In Electrification Insights, Insights

Will EV Drivers Have To Search For A Shell Service Station?

Shell has recently converted one of their regular petrol and diesel service stations in Fulham, London, to now only offer charging on high-powered 175kW charge points to the electric vehicle (EV) driver. This is still a news story in the UK, but for how long will the conversion of service stations to serve EVs be news?

The UK government has announced that no more new petrol or diesel cars can be sold from 2030. This is even more aggressive than the European Union, which is allowing a further five years of sales. This announcement formed a key part of the British ‘ten point plan for a green industrial revolution.’

The plan is a strategy to not just embrace green technology and energy, but to do so in a way that delivers economic growth. It involves the increased use of nuclear power, greener buildings, and the availability of more green finance. However, it looks like the change to the traditional petrol or gas station will quickly be one of the most visible changes that the general public will notice.

But service stations are already in decline. If we remain focused on what has happened in the UK, numbers peaked in the 1960s when there were over 40,000 of them. This dropped to about 18,000 by 1992, and is now around 8,000. This is more likely to be due to the concentration around big oil brands, rather than independent stations, but the decline is certainly going to continue.

This is because electric vehicle drivers require a different approach than to ICE cars with a petrol tank. You can’t refuel a petrol car at home, so it’s normal to go out on a journey and then to refuel when on the move. With an EV you will usually be charging when the car is at home and not in use – so you almost always leave home with the car 100% charged. For all but the longest journeys this will be enough. It’s quite a different mindset to the petrol car driver who thinks nothing of leaving home with an almost-empty tank because he or she can just fill up on the way.

Charging stations are therefore going to be much less busy than the present-day petrol stations, but they are still going to serve a purpose – anyone on a long cross-country EV road trip will need to stop and recharge at some point.

This combination of charging being required less often and the expected dominance of EVs in the next decade will lead to some dramatic changes in our urban landscape. Service station numbers will drop dramatically and will be focused more on major roads, rather than featuring in every neighbourhood or small town.

Most of us have faced a car fuel shortage at some point in the past. The low fuel light starts blinking and your heart beats faster as you scan the horizon for a service station. Admittedly this situation is no longer as stressful as it used to be – now you can simply ask Siri to guide you to the nearest refueling location.

As petrol is harder to find, drivers of “classic” petrol and diesel cars may find it harder to refuel when on the road in future. In addition, if there are fewer service stations, even EV drivers may occasionally struggle – although it is likely that new charging locations (such as car parks) will remove the frantic search for a Shell service station in quite the same way as we used to experience.

The future will more often be a fully-charged battery, but service stations will certainly live on in our cultural memory for many decades to come. Who can forget the Shell gas station in RoboCop? An EV charging point just doesn’t explode like that!

Please get in touch with me directly on LinkedIn here if you want to discuss these ideas further. Interested in learning more about electric vehicle customer experience solutions? Please contact ICON’s Mark Matthews.

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