Gas stations aren't a model for electric-car charging: ChargePoint CEO

ebee streelight charging station

ebee streelight charging station

For more than a century, motorists have been accustomed to gas stations, which provide places to stop and fill up a car with fuel, in recent years with larger and larger convenience stores attached.

The model is so commonplace, it may mean drivers don't know electric-car charging stations even exist, since they often lack signage or branding.

Instead, most charging stations are built into parking lots. Even Tesla has relatively discreet brands on Supercharger stations nestled into various shopping plazas and roadside lots.

DON'T MISS: Car buyers have no idea electric-car charging stations even exist

For ChargePoint, branding is absolutely a strategy. The CEO of the charging-station company, Pasquale Romano, believes the gas-station model is not the right one for electric-car charging stations.

The Wall Street Journal spoke with the CEO about the infrastructure of charging stations (subscription required), and Romano offered his thoughts on the model of fueling stations and why electric cars don't need to follow that tradition.

Most of his insight stems from the fact electric-car charging stations can be built into more convenient places, rather than dedicated stand-alone structures.


2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car at EVgo fast-charging station, Newport Centre, Jersey City, NJ

For example, Romano envisions most charging stations built into workplaces and owners' homes.

He also firmly believes part of the reason most drivers are unaware of charging stations is due to a lack of branding.

"You’ve probably driven by them and never seen them," he said. "There’s no advertising, there’s no canopy, because it isn’t a destination. It happens to be where you’re parking."

READ THIS: Electric car charging: the basics you need to know (updated)

In fact, he thinks a common future question in the future won't be, "Where's the nearest gas station?" but, "Does my employer have charging stations in the parking lot?"

This approach does require something of a shift in viewpoint, though.

Companies that mimic the gas-station concept aren't reaping the benefits electric cars can offer in convenient infrastructure, with charging stations integrated essentially everywhere.

Tesla destination charging station in Bodie, California [photo: George Parrott]

Tesla destination charging station in Bodie, California [photo: George Parrott]

Charging stations are smaller, more discreet, and can be placed at locations where drivers may stop to get coffee, eat lunch, or stretch their legs on a road trip.

"After a couple hundred miles of driving, I’m probably ready to stop to walk the dog or get a coffee or use the restroom anyway," Romano added.

CHECK OUT: Porsche prototype 350-kw electric car fast-charging station installed

What about cable-free wireless charging? Romano doesn't see it becoming particularly common.

If consumers are capable of plugging in almost every other device in their lives, he suggested, plugging in a car just isn't that much of hassle.

[hat tip: George Betak]


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