In case you missed the recent story,1 a longstanding locally owned gas station in Takoma Park, Maryland underwent some major renovations and re-opened last week. After considering many local market factors and growing adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), the owner decided to remove all gas pumps and switch to an all EV charging station. After reading a few of the articles highlighting this story, I walked away with a few key observations:
- Demand outpaces infrastructure – EV adoption has been slowly growing over the last several years but has not yet reached the tipping point. Even as EV adoption has grown, there has been very limited investment in the supporting infrastructure. Within this case, the tipping point was reached when growth of consumer EV adoption along with a rise in numbers of electric taxis created long lines at the limited number of existing chargers within the community. Something had to change.
- Subsidies can offset switching costs – One of the first reactions many people will have is... “That switch must have cost a fortune!” and it likely did. We do not have details on the total costs, but we do know the site conversion was jointly funded by the Electric Vehicle Institute and the Maryland Energy Administration, providing a grant of $786,000. While the switching costs are expensive, we shouldn’t be surprised by interested parties getting involved to offset the costs of transitions.
- External advocacy can influence decisions – External voices have grown louder over the past few years as it relates to the use of fossil fuels use and their potentially corresponding impact on global climate change. Within this example, the owner cites several influencers to this decision including the local public works manager, the Electric Fuels Institute, and his 17-year-old daughter who ultimately pushed the owner to this decision.
- Customer engagement needs reimaging – Many thoughts exist on the retail site of the future and how the physical locations, services provided, or customer experience will change over time. While these discussions have been focused on innovating for the future, the opportunity has now arrived for one owner. Customers will now be on-site for 20-30 minutes per charge providing an unprecedented level of access to the customer and an ability to shape a unique experience.
We all have different perspectives on how fast the shift to electric vehicles will occur, but a big step forward has been taken by a first mover in North America. There is a now an in-market case study for the industry and we can only expect the pace of transition to increase. It is time to face this industry challenge with a fresh perspective of what is possible.
1 “The US has its first gas station that is fully electric”, 30 September 2019, CNN, © Cable News Network 2019, via Factiva.