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There are 8,379 forecourts across the UK. For decades, drivers have visited fossil fuel forecourts to re-fuel their vehicles, but where do traditional forecourts stand in the electric vehicle (EV) evolution?
According to ACS’s 2022 Forecourt Report, there are 768 electric charging devices located on 446 forecourt sites. Owners of the traditional forecourt have an opportunity to embrace the transition to EVs. From urban petrol stations to on-route service stations along motorways, forecourts are well suited to offering EV charging. Often located at points of high footfall, they are easily accessible and attractive to drivers who are on the move and looking for a place to top-up their EV before continuing their journey.
We caught up with Zuber Patel, Senior Business Development Manager at Mer Public Charging, to discuss why forecourt operators should introduce EV charging to their sites, the type of charging required, and the initial factors to be considered during the planning stage.
As of the end of January, there were over 680,000 battery-electric cars registered in the UK. The number of drivers switching to an electric vehicle will only ever increase in the coming years, especially as there will be no new petrol/diesel cars/vans sold in the UK from 2030. As this happens, fuel retailers as they currently operate will gradually become redundant, unless they too embrace the EV transition by offering EV charging for drivers. Electrifying a forecourt will ensure it can still operate when petrol and diesel vehicles begin to see an inevitable phase-out.
In terms of why now, there is something to be said for buyer behaviour. As the EV transition continues, competition for driver loyalty will increase as more commercial landowners introduce EV charging to their sites. Much like we return to our favourite coffee shops time and time again if we have a positive experience, drivers will return to the same EV forecourt to top-up their vehicle; there is no need to change our habits unless we are unhappy. Forecourt owners can ensure consumer habits are established in their favour by implementing a plan to make their forecourt EV ready now. It is easier to keep customers than it is to build a new customer base; forecourt owners can prevent the loss of existing customers who have already switched to an EV by providing them with the charging they require ahead of their competitors, whilst also providing for the drivers who have not made the transition yet.
Finally, there is the added benefit of obtaining additional revenue. With the possibility of earning a profit share model with your Charge Point Operator (CPO), you may be able to generate extra income from your EV chargers.
The process is not without its difficulties. As the transition to electric mobility unfolds, forecourt owners must move into the electric market whilst simultaneously offering petrol/diesel provision for non-EV drivers, and this is one of the main challenges. Petrol forecourts are hazardous environments, and placing high-voltage electrical currents in close proximity to combustible fuels is dangerous.
Forecourt owners should not, however, be concerned by this. Mer is well positioned to support petrol forecourt owners on this journey and help them overcome the challenges. Safety is the highest priority for us; we work with UKPIA-trained contractors to make sure we are able to deliver our installations safely and responsibly in this hazardous environment.
Whilst it does take longer to charge an EV than to fuel an internal-combustion (ICE) vehicle, it is important to note that EV driving is different to driving an ICE vehicle. Whilst ICE vehicle drivers refuel their vehicles from near-empty to full, EV drivers will charge their vehicles as and when it is necessary to charge. They do not always charge to fill, but charge for what they need. So, whilst it might take a longer period of time to charge an EV to its full capacity, it is unlikely that drivers will require that full charge from your site. Rather, they will top-up their battery enough to get them to their destination, where EV charging is likely to be available.
ICE vehicle drivers spend a very short period of time at a forecourt site; it takes a mere 5 minutes to re-fuel a petrol or diesel vehicle. Drivers will be expecting the same seamless EV charging experience, with the shortest possible stop time at the forecourt when driving their EV. The goal, then, is to see an electric forecourt mimic the current experience of refuelling at a fossil fuel station: ‘top-up’ charging that is quick and convenient. To that end, it is essential that forecourt owners choose the correct charging for their site.
By installing rapid and ultra-rapid charge points at their forecourt, owners can offer drivers a speedy charging experience. Here is an approximate breakdown of charging speeds with a 150kW charger:
|150kWh of charge||Delivered in 60 minutes|
|75kWh of charge||Delivered in 30 minutes|
|50kWh of charge||Delivered in 20 minutes|
|25kWh of charge||Delivered in 10 minutes|
Most cars perform at 4 miles per kW. Assuming this, and that the car is in a battery range of 20-80%, a 150kW charger can add 100 miles of range in approximately 10 minutes. Thus, the charging experience at the forecourt will feel alike the experience of filling up an ICE vehicle. And, as EV batteries and charger technology advance, it is likely that chargers will be able to offer more mileage in a shorter amount of time in the foreseeable future.
There are a number of key factors and questions forecourt owners should consider when planning to turn their forecourt electric:
The Grid’s ability to power EV charge points is not limitless. It is important to consider whether your site has the space and power availability on site to cope with the demands of these high power chargers sooner rather than later.
Investigate the power availability around your portfolio and identify the capabilities of your site now. This will ensure that if you operate within a location where power is scarce, you have the time to capitalise on the opportunity before it is too late and ensure you can power your electric forecourt, or, alternatively, the time to re-purpose some of your site before the phase-out of petrol/diesel vehicles. Working in partnership with us, we can help you identify what is possible for your site in terms of electrification.
Mer offers various financial packages for EV charging installations, one of which is our ‘charging as a service’ model. Under this model, there is no upfront capital expenditure for the customer. Rather, the owner will pay off the asset under a monthly re-payment plan, whilst simultaneously earning a considerable income from the infrastructure. Once paid off, the forecourt owner can choose to operate their charging infrastructure independently from Mer, or continue to work with us under our back office platform and with our aggregated partners.
Alternative options include a customer-funded model, whereby the forecourt owner owns the asset from the start of your EV charging journey, a Mer-funded package, or a hybrid-funded package. We can consult on the best financial model for individual forecourt owners.
Forecourts are the perfect opportunity for drivers to use amenities during a long-distance journey when they stop to re-fuel their vehicles. EV drivers are also likely to want to take advantage of on-site amenities. This simultaneously offers forecourt owners an opportunity to generate revenue in addition to that from your chargers.
The amenities at your EV forecourt should be suited to short refuelling, given the incredibly short time drivers will be staying on your site during a rapid/ultra-rapid charge. This might include making the on-site restroom available for drivers, opening a shop that offers snacks and drinks, or installing publicly-available Wi-Fi and comfortable seating, perhaps with access to USB availability so drivers can charge their devices whilst they wait.
The aim is not to increase dwell time with the on-site amenities, but to enhance the customer experience. Having facilities that suit the fast through-time that rapid/ultra-rapid offers will elevate the EV charging experience to another level, thus encouraging drivers to return.
Our EV charging solution for forecourts centres around customer-centricity, network reliability and the user experience, provides the best technology and future-fit infrastructure, and prioritises sustainability and the long-term stability of the EV market. With our various financial models, partnerships with roaming partners, ability to offer full turnkey solutions, aftercare service and more, Mer can be depended on to support owners on the journey to electrifying their forecourt.
Whatever is holding you back from electrifying your forecourt, we can explore different avenues with you and ensure you can gain the most out of the EV charging infrastructure.
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