Fill’r up? That message will stay the same whether the filling station is gasoline or electric, but that’s about where it stops.

I got to thinking about the old service stations I recall from my youth, and even the changes I saw while working about 20 years at an oil company, and where we are heading with electric vehicle charging now.

Some background first.

In December 1913 the first drive-up filling station opened. It was in Pennsylvania. There just wasn’t a lot of need for gasoline stations. “By 1900, the United States had 4,000 cars (compared to 20 million horses), but gasoline was still considered a waste by-product of producing kerosene. Pioneering motorists had to take a bucket to the general store, hardware dealer, drugstore or local refinery and fill up from a gasoline barrel. A few enterprising (and fearless) salesmen sold gasoline from pushcarts equipped with hoses. (Source)

When gasoline stations opened, gasoline went from being a coincidental product to luring in customers who might also need water, air in the tires,  repairs, or maps. To bring people in some gasoline stations tried stylistic architecture that sometimes conveyed the brand image. (Check the Shell station from Winston-Salem, left.)

After that, soda pop, chips, candy, smokes, beer, lottery tickets…

Gasoline and convenience stores add up to a sizeable business now. “93% of Americans live within just a few minutes of one. One out of every 3 stores in America is a convenience store. And most of them sell fuel. About 80% of convenience stores in the U.S. are also gas stations, and 80% of the fuel sold in the U.S. is sold at convenience stores.” (Source)

A new fill’r-up is coming, though, because by 2030 half of car sales are expected to be electric. What are some of the changes we can see?

Charging ports in a mall deck

Location: One constraint on electric vehicles now is the lack of a network to fill up the batteries. While gasoline stations may be tempted to add charging ports, the time it takes for a charge does not make it logical yet. A gasoline fill-up may take five minutes. Electric is longer at this point, but that will change.

Charging can go to the customer – parking lots at restaurants, malls, fitness centers, and work all make sense. The idea is not to build a new charging network in the same fashion as gasoline stations but track the convenient times for customers to charge no matter where they are.

Get accustomed to the idea of charging at home, too. Home builders will need to think about garage charging configurations.

Additional services: Gasoline stations have already morphed into different kinds of retail outlets. Food and fuel combinations, for instance. One fuel retailer is the largest franchisor of Subway food shops, for example. (Source) Getting food can add to the time needed to get a charge.

Grocery stores are adding gasoline fuel stops. Harris-Teeter.

Grocery stores chains have added gasoline sales in some places, even offering fuel discounts as incentives to get to the store. How tough would it be to add an electric charging option while people shop? How tough is it to add other shopping options, too? Adding services to grocery stores is already happening: Manicures, dry cleaning, banking, parcel delivery, coffee shops, flowers…

Charger at a hospital/medical center

Brand: There’s been a lot of news recently about petroleum companies trying to decarbonize, but I doubt that drivers will fill up with Exxon electricity. Power companies or third-party vendors will create the network. Right now, Tesla has its own power stations, for instance.

Do-it-yourself will dominate: Depending on the source referenced the average miles-per-day driven is about 30-37 miles. That is easily in the range of an electric vehicle which are 300 or so easily. A McKinsey study says, “The vast majority of EV owners in the U.S. will likely charge in their own driveways, safe in the knowledge that their close-to-home car will replenish its battery during those stationary overnight hours. Driveway and garage car charging is cost effective because it uses off-peak residential, as opposed to commercial, electricity prices.”


Feature image is opening day of the first Phillips 66 station in Wichita, 1927