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How Will Petrol Station Forecourts Survive the EV Transition

For an example of a business model that is about to undergo a rapid transformation, you need look no further than the petrol forecourt.

electric forecourt


Ultimately, electric vehicles (EVs) will be the dominant mode of transport as sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles come to an end. It may take decades for every vehicle in the UK to become an EV, and petrol and diesel forecourts are still a necessity whilst the UK undergoes this transition, but forward-looking forecourt owners and operators should already be asking ‘How can we evolve to take advantage of this new electric era?’. 

The truth is that the forecourt has already changed beyond recognition in the past thirty or so years. Where once practically every village had an independent petrol station, today’s forecourts are much larger, consolidated at the edge of towns and operated by major chains and supermarket retailers.  

In short, the petrol and diesel retail sector is no stranger to reinvention. But is EV charging a step too far out of the comfort zone?  

With our internal combustion (ICE) vehicles, we are used to visiting a forecourt, topping up through a hose and paying at the pump or in-store. EV charging is a very different beast from filling up a tank with petrol. It is a massive behavioural change, and one which goes some way to explaining a reluctance to switch.  

A great many EV drivers will charge their vehicles at home. Those without access to home charging, usually because of a lack of a driveway, will tend to use public chargers in local carparks or at the roadside. So, where will the forecourt fit in? 

Experience is everything

The good news is that there definitely is a place for forecourts in an EV-driven future, that is, the new ‘electric forecourt’. As creatures of habit, drivers will return to familiar places to recharge their vehicles. Forecourts tend to occupy large spaces where several EVs could charge at the same time, removing availability angst.  

Customer and brand loyalty counts for something. People remain loyal to places and faces when they get the service they expect, especially if there are other amenities they can use while their EV is recharging. Patience is limited, however, and rapid/ultra-rapid charging will be essential at electric forecourts where people only want to spend as much time as it takes to drink a coffee and use the facilities. Whilst destinations like retail parks or garden centres will have an edge when it comes to dwell-time for EV owners using slower chargers, forecourt operators can attract drivers by offering faster, ‘top-up’ charging that mimics the traditionally speedy experience of refuelling a petrol or diesel vehicle whilst on the move. 

Financial rewards

Forecourt owners also have an opportunity to generate revenue from EV charging. At Mer, we offer a range of financial models to forecourt owners to make the case for the transition.  

  • Hybrid. This is where the forecourt owner and the charge point operator co-fund the supply, installation, maintenance, operation and management of the charge points. Any profits are shared based on investment and how the operating costs are split. Any risk is mitigated through the partnership.  
  • Self-funded. The forecourt owner funds the supply, installation and maintenance of the EV charging solution and retains all of the profits. They do, however, carry all of the risk.  
  • Fully-funded (by Mer). In this instance, Mer fully funds the EV charging solution, and provides consultation, design, installation, warranty, maintenance, overall program management and data reporting. Profit is shared as a partnership. The good news is that all the risk is with the charge point operator, alleviating risk to the forecourt owner from things like aging technology or even vandalism.   

As is often the case, the key to surviving, and even thriving, through the transition is down to timing. As well as developing consumer relationships with this new target market as the transition to electric mobility develops, there is also a necessity to secure the power needed for an electric forecourt now to avoid disappointment. Forecourt owners who are making moves now are more likely to benefit from early connectivity to the grid and establishing themselves as an EV charging destination before their competitors.  

As a one-stop solution for EV charging infrastructure – from consultation, design and installation through to operation, maintenance and management – Mer is ideally placed to help forecourts thrive in the EV era.