Photo by Torbjorn Sandbakk on Unsplash

Fueling the Future: Charging Station Growth Options Part 1 of 2…Why It Matters and Current Options

Besides cost, and range (for non-Tesla vehicles), a lack of convenient EV charging stations is one of the biggest obstacles to mass adoption. This series will first look at why it matters, and then propose solutions to fix the shortfall with the current parking lot and gas station models…and how companies, progressive States and government agencies can profit along with the EV companies.

To bound the problem, I’m going to define some rough parameters. After numerous cross-country road trips I found I maxed out just over 800 miles a day, but prefer driving days of around 600 miles. The average ICE car gets about 550 miles to a tank, creating the need to fill it roughly once a day (if starting daily with a full tank), and maybe twice if you are comfortable with very long days and/or driving conditions that reduce your mpg.

After clocking random customers at a few gas stations, I found it takes about 8 minutes for an ICE gas stop this includes those that just get gas, and those that go into the usually attached minimart.

Assuming EV battery tech will continue to improve, I’m using the current best in class Tesla V3 Supercharger as a baseline, and 350 miles per charge (mpg) as the baseline capacity. I’m also going to assume that the milage curve to output is linear in order to smooth out battery and driving condition challenges for easy math. Finally, I assume an EV will arrive at the charging point with no less than 15% remaining and depart at 80% (anything over is a bonus), plus that the car will have a 100% charge in the morning from an overnight charge.

This reduces the useable range by 15% (or 53 miles) to 297 miles on the first charge (fill) of the day, and by 25% (or 88 miles) to 262 miles for the rest of the day. Using a V3 Supercharger it takes ~15 minutes to reach ~50% charged, and ~30 minutes takes to reach ~80% charged with usable ranges of 123 miles and 262 miles respectively. At a 60 mph avg this equates to roughly 2–4:20 hours of drive time. If you normally stop for 15 minutes every two hours to stretch, then the current EV battery tech meets your needs….if you can find a Supercharger.

However this also shows that with a ~30 min charge time, it takes 3.75 times longer to charge your EV than it does to fuel your ICE vehicle. I don’t think any municipality wants 3.75 times more real estate taken up by gas/charging stations…let alone the overlap that will be require during the initial decade of transition (and likely afterward for some heavy commercial vehicles). While the “gas station” of the future will likely look very different, this model will have a place in the future.

Another model quickly gaining popularity is the parking lot model. This will model will quickly grow from a few charging locations in high traffic areas, to nearly every location where people stop for longer than 30 minutes. During the initial phases of the transition to EV this will also be a critical differentiator for businesses. A company’s investment in parking lot charging stations will save customers’ time as they can shop and charge at the same time, vs shopping elsewhere and needing to charge later. For EV owners without a home charging station, this offering exponentially increases in value. Restaurants, malls, grocery stores, salons, etc will be beneficiaries of another income stream, but the biggest beneficiary will be whichever chain hotel becomes known for always having available charging stations.

EV companies and/or charging station companies will likely build the infrastructure and split the revenues with the landowners. Plus, land/building owners with installed solar panels may be able to negotiate further discounts. In many cases I also foresee a system of subsidized cost reductions by the businesses for the EV owners to encourage patronization of their locations. This could be strictly location based (what else are you going to do for 30 minutes, except come walk through our store while using our cheap charging stations) or via a rewards card system similar to price reductions offered by Safeway and CostCo.

Business will likely also be pushed towards providing charging stations for employees. Similar to current Silicon Valley office perks, charging stations will be a standout differentiator to show market leaders until market saturation normalizes employee charging stations as a baseline.

Between converting gas stations to EV charging centers at the market rate, and the disruptive potential of the parking lot model, the majority of the daily drivers are covered without excessive real estate expansion. In Part 2 I’ll address additional ways to create profit and increase access in the EV ecosystem, focusing on rural and highway long distance drives.

Thanks for reading and I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas in the comments section.

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