US Fuel sites won’t turn Into EV charging points quickly

The adoption of electric vehicles in the US calls for more public EV charging points to allay consumer concerns about accessibility to chargers on long trips, but the unfolding reality is that the majority of fuel station owners can’t afford this bet on the future.

While integrated energy supermajors with large gas station networks are investing in EV charging across the U.S., owners of the typical convenience gas stations face hurdles to adding EV chargers or completely switching to EV charging services only.

These hurdles include high upfront costs which could be as high as $1 million per store, land availability to add EV charging points, and potential investment in amenities to keep customers entertained while their EVs are charging.

“I would never recoup my investment,” Blake Smith, founder of gas station and convenience store operator SQRL Holdings in Florida and Arkansas told CNBC.

“We’re not flipping a switch to where gas vehicles are getting off the road and it will be EV-only,” Smith said, adding that a future of all-electric convenience locations is decades away.

The U.S. has ambitious targets for EV adoption, as part of the Biden Administration’s clean energy plans. The Administration is supporting efforts to build a national network of 500,000 electric vehicle chargers along America’s highways and in communities and have EVs make up at least 50% of new car sales by 2030.

Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, $7.5 billion will be invested in EV charging, $10 billion in clean transportation, and more than $7 billion in EV battery components, critical minerals, and materials, the White House has said.

But it’s not enough.

There are some 104 gas pumps per 1,000 road miles on average in the United States, compared to just 22 EV charging points for the same road distance, a study by smart fuel card management platform Coast showed earlier this month.

As EV sales rise, the number of EV charging points is not enough now and the density of charging stations in some states is much lower than in others, according to the study. The team at Coast used data from the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Transportation to explore the state of EV charging infrastructure in the U.S.

Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Colorado, Oregon, Utah, and Washington are the U.S. states with more EV charging opportunities than gas stations, the study found.

Massachusetts is top of the list. In this state, there are 31.4 EV charging stations on average per 100 square miles and only 18.4 gas stations per 100 square miles. Rhode Island and California follow closely behind, as both states provide residents with extensive charging networks to reinforce their commitments to cleaner transportation alternatives.

Yet, across America, there aren’t sufficient public EV charging points despite investment-ready dealerships and automakers rolling out chargers.

New franchise dealerships are leading investments in EV infrastructure, the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) said earlier this year. Franchise dealerships are on track to spend $5.5 billion in EV infrastructure instalments, the association has estimated, based on available data from a selection of brands.

However, investment requirements from manufacturers vary widely with estimated costs ranging from $100,000 to over $1 million per store, which do not necessarily include the specialized equipment purchases needed to service EVs or the additional costs from local utilities for extending new power lines or adding transformers. Batteries add significant weight to vehicles, which require heavier-duty forklifts, safety systems, and battery storage – those costs could add more than $40,000 to the bill, NADA says.

According to a report on the future of gas stations by Matthews Real Estate Investment Services from early this year, “Gas stations planning to cater to the new generation of electric vehicles will face some challenges including high equipment and construction costs and potential disruptions during renovation.”