HOW FUEL STATIONS CAN HELP ELECTRIC VEHICLES
Electric vehicles have fared well in terms of performance. They now offer impressive torque, speed and looks. Renault’s new Zoe and Tesla’s Model S are some examples.
That said, EVs lack robust fuelling facilities. Despite the claims that competitively priced replacement batteries or portable chargers can be made available to the customers, there is a perceptible lack of charging infrastructure. OEMs are trying to address this issue, despite being driven by the Governments’ strict regulations.
Parking lots in malls and office spaces have already come into focus for installing their electric chargers. Most recently, BMW, Ford, Volkswagen (through its Porsche and Audi brands) and Daimler are planning a joint venture to set up charging sites across Europe starting next year. A joint statement from these players mentioned that their objective was to allow customers to charge their electric vehicle as conveniently as they re-fuel a traditional vehicle.
This is relevant in a country like India. Here, oil companies that supply fuel stations are squeezing the profit margins of the stations. There is dissent from the fuel station owners as the recommendations of the Apurva Chandra Committee have not been fully implemented.
The committee which was appointed by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas in 2010 had recommended measures to enhance the margin of the dealer and review the dealer commission every six months.
We are not far away from a scenario where the profit from running a fuel pump is significantly lesser than leasing the land out on rent.
This is not just in India but prevalent across the world. In the US alone the number of gas stations has gone from 300,000 across the country to about 140,000 (Source: Gasoline and Automotive Service Dealers of America) primarily due to the real estate situation.
In such a climate, the OEMs would be well-advised to place their ‘quick’ chargers (or some Third Party product like the CHAdeMO quick charger) on the sides of the fuel pump premises to aid the electric vehicle owners. While this can work in the short-term, it cannot be considered a long-term solution since it might lead to a huge queue for the chargers, if the electric vehicles increase in number.
The best long-term solution that benefits EV owners, the OEMs as well as the fuel station owners would be for OEMs to set up a joint-venture with the fuel station owners to convert either the whole or part of the fuel station into a multi-level parking space where each parking slot is equipped with an electric charger.
While this might affect the owners of the traditionally powered vehicles (who will have to ‘search’ for fuel stations) in the short term, it would aid in moving the public towards choosing electric vehicles. The fuel pump owner will also be agreeable to this solution given that he would be able to get revenue irrespective of whether the vehicle is battery-powered or fuel-powered as there is always a demand for a safe parking space in the cities.
The OEMs will also be in the prime position to reap benefits as they can work out a profit-sharing agreement with the fuel-pump owner for developing the electric charger equipped parking space.