Published on July 30th, 2020 |
by Zachary Shahan
July 30th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
Germany, at last, is surfing into the EV revolution. (Or I guess skiing would be a better metaphor for Germany.) As we’ve reported recently, the country has implemented strong new electric vehicle incentives, and EV market share is thus rising fast, with EV market share nearing 9% in June. Plus, automakers have to sell electric cars or pay big fines, so they’re finally trying to sell EVs.
One more sign of the EV revolution’s arrival in Germany: gas station network Aral is installing more than 100 ultrafast charging stations at its retail locations across Germany in the coming year.
This follows what has been a full year-long pilot program at 5 of its stations. Aral is the “market leading fuel retail brand” for BP in Germany, and seemingly has the most gas stations in the country.
It would be cool if this was all about altruistic concern for other life on Earth and Aral was just doing its part to help clean car adoption come along. However, this move is, no doubt, about the money. If you are a businessperson in the gas station industry and you see that almost 10% of new car sales are electric and the percentage will likely be higher next year and much higher in a few years, you’d have to be really bad at your job to not be thinking about how to transition to cater to electric vehicle drivers as well. And the sooner, the better if you want to get some good press about it.
Getting to the details, here are some key points about the ultrafast EV charging stations Aral is installing:
- 350 kW
- 100% powered by green, renewable energy
- 2 charging stations with 2 charge points each at each location (for now) — meaning, up to 4 electric cars could charge at a time
- you can charge via a credit card machine, a QR code on a mobile website, the Hubject app, or an Aral Fuel & Charge card — and Aral will have its own e-mobility app go live in 2021 for one more option
“The next two charging stations due to go live in the coming weeks are Wuppertal (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Wollin (Brandenburg). The exact order of commissioning of the other retail stations will depend, among other factors, on the expansion of the grid. In the long term, Aral has identified potential to build ultra-fast charging stations at several hundred locations.”
When I drove through Germany in a Tesla with a friend a few years ago, we almost exclusively charged on Superchargers. There were just a couple of spots where we used a non-Tesla charger. Tesla’s system makes it so easy that I didn’t even scope out other options along the way — we put in the destination in Paris, left Poland, and just followed the directions except for perhaps one extra charge we spotted on the way. However, 1) not everyone has a Tesla, 2) the network is better in some areas than others, and adding a lot more ultrafast charging stations will make it significantly easier for people to take road trips in an EV, 3) more chargers is always better than fewer chargers!
I do have a hope that I routinely push for when it comes to faster, road-trip-focused charging stations at places like Aral. I hope that the owners of these places will see the potential for making them more attractive, turning them into something more akin to a temporary destination than a pit stop. Sure, some people will want to get in and out as quickly as possible, but others may be happy to work, relax, or entertain themselves for a bit while their car charges. They don’t stand next to their car while it fuels like someone driving a gas/diesel car does, which means as soon as you plug in you’ve got an open mind about what to do. I hear that gas stations make money on the food and goods they sell inside, rather than the fuel, so they should consider how much more they could sell inside if they made the stations more pleasant, places to hang out for a while.
European gas stations, from my experience, have already been headed in this direction. Perhaps because there are fewer and they are farther apart, this has become more common, or perhaps for other reasons. However, in every station I’ve ever stopped out, there’s plenty of room for improvement to make them more like an attractive, chill, appealing destination (like a cool coffee shop or restaurant). Owners of these stations need to move away from the mindset that they’re places for people to come and go as quickly as possible. Encourage drivers to stick around and spend money!