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Tesla is reportedly exploring the possibility of opening service stations to be co-located with its Superchargers, reports GrubStreet.
The news came from Tesla Chief Technology Officer (CTO) JB Straubel who presented about industrial innovation this week at FSTEC, a conference that discusses the intersection of food and technology. He shared that Tesla Superchargers provide a captive audience that stands to benefit from additional service. In typical Tesla fashion, the company is responding to the desires of its customers with innovation.
“People are coming and spending 20 to 30 minutes at these stops,” Straubel shared. “They want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, and they want to use the bathroom.” These are all normal functions that non-EV drivers will expect at a service station, and beyond that, they present a lucrative market for potential food service partners who are surely looking to capitalize on the captive audience.
Tesla is not alone in seeing EV charging stations as an opportunity, as gas station chain Royal Farms recently announced a partnership with ChargePoint to install EV fast charging stations at 22 of its gas station locations with exactly this in mind. Gas stations already sell gasoline as a loss leader to bring customers in to buy the higher margin retail items inside the service station. They should have no problem understanding that EV charging makes the proposition that much more attractive. Customers will now be stopping for not just 5 minutes to top up on petrol — they will be stopping for 20–30 minutes for a fast charging session before moving on. That’s a lot more time to entice a purchase or 5.
That is quite a juicy target and promises to increase the scope of service stations — whether operated by Tesla or not — from convenience store stop-and-go items all the way up to restaurant offerings with seated dining and more. Think truck stops for EV chargers. They will no longer have to build massive underground tanks to store their gasoline and diesel but will instead be investing in the tremendous electrical infrastructure required to charge 20, 40, or 144 EVs at the same time on three-phase 480V power.
Back to Tesla, this news comes on the heels of several other major changes in direction with EV charging, compared to its earlier strategy to only deploy Superchargers in locations that would facilitate long-distance travel over popular routes (a bridge from home to destination but nothing more than that). The recent announcement of its new, smaller Supercharger intended for city centers and dense installation footprints is a clear indication that Tesla is looking beyond the Supercharging Superhighway and is now working towards providing a full-service, full-coverage network of Superchargers.
That news was followed quickly by news of the largest Supercharger installation yet, which will have 40 to 60 Superchargers installed in one location in Shanghai. Looking towards the future, Straubel shared that Tesla is not looking to actually run a food service operation itself, so don’t get your hopes up for a new line of Tesla food stands. “We already have been working with restaurants,” he explained. “That can only start scaling up.”
Tesla has existing relationships with numerous food service locations that have opted to open up their parking lots for Tesla Superchargers, so look for that to expand further in parallel to any possible new movement in the space from Tesla.