Import Alliance car show

Shell Oil bought Volta… an ‘American electric vehicle infrastructure company’… for a cool 169 million. Significance: An oil company bought a charging company. So obviously, Shell sees an EV-future on the horizon. But that doesn’t mean Shell sees ‘the writing on the wall’ for internal combustion engines. Maybe so, maybe not… maybe reality is somewhere in the middle. And most likely, Shell wants to use its current muscle to stay ahead of ‘filling-up vehicles’ & serving transportation needs… however that may evolve in the future. But let’s think about what this might look like.

Your typical suburb gas station may have what… 16-20 pumps? Small town stations… maybe only 4-6 pumps? And then of course you have mega-stations like Buc-ee’s, with something like 120 pumps… which is kind of its own tourist destination in itself. But there’s an interesting difference with EVs. 

Shell Charging station volta

A typical gas station can cycle vehicles through quickly.

Meaning, each pump is only occupied by a vehicle for a few minutes, and then it’s turned over for the next vehicle. But an EV owner has to wait longer to charge their EV. Which means the turnover rate is much slower at a charging station. Maybe 3 cars per hour, per charger. Whereas a gas station can probably service more like a dozen cars per hour, per pump. 

Let’s just say for illustration & simplicity’s sake, that a gas/charging station makes $1 per car. That means with fuel, a gas station can make $12 per pump per hour. But with electricity, a charging station would only make $3 per charger per hour. So as you can see, the business model needs to evolve, and/or the rates need to adjust in order to balance out. So in a theoretical world of full-scale electric vehicles, what does a future ‘gas/charging station’ look like?

Well – on interstate exits for example, charging stations would have to be much larger in order to account for the longer charging times. Much more like a Buc-ee’s as far as the number of chargers go. Probably even larger than that. In the suburbs though, charging stations could become much less common than the typical gas stations we’ve come to know. That’s under the assumption that most commuters & errand-runners wouldn’t need to charge their vehicle in the middle of their daily routine… since their home charger would keep them covered most days. So there really wouldn’t be a need for a ‘station’ around every corner, which is an interesting almost freeing thought. It seems that most charging stations would be strategically geared for longer distance travelers. But then circle back to that matter of profit & viability, especially considering the 3 vehicles per hour dilemma mentioned above. 

With a charging station, you have a totally captive audience for 20-30 minutes.

So the goal would be to get vehicle owners & families out of their car while it’s charging… and into a clean/appealing store (or cluster of smaller stores) to buy coffee, snacks, candy, toys, local goods, etc. Again, similar to a Buc-ee’s, but maybe something more… calm. If you’ve ever been on 30a in Florida, imagine even something like The Hub (which is now called The Big Chill). Perhaps literally something almost like a micro village. Ehhh – I’m just thinking out out at this point. But in conclusion, I think it makes total sense for an oil company like Shell to start exploring the next chapter of ‘the gas station’. 

•Porsches by Jerry Peters


S3 Magazine