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According to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS), convenience stores sell 80% of gasoline sold in the United States. Because such a large volume of fuel is sold at c-stores, the industry has a vested interest in keeping up with shifting consumer behavior regarding fueling and electric vehicles.
Fuel has long been tied to the convenience industry. NACS, which represents the industry’s interests to the federal government, regularly provides insight to Congress on how legislation regarding fueling and electric vehicles affects the industry. The official NACS position on fuels is to protect the convenience industry’s interests as fuel retailers.
While gasoline-powered vehicles remain the dominant source of transportation for most Americans, the federal government increasingly incentivizes taxpayers to purchase electric vehicles. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), those who purchase a new electric vehicle between 2023 and 2032 are eligible for up to $7,500 in tax credits. Generally, NACS supports these incentives, though the organization believes c-stores need to be able to stay competitive by offering electric vehicle charging and fuel. Overall, electric vehicle use is on the rise, both in the United States and globally. According to Experian, there are about 1.7 million electric vehicles on the road, making up about .6% of the estimated 285 million total vehicles. While this figure appears small, the estimated number of electric vehicles in the United States was 400,000 in 2018, amounting to a 325% increase over the last 5 years.
What does this mean for c-store owners?
The EV boom is likely far from over, and c-store owners need to consider electric vehicles as part of their stores’ future. Many Americans express limited confidence that there will be sufficient EV infrastructure to handle an influx of electric vehicles, according to the Pew Research Center. By adding electric vehicle charging stations to a c-store location, store operators will likely increase their revenue and show that they’re capable of providing options for new transportation as technology evolves.
Adding electric vehicle charging stations encourages climate-conscious customers to visit stores, much the way that adding more healthy options to foodservice offerings encourages health-conscious customers to shop at a store. Even when not purchasing fuel, customers are more likely to visit a store they feel aligns with their values. Therefore, as Americans become more and more likely to own or support electric vehicles, stores with EV chargers will be able to capture a larger part of the market.
How do c-store owners implement EV charging?
Many retailers may feel overwhelmed by the decision whether to add electric vehicle charging to their stores. Follow these tips for deciding whether to add EV charging, and how to do so:
- Survey the market:
Some markets have more electric vehicle drivers than others, making them better fits for c-stores with EV charging. For example, California is home to 1.3 out of 1.7 million EVs in the United States, making it a great place to add charging stations. However, looking at state and federal trends is not the only indicator of a good fit. C-Store Dive suggests checking to see if nearby competitors offer EV charges and checking with local car dealerships to see if they’re selling lots of electronic vehicles.
- Estimate costs:
Installing EV chargers has a range of costs that might be unexpected to retailers dealing with fuel. Having the correct electric infrastructure is key to installing electric vehicle chargers, and needing to install it can be costly. Due to this, EV charger installation can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $150,000 per charger.
However, some government programs offer incentives and grants for c-store owners looking to add EV charging to their offerings. Grants from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) can cover much of the cost of installing EV chargers for locations that specific criteria. State and local governments may also offer grants.
- Choose your charger:
According to electric vehicle charging manufacturer BTC Power, the best type of charging station a c-store can offer is one that charges driver’s cars as quickly as possible. Because customers are often frustrated by long wait times, Direct Current Fast Charger (DCFC) is likely the best option for convenience stores to offer due to their ability to charge vehicles quickly. When combined with the right infrastructure, a DCFC charger gives customers a fast charge and sends them on their way. This is especially important when remembering that any EV charger is slower than a gas pump, and electric vehicles that are charging are often at a station longer than gasoline vehicles fueling.