As any electric vehicle owner will tell you… EVs are great but we could do with more places to charge. It is true that charging station numbers are going up but they are still few and far between in many areas and this is something that must be addressed before EVs become viable for everyone.
There are many out there doing their best to get us more charging stations. Zero Carbon World is donating free charging stations to appropriate businesses for example, and Nissan has donated a bunch of fast charging stations to be installed this year. However, I can’t help feeling that we are all missing something rather fundamental here.
The fast majority of us own cars that run on petrol or diesel and so over the past 100 years or so we have built up a huge network of petrol filling stations. They are often just yards apart and whilst I am sure there are many places in the UK many miles from one most places are within a short drive to the nearest. When we go on a long trip in our petrol/diesel car we never worry about where we might get fuel. We know we will always be able to find somewhere when we run low.
So, it seems to me that as we already have a ready-made network of places to refuel our petrol/diesel cars why can’t they also have charging stations?
I hear the argument that electric cars are the opposition to oil companies and so superficially it makes sense for them not to support the electric car industry. After all, EV owners won’t be buying their products right?
But let’s think about this for a minute in the context of the petrol station owner.
I don’t know what the actual figures are but petrol stations make very little profit from selling petrol. A significant amount of their profit comes from shop sales. A motorist buying £10 worth of fuel by credit card will actually be a net loss to a retailer because of card charges. However, if that motorist buys a chocolate bar when he or she fills up, a small profit will be made.(Source: bbc.co.uk ) so it stands to reason then that EV owners are lost customers but not because they don’t buy petrol but because they have no reason to go into the filling station and buy chocolate! However, filling station owners need not lose us as customers. If they installed fast charging stations we would charge our EVs there and buy that chocolate. In fact, as it takes 15-30 minutes to charge with today’s technology we would probably buy a lot more… coffee, sandwiches, snacks etc than the average petrol buyer.
There is no doubt that electric car owners are hugely more profitable to filling station businesses than petrol car owners and we EV owners should be shouting this very loudly indeed to get filling station owners to take it on board.
There is a second and interesting aspect to all this. Imagine how much petrol/diesel a petrol station has to hold in its tanks. I have worked for several years in a filling station and I know it is 10’s of thousands of litres. The station owner has to buy that fuel up front and that is a huge strain on cash flow. With EVs there is no up front charges to the petrol station owner except for the one-off charge of installing the charger. A one-off charge that is going to be less than a single fill of just one of it’s holding tanks of petrol. After that there is no pre-purchasing of fuel. This would significantly help the business’s cash flow.
So I put it to all petrol station owners… don’t see EVs owners as lost customers. See us as an opportunity to keep us as your customers AND increase your profits in the process! Install a fast charger and open up your business to the electric car market, improving your profits and improving the charging network in the UK.
Whilst I fully support all efforts to get charging infrastructure installed, such as those being made by Zero Carbon World, ultimately I see the big game-changer will be when petrol station owners recognise that EV customers are MORE profitable that petrol customers. When that happens they will install fast charging stations everywhere and the problems of where to charge and range anxiety will all disappear completely.
I accept that there are potentially logistical issues such as mixing high-voltage electricity and petrol but there is power to petrol pumps now so I am sure that it is not really a genuine issue. Also not every petrol station will have an appropriate spot to locate a charging station but again, most will find a suitable place if they recognise that this is a way to increase their profits. There will be many filling stations where it would not be practical but in my opinion these will be very much the minority.
Pie in the sky? What do you think?