C-stores Have Opportunity to Fill EV Charging Infrastructure Gaps

The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program is just one piece of the puzzle.
Hand plugging in electric vehicle charger

AUSTIN, Texas — The Convenience Technology Vision Group (CTVG) tackled the issue of electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in its latest Vision Report. EV's growth, charging challenges and opportunities were key focuses during the group's June quarterly meeting.

The Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) forecasts roughly 1.75 million electronic vehicles will be sold in 2024, which translates to almost 12 percent of total new vehicle sales; by 2028 that number is expected to grow to 21 percent of new vehicle sales.

[Read more: EV Drivers Prioritize Affordability When Seeking Charging Stations]

Beyond growth, the bigger question is the charging infrastructure need in the future as the switch to EV's moves forward. By 2028, based on projected EV sales growth, 210,000 public DC chargers will be needed to support the anticipated number of EVs on roads. CSE reports roughly 22,000 DC fast charging locations exist in the United States.

Addressing this significant deficit comparing the number of vehicles with the number of chargers, John Gartner, CSE's senior director of transparency and insights, noted that "the market really does need to keep up," adding that federal government programs are designed to do just that.

Currently, the most widely used source of funding for EV charging infrastructure is the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (NEVI). "I think now is the time to really be investigating this, because if convenience stores are not looking at it, many other retail locations are lining up," Gartner said.

Ohio-based fuel distributor and c-store operator Englefield Oil has already begun the process of working with the NEVI program and is currently waiting to hear from the state regarding five locations the company submitted for the program in January.

[Read more: Ohio Unveils Plans for Interstate EV Charging Network]

Englefield Oil Director of IT Jason Collins expects some locations will be awarded this summer with additional sites in another round of funding under NEVI. "It's a long process," he said, noting that assuming the five locations come through, it could be 2025 or 2026 before the sites are installed and up and running.

According to Gartner, if the private sector does not meet the future infrastructure need, the shortfall would likely mean congestion at the charging locations that do exist. The gas station/c-store visit comes with a shorter dwell time, which consumers may decide is not the ideal spot to recharge. However, the existing locations of c-stores/gas stations make the segment attractive for EV charging companies and fills many gaps in terms of the number of locations (there are still more gas stations/c-stores in a set radius than mass merchandisers, for instance, the CSE director said.

The CTVG discussed the role of loyalty programs as one area in which convenience retailers can connect with EV charging customers and entice them to come into the store.

"We've got a robust loyalty program and robust digital experiences [but] what does it take to connect that to these charging experiences?" Casey's General Stores Inc. Director of Digital Experiences Mike Templeton posed.

To download the full CTVG Vision Report entitled "Unraveling the Road to EV Charging Infrastructure," click here.

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The Convenience Technology Vision Group brings together invited tech leaders for quarterly virtual meetings to discuss technology issues impacting the convenience channel. It operates under the Vision Group Network (VGN), which was formed in 2020 and gathers the collective knowledge and ideas of its members for the purpose of sharing within the retail community. Other groups that fall under the VGN include the Convenience Leaders Vision Group, which was formed in 2022.