Applegreen announces $126m investment in New Jersey

Applegreen CEO Bob Etchingham (pictured left) was speaking as the company announced a $126m investment in the US state of New Jersey.

The new investment will see Applegreen open a new North American headquarters in Glen Rock creating 100 new jobs.

Applegreen is also to create a further 800 jobs in the redevelopment of its 21 highway plazas in New Jersey over the coming years as it fits them with the latest technologies, with a particular focus on electric vehicle charging.

The move comes as fuel prices on global markets continue to remain elevated due to the supply shock caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, a development that Mr Etchingham said had speeded up the transition to EVs.

"But having said that the cost of power is going to go up as well, so it may not be the incentive that we all think it is," Mr Etchingham said. "But definitely there is a long-term and a strong trend now towards EVs," he added.

He added that there is pent up demand there and what is holding sales back is that EV production capacity is being impacted by supply chain constraints.

The co-founder of Applegreen said it is very difficult for anyone to predict what is going to happen with the cost of fuel over the coming months. "We just don’t know quite frankly," Bob Etchingham said.

"I would hope that we have reached some sort of a plateau, but oil prices are still very high and pump prices are exceptionally high," he said.

"The big question is what is going to happen next winter? What is going to gas prices, what is going to happen to power which is predominately produced from gas and what is going to happen to fuel? But I would hope that…it is not going to get much higher than it is at the moment," he stated.

Mr Etchingham said that supply of fuel has been a problem on occasion. "But generally what people seem to be trying to do is to wean themselves off Russian fuel and move more towards American or West African product," he stated.

"But we are not in the upstream refining business. We are not that close to what might be happening and I think there is enough fuel to go round, but there is a bit of dislocation going on with the supply chains at the moment and people are buying from different sources and there may be some short term supply issues," he said.

"But hopefully that is all that they are, just short term difficulties," he added. Applegreen is the largest highway service provider in the US, with 250 sites across 18 states.

It has been operating there since 2014, with a focus on highway located plazas where it sells fuel, food and other convenience retail goods. The company also has operations in the UK as well as its extensive network of forecourts here in Ireland.

In March of last year the business was taken private by Mr Etchingham and co-founder Joe Barrett, backed by Blackstone Infrastructure Partners. Mr Etchingham said the investment in the US does not signal a shift in strategy for the company, which is Irish-headquartered with all the key decisions made here.

He said the US is behind Europe in terms of EV charging infrastructure. "But the US is not a country, it is a continent, and if you look at places like California, if you look at places like the north east of the US, they are not that far behind Europe," he said.

"And the sort of strong growth that we are seeing in the UK especially and in Ireland, you are going to see that happening in the north east of the US over the next few years," he said.

"We are positioning ourselves really to capture those people who are on a journey, because most of our locations are on inter-urban routes, heavily trafficked routes and those people will need to charge and need to charge more frequently than they would do if they were fuelling up with fossil fuel," he added.

Applegreen employs about 15,000 people, with around 6,000 in the UK, a similar number in the US and the balance of around 3,000 here.