while others will have less incentive.
Things get even worse if a charging station offers fast speeds. For example, you can get select vehicles capable of adding an extra 60 miles of range in a matter of minutes or going to 80% in 15-20 minutes, but that’s only at 800-volt 350kW fast chargers. Not only are those rare to find in public, but they’re more costly to use.
As a result, the few chargers you’ll currently find at local gas stations offer slower speeds to reduce costs, which means a customer takes up the space for a longer period. It’s a double-edged sword, which is why many store owners aren’t quick to upgrade stations with the emerging technology.
Charging At Home is Cheaper
Honestly, it all comes down to money. Electricity is expensive, the charging stalls, adapters, and different plug types are expensive, and gas stations will charge more for the “convenience.”
It’s more affordable to charge your EV at home, and that’s what most owners try to do—only turning to public charging networks during road trips or emergencies. Even on a road trip, owners will often search for and find a free charger at a hotel rather than paying elsewhere.
A gas station is your only option when you have a regular car, but that’s not the case with electric vehicles. As a result, until EVs become more mainstream and charging speeds increase, most gas stations aren’t rushing out to install chargers. At least not yet.
More Convenience, Less Gas
Things are about to change, though. As EVs continue to gain popularity, more gas stations will need to eventually get on board. Gas-powered vehicles aren’t going anywhere yet, but the sooner owners can attract EV users to their locations, the better.
These days most gas stations double as convenience stores and offer snacks, groceries, ice, and more, and many have fast food chains on the side. In case you were unaware, most gas stations make their profits inside the store on food, drinks, alcohol, lotto tickets, etc., not on gasoline.
So, why wouldn’t a store owner want to offer EV charging? After all, customers charging electric vehicles will stick around longer, making them more likely to buy snacks and other profitable goods. Again, this is likely due to all the costs of adding EV chargers. But eventually, it’ll be a smart move.
That’s probably why we’re seeing a massive shift here in 2023 toward adding EV chargers to more locations like gas stations. For example, 7-Eleven has over 13,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada but only around 500 charging stations.
In March, 7-Eleven announced it “intends to build one of the largest and most compatible electric vehicle (EV) fast-charging networks of any retailer in North America.” It’ll use the massive supply of current stores, outfit them with 7Charge EV charging stations, and reap the benefits.
Shortly, you’ll be able to stop for a Slurpee and get a snack, all while you juice up that fancy new electric car. And 7-Eleven isn’t the only retailer looking to get into the game. Additionally, Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure law aims to invest $7.5 billion into EV charging, which will help speed up adoption everywhere, and companies have already started jumping aboard.
In closing, most gas stations and convenience stores don’t offer EV chargers yet because of the overall cost and maintenance, along with supply vs. demand.
However, as more electric vehicles hit the streets, charging speeds improve, and stores realize they can increase profits from selling goods, we’ll start to see more and more emerge. Think about that giant gas station in your town with a car wash or fast food joint attached. Many have tables for patrons, snacks, or home goods and are essentially mini grocery stores full of conveniences. That sounds like a perfect place for someone with an EV to stop for 15 or 20+ minutes.
As long as gas stations have the room to add a few EV chargers, we expect many will over the coming years.