Fuelling in an electric world: Why it’s time to rethink the petrol station model

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Fuelling in an Electric World

Change is inevitable. New technologies have made our lives easier, more convenient and arguably better than they were even two decades ago. You may remember being tethered to a landline telephone for hours while awaiting an important call. Perhaps you still cringe at memories of using paper and pencil to complete your tax returns. You might even feel a hint of nostalgia about a trip to the record store to buy your favourite band’s latest album. But there is one thing we rely on every day that hasn’t changed much since its invention nearly a century and a half ago: the automobile.

From the very beginning of motorised transportation, cars have been powered by the internal combustion engine (ICE), a contraption straight out of the fiery forges and bellowing smoke of the industrial age. While communication and information technologies have long since advanced to reflect the world we live in today, the “modern” car has been frustratingly slow to evolve. Until now. Electric vehicles (EVs) are set to enter the 21st-century mainstream, revolutionising transportation forever. But there’s still one behaviour that may be even more difficult to shake than our century-old addiction to fossil fuels: the trip to a fuelling station.

Workplace charging

With the rise of EVs, the petrol station model should become a relic of a bygone era, but you wouldn’t know it from all the media emphasis on DC rapid charging. Many pundits insist that, absent fast chargers on every road and motorway off-ramp, our streets will be strewn with stranded EV drivers who ran out of battery. But as any current EV driver can tell you (and I’ve happily been one since 2011), that’s simply not the case. It’s time to set the record straight.

Fast charging has its place in the EV charging ecosystem — for instance, if you’re on a road trip, you manage a depot of electric delivery vans, or you drive long-haul for one of the many rapidly electrifying fleets. But it’s rarely cost effective and nearly always unnecessary for everyday driving. A recent Consumer Reports analysis found that the average EV driver needs to access public fast charging just six times each year. Compare that with the roughly 50 times an ICE driver must fill up annually, at an average of 15 minutes per stop.

So, how do most EV drivers charge? When they’re parking, of course! Since the typical passenger car is parked around 95% of the time (usually at home or work), it would be incredibly inefficient to drive around seeking fast charging, which still takes longer to fuel than with petrol. Because of the higher infrastructure and electricity costs associated with it, DC fast charging isn’t very economical for the average driver either. Today’s EV drivers using mostly AC fast chargers save 60% on fuel compared with their ICE-driving counterparts, a benefit that would largely be wiped out if they relied on public fast chargers for routine fuelling.

Home charging

EVs are as far removed from the traditional ICE car as iPhones are from that old landline. In fact, when it comes to fuelling, electric vehicles are more closely related to the device in your pocket than they are to even the latest petrol-powered model. With a smart, networked AC fast home or workplace charger from ChargePoint, savvy EV drivers can take advantage of off-peak demand electricity rates or a generous employee benefit, all from the highly rated ChargePoint app. The app allows you to schedule charging, conveniently queue up at work while others are charging or start a session using your voice with Amazon Alexa. In-vehicle integrations with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and certain vehicles’ infotainment systems put charging at your fingertips, even when you’re not parked.

ChargePoint’s interoperability with other networks is akin to roaming on your phone as well — it’s convenient and seamless, and on those rare occasions when you do need a fast charger, you’re likely to find one just around the corner. Most of the time though, you can rest easy knowing your EV will be charged and ready to go when you are.

So, what are you going to do with the extra 12 1/2 hours you save each year NOT hanging around the petrol station?

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