Couche-Tard has begun its two-year plan to bring electric vehicle charging to 200 of its stores across Canada and the United States.
The Quebec-based company, which has installed more than 1,000 fast chargers at more than 240 sites across Europe, chose to activate its first North American DC fast charger site in Rock Hill, South Carolina, at a new “prototype” Circle K store location.
The Rock Hill outlet was selected because it’s located along a fast-growing metropolitan commuter and travel corridor, where EV traffic is anticipated to grow, said the company in a press release. The inaugural site will be used to understand customer needs, track driver usage better and evaluate impacts on in-store traffic.
“We are committed to playing a key role in meeting our customers’ evolving mobility needs as the demand for sustainable energy choices continues to grow in all of our markets,” said Louise Warner, Couche-Tard’s senior vice president, global fuels in the same release.
“Adding EV charging expands the mobility solutions available to our drivers, giving them a great new reason to visit us and enjoy all we have to offer both in our stores and on our forecourts.
Couche-Tard is one of the largest independent convenience store operators in the U.S., including almost 2,800 sites that sell fuel. Worldwide, it has more than 14,000 convenience stores and fuel stations in 26 countries and territories — the vast majority under the Circle K banner — including Canada, Scandinavia, the Baltics, Ireland, as well as Poland and Hong Kong.
While this is Couche-Tard’s first endeavour at building a network of fast chargers in North America, across the Atlantic, the convenience store giant has an extensive EV charging footprint in Norway.
Four years ago, Couche-Tard started the “Norway lab” focusing on “innovative EV charging solutions that anticipate and effectively meet the demands of EV customers across the spectrum of driving occasions and needs.” It largest site, opened in 2020, has capacity for 40 charger installations.
In 2019, it also began offering home and workplace charging in that country.
Having established itself in what it describes as “the world’s most mature EV market,” Couche-Tard is now looking to expand in areas with strong EV adoption and electrical grid infrastructure in order to provide convenient charging to customers in-towns or on highways.
In an investor presentation in March, it listed “Claim the EV customer in specific markets” as one of its core initiative offerings.
“While development in North America is in relatively early stages, by comparison, EV acceptance is growing here as manufacturers introduce innovative offerings that meet the unique needs of American and Canadian drivers and infrastructure improves,” said Snorre Skeie, Couche-Tard’s director of eMobility-North America, in the release.
Couche-Tard first announced in 2020 that it wanted to mirror the EV charging success it had in Norway in North America. At that time, president and CEO Brian Hannasch specifically mentioned the west coast of the U.S. as a target area, along with Canada. He also mentioned it had plans to grow a home charging service.
In early 2021, it also indulged in some unconventional social media promotion, in a YouTube post featuring Norwegian actress Silje Torp Færavaag, best known for her role as a Viking in the Norwegian comedy series Norsemen. Called “We’re ready,” it was a response to a General Motors Super Bowl ad in which comedian Will Ferrell “attacked” Norway for being ahead of the U.S. in EVs.
“We are the defenders of the EV legacy!” said Færavaag, standing in costume on the roof of Circle K station, warning a handful of bewildered Circle K employees of an “enemy from the west.”
The thrust of the video was to highlight Circle K’s “global rollout plan” for high-powered EV chargers. And with this latest unveiling, the North American piece of that plan is coming to fruition.
“With our broad footprint of more than 9,000 stores across the continent, we are well-positioned to deliver energy for our customers on the go, where, when and how they need it,” said Skeie.