What will more electric cars mean for convenience stores?
As much as convenience stores have come to resemble grocers and restaurants over the past decade, gas remains an integral part of much of the segment’s business model. In a NACS survey last year, 68 percent said fuel sales were up due to low gas prices and that gas was drawing store traffic. But some in the industry anticipate that shifting trends in the ways that customers fill up could mean big changes for their businesses in the years ahead.
Electric cars and other electric vehicles are only in the early stages of adoption, but an article on CSP Daily News notes projections that a quarter of cars sold will be electric by 2025. The popularity of Tesla’s cars and the impending release of a Volvo electric model in 2019 indicate that the electric car revolution may be coming on fast, meaning convenience stores may have to reshape fuel offerings to cater to these needs.
Envisioning gas-dependent convenience stores pivoting to act as charging stations is tough, partly because the best way to effectively charge an electric car is still being hashed out by the industry. This is especially true when it comes to providing drivers with charges during long trips.
Electric vehicles, as they now function, require markedly more time to charge than the brief in-and-out trip required to fill up with gas. For instance, the chargers set up at a few Dunkin’ Donuts locations in Pittsburgh, as reported in PowerSource, average 30 minutes to provide an 80 percent charge.
The increased dwell time charging could, as pointed out in the CSP Daily News article, mean opportunities for convenience stores to provide full entertainment experiences instead of fill-in grocery trips.
Given that electric car owners often like to charge overnight could lead to the emergence of a charging infrastructure independent of convenience stores and gas stations. In that case, convenience stores, especially ones which cater primarily to long-distance travelers, could have difficulties filling the gap.
- Electric Vehicles Shift the C-Store Landscape – CSP Daily News
- Are convenience stores in for a big year in 2017? – RetailWire
- Dunkin’ Donuts electric vehicle charging stations – PowerSource
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see electric cars significantly affecting the convenience store business in the years ahead? How seriously should convenience stores take the need to retool their operations to suit electric cars?