CHICAGO — There is no denying that the transportation landscape is changing — and the fueling landscape will go along with it. Electric vehicles (EVs) are growing in popularity and will soon become the norm in the car industry. Convenience store retailers who prepare for the shift sooner rather than later will be able to grab that EV consumer before the competition.
Speaking during the "EV 101: What Is EV and Why Is It Important?" education session at the recent 2021 NACS Show, John Gartner, senior director of transparency and insights for the Center for Sustainable Energy, noted that after experiencing pandemic-driven disruption in 2020, EV sales have rebounded. Sales totaled 310,272 in the first quarter of 2021 vs. 122, 513 in the same period a year ago.
"EVs are coming. We are starting to see incredible progression in terms of rate of sales," Gartner said.
In addition, 12 states have moved to ban the sale of internal combustible engine (ICE) vehicles by 2035. And 23 states have an EV roadmap or an official EV planning document.
"A lot of the growth is being driven by the cars themselves," Gartner pointed out, noting that 57 new models are expected to be released between 2021 and 2023 — including the first electric pickup truck.
"This is a serious commitment. The industry is going there; it is just a matter of how fast we can get there," he said.
For convenience store operators looking to dip their toe into the EV charging pool, DC Fast Chargers are the way to go, according to fellow presenter Ryan Durbiano, executive sales director of Blink Charging. DC Fast Chargers can bring an EV charge up to 80 percent in 30 minutes, as opposed to other options that can take anywhere from four hours to overnight.
Currently, there are more than 43,000 charging stations overall in the United States, but only 12 percent of them are DC Fast Chargers.
Durbiano offered several considerations for c-store operators to keep in mind when they begin their EV charging journey:
Type of power available at the site;
Distance from that power source to the charger location;
Permitting requirements; and
"No industry is going to change in the next decade more than transportation," added Jim Burness, CEO and general manager of National Car Charging. In fact, he said most automobile manufacturers have stopped research and development on ICE motors.
U.S. retailers need only take cues from other countries to understand where the fueling industry is headed: 80 percent of all new car sales in Norway are "plug," and that number will reach 100 percent in 2025, Burness cited.
Of even more interest to the convenience channel, studies have shown that EV drivers spend more at retail when charging their vehicles. Other benefits include customer retention, customer loyalty, and building a green reputation.
For retailers weighing installing EV chargers, Burness advised that adding them to new builds — even if EVs are not that widespread in the market—will "future proof" the location. Plus, it typically costs eight times more money to retrofit a site for EV charging stations than it does to include them in a new build, he explained.
"The future is now," he said. "Don't delay."
The 2021 NACS Show took place Oct. 5-8 at McCormick Place in Chicago.