A Great EV Fast-Charging Station Will Probably Be Like A Great Gas Station

A Great EV Fast-Charging Station Will Probably Be Like A Great Gas Station

As advanced as electric cars are, it’s stunning how terrible it is to charge an EV. Instead of drivers chowing down snack-sized finger sandwiches and oat milk lattes envisioned by some enterprising futurists, the reality of the modern EV charging experience is often long lines, semi-functional equipment, compatibility issues and endless payment apps. And no matter the charging brand, the driver will probably be exiled to the back of a strip mall parking lot or a desolate city center, leaving them to trifle with a charger that might not even work. 

Although any random charger in the back of a parking lot is certainly a helpful addition to our woeful charging infrastructure, it’s becoming extremely clear that EV drivers want and need more. 

On an impromptu quick road trip in a rented Hyundai Ioniq 5, I stopped at a surprisingly important DC fast charging station—one of the first GM-branded Ultium DC fast chargers installed at a Flying J’s truck stop.

The experience wasn’t perfect, but it was a heck of a lot better than a lot of other DC fast-charging options I’ve experienced yet. Despite that mediocre experience, analysts and experts say that this—something that simulates a gas station—might just be the way forward for our DC fast-charging infrastructure. 

Get Fully Charged

EV Drivers want more amenities while charging

DC fast chargers are often placed in odd, less-than-accessable places that aren’t always close to things drivers may want or need. An increasing amount of studies show that EV drivers want many of the same amenities that gas car owners regularly use, like air pumps, vacuums, and convenience store items nearby. Offering these services could be the key to getting EV charging to finally become profitable.

Automakers are starting to get the gist that sitting alone in an empty parking lot waiting for the car to gather electrons from the grid isn’t an enjoyable, desirable experience. At the end of the day, electric cars are still cars with human drivers, and both cars and drivers have needs that should be satisfied, thus, automakers and EV charging service providers are attempting to provide a more complete experience.

This is backed up by data from the automotive analysis firm AutoPacific. It recently published its EV Consumer Insights Study, which showed that EV drivers in part want some of the bare minimum of the same amenities found at gas stations. Things like windshield wash stations, air pumps for refilling tires, or even vacuum cleaners or car wash stations. The average DC fast charging station doesn’t even have a roof; not fun when a driver has to recharge in bad weather.

Blazer EV and Ioniq 5 Charging

Just by virtue of being on the same property as a truck stop, the GM Ultium station here already has a few legs up on most other DC fast charging stations. There’s an air station, a convenience store, and an attached Denny’s, which is way better than the GMC dealership the Ioniq 5’s in-car DC fast charging finder initially had me navigate toward.

The two charging stations are rated for 350 kW, which should keep charging times reasonably low, especially in the Ioniq 5, which can reach a max speed well into the 200 kW range. The stations themselves are turned sideways next to a pull-through-style space, meaning they’ll be accessible to nearly every EV, even if they’re towing a trailer. The canopy covering the stations should shield the driver somewhat from the elements—all the things we’ve taken for granted that made refueling a gas car ubiquitously comfortable, are present at Flying J’s. 

But, is the mere presence of the amenities of a gas station enough to make EV drivers swoon? Nah.

“The focus has been on making chargers reliable when people show up – chargers will work,” said Amaiya Khardenavis, an EV Charging Analyst at Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables Energy Research. “But it goes beyond just the chargers working, it includes the ecosystem that surrounds [the chargers]. The customer will be spending 30 to 45 minutes at this location, and they’re wanting the basics like clean washrooms, but also [amenities] beyond that, such as retail services like food, convenience stores, or even a lounge with WiFi.” 

This wasn’t the cleanest or most modern Flying J’s. The store itself was old and dumpy; it could have satisfied any patron’s craving for a pack of Marlboro Reds and a Mountain Dew, but it’s not exactly a place where anyone would want to spend more than the five minutes it would have taken me in a gas-powered car to refuel. Hungry, and craving breakfast, I paid the attached Denny’s a visit. The food was okay, but I remembered why I stopped going to Denny’s more than a decade ago. (When it comes to chain diners, Denny’s is last on my list, it just feels like such a lower-quality option compared to Bob Evans or even IHOP.)

Denny's Menu

Personal food qualms aside, the charger was working well enough. I pulled into the station with 16% battery life; the car stayed at roughly 78 kW for a short while, ramped up to 175 kW, only to get cut down to 125 kW. The chargers on location were 350 kW units, but they allowed for simultaneous charging, so other EVs will draw more of the maximum possible juice. The second charging unit was broken, which meant the GM-owned Blazer EV had no other choice but to plug in the same unit as me, splitting the theoretically available 350 kW between two vehicles.

I’m not a stickler for DC fast charging speeds so I didn’t mind the slight slowdown, but it did keep me at the dingy Flying J’s longer than I wanted to be there.

That was my problem here. I had an unsatisfying meal at a truck stop Denny’s because I didn’t want to loiter in a Flying J’s convenience store lobby or sit in my car scrolling TikTok. I suppose this is a better experience than the alternative of sitting in the back of a dark Walmart parking lot, but it wasn’t something I liked, either.

However, if EV charging service providers are going to make this transition profitable, they’ll likely need to follow this blueprint set out, according to Khardenavis. I just hope they can execute it better.

Pilot Travel Centers LLC, General Motors and EVgo charging station

“It comes down to how public charging stations are going to monetize EV charging,” Khardenavis said. “They aren’t going to make money off EV charging, unfortunately. The focus is trying to monetize and stimulate revenue that comes from store purchases. You’re looking at going to charge your EV, and then going into the store because there’s nothing to do.”

Khardenavis said that in his experience, some stations make upwards of 60% of their revenue from convenience store purchases, not from fuel sales. 

But, Khardenavis also admitted that perhaps I just had a mediocre run-in with a not-so-good station, one that isn’t necessarily indicative of the future of DC fast charging. For example, there are other, better-maintained Gas Station and EV charging hub partnerships, like Mercedes-Benz’s agreement with Buc-ee’s.

A Texas road trip staple that’s quickly expanding elsewhere, Buc-ee’s is widely regarded as a cut above a typical gas station, with the wildly profitable stores selling its own branded merchandise or house-made gourmet items like barbequed brisket. Way different than the typical gas station hot dog or nachos. It’s not just Buc-ee’s, either; other gas station convenience stores like Sheetz, Wawa, or 7/11 have made most of their money from bespoke food and convenience items and the associated positive customer experience, not the fuel sales. 

“The focus has not been on the customer service experience at all. The focus has been on making sure the chargers work and are in the right place,” Khardenavis said.

Still, with the quest to establish charging infrastructure, EV charging service providers may need to do two things at the same time if they’re expecting to ever turn a profit. A good gas station will probably be a good EV charging station, too. 

Contact the author: kevin.williams@insideevs.com

In the rapidly evolving landscape of transportation, electric vehicles (EVs) have emerged as a viable solution for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating climate‍ change. As more and more consumers ⁤make the‌ switch to EVs,‌ the demand for fast-charging stations has skyrocketed. In order to support ⁢the growing number of EV drivers, it‍ is essential‌ to create a network of ⁢fast-charging stations that are efficient,‍ reliable, and ‍convenient. Just as gas stations have long been a staple of the traditional automotive industry, great EV fast-charging⁢ stations will likely play a similar role in ⁣the future of transportation.

A great EV fast-charging station ‌will prioritize speed and efficiency, just like ⁢a great gas station. The ability to quickly recharge⁤ a vehicle’s battery⁣ is crucial for EV drivers, especially those embarking ⁣on long journeys. Just as gas stations offer multiple fuel pumps to accommodate a high volume of vehicles, fast-charging stations should have multiple charging⁣ ports to ⁤minimize wait times ‌and keep traffic flowing smoothly. In addition, the charging process itself should be seamless ‍and user-friendly, with⁢ clear instructions and simple payment options.

Moreover, a great EV fast-charging station will prioritize reliability. ⁢Just as gas‍ stations are expected ⁤to have a steady ⁤supply of fuel, fast-charging stations should ‍be consistently operational ⁤and well-maintained. ⁢A reliable charging infrastructure is essential for building trust among EV‍ drivers ​and encouraging more ⁢people to make the switch to electric vehicles.

Convenience is another key factor that will distinguish great EV fast-charging stations from mediocre ones. Just as‌ gas stations often offer amenities such as restrooms, snacks, and convenience stores, fast-charging stations should provide a comfortable and welcoming environment for drivers. This ‌could include ⁤amenities such as seating⁣ areas, coffee shops, or even electric vehicle service centers.

In conclusion, the future of‌ transportation lies in the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. In order to support this transition, it is essential to develop a network of fast-charging stations that can ​meet the needs of a growing number⁢ of EV ‌drivers. A great EV fast-charging station will likely resemble a great gas station in terms of speed, efficiency, reliability, and convenience. By prioritizing these key factors,⁢ we can create a charging infrastructure that ⁣will make electric vehicles a practical and sustainable choice for drivers around the world.