5 things C-Stores can offer waiting EV customers

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ALEXANDRIA, Va.-Electric vehicles are beginning to infiltrate American roads, and with California’s plans to phase out sales of new gasoline-powered cars and light trucks by 2035, convenience stores have a chance to “EV stores”, according to Forbes.

“Think: C-stores thrive on habit, but habits can be changed. Who says there aren’t business models out there that could change these routines? Not just EV charging boxes, but rows of charging stations in walkable plazas or EV service hubs where multiple companies operate, there is a sense of urgency under which c-store operators need to consider these impacts,” writes Forbes.

It is, of course, easier said than done to install a robust charging program in a supermarket. According to the transportation information group Inspire Advanced Transportation, installing an EV station that offers Level 2 charge can cost between $3,000 and $13,000, depending on quality and installation conditions.

In addition, there is the issue of demand costs that results in c-stores that make little or no profit on EV charging stations. Convenience stores are affected by utility demand charges because they are considered commercial consumers of electricity when a customer uses their EV charger to drain their battery. A demand rate is not only based on the electricity consumption of convenience stores, but also on the highest consumption they have in a short time.

NACS believes that electric vehicle charging should be an open, competitive market. Convenience and fuel retailers must have the ability to sell any legal source of transportation energy in a competitive market with a level playing field.

Despite hurdles, many convenience stores are investing in electric car charging infrastructure, including: 7-Eleven, sheetz and Circle Kamong many others.

“We are very early adopters of EV charging,” said Trevor Walter, vice president of petroleum supply management, Sheetz, in a statement. Bloomberg article. “In 2012, we installed our first EV chargers in Pennsylvania.”

Sheetz has worked closely with Tesla to install Tesla-branded chargers at its locations, and when Tesla users charge at a Sheetz location, they pay Tesla for the charge, not Sheetz. The company bets that during the half hour it takes to charge an EV, customers will come into the store and buy a drink or order food.

Because these EV owners have time to spend in c-stores while their vehicles are being charged, some retail experts say c-stores may need to change their format.

“Those c-stores that have the resources to add charging stations will have an opportunity to redefine what they are,” Forbes writes.

Forbes offers five ideas that convenience stores can consider changing their spaces.

The first is an innovative, high-quality food offering in a “sit-n-wait” environment as opposed to a “grab-n-go” store. Convenience stores have invested heavily in robust foodservice programs, and operators investing in foodservice are setting themselves apart from the competition, as reported in the 2021 NACS State of the Industry Report.

Idea No. 2 is a rentable workplace, where c-stores could offer a work pod with WiFi for a rental price. Forbes refers to work booths available at some airports that cost $30 per hour or more. Chains that offer rewards programs may allow members to earn and redeem their points on these stations.

The workstations can also be streaming video booths, which could boost in-store snack and beverage sales. Reward members can earn and redeem points to use the stands, while providing deeper and more diverse insights into their preferences.

Convenience stores may also offer: car detailing services while their car is being charged. The services can be outsourced to automotive detailing specialists or kept in-house. “This doubles the convenience for customers, while allowing c-store operators to collect a percentage of the fees,” writes Forbes.

The last idea is a charging hub for small devices, which c-stores could offer for free. This would also encourage EV customers to grab a drink and snack while they wait, and they could also have a charger display nearby.

“Even charging stations are a big investment, but they can be the only investment that will make a c-store grow faster than average growth. Timing, location and technology are all important factors. C-stores in California, for example, are probably already weighing the cost-benefit. Operators in other states should pay close attention. After all, electricity will not short circuit. It is itself a vehicle for growth,” writes Forbes.

The NACS EV Charging Calculator enables retailers to assess the cost and profitability of offering EV chargers in their locations. The calculator focuses on retailers’ utility costs associated with electric vehicle charging and what the associated revenues would need to be to recover those costs, taking into account possible additional store visits and profitability of purchases.

The Fuels Institute will conduct two EV-related education sessions at the 2022 NACS Show, October 1–4 in Las Vegas. Among which: EV economics: fact vs fiction and Reality of EV transitions. Register today to attend the NACS Show.

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