There was a time not so long ago when the existence of EV cars seemed to be little more than a concept that would become something more substantial in the far, far distance. It was something for the scientists to think about while the rest of us continued to fill up with petrol and drive off to wherever we happened to be going. Times have changed very quickly, of course, and as a society we now find ourselves trying to keep up with the EV revolution almost before it’s really got under way.
Amid all the euphoria about improvements in battery life, the decreasing cost of charging and, inevitably, the latest government targets, we seem to be losing sight of something rather important; what is going to happen to all of our petrol stations? With a ban on selling new petrol and diesel cars coming into effect in less than a decade from now, there will come a time when traditional filling stations will start to disappear altogether.
Or will they?
It may be that the places themselves won’t just fade away, but they will of course need to change dramatically. The number of pumps dispensing petrol or diesel will soon start to decrease, presumably to be replaced by charging points for electric cars, and it won’t be long before we get used to the sight of cars remaining in place for 20 minutes or so while their batteries are given new life. We can expect to see the ratio of charging points to dispensing pumps changing from now on.
Of course, modern filling stations are far more than providers of fuel. They offer opportunities to shop for everything from coffee and croissants to maps and magazines, and this is likely to continue well into the new age that’s coming. Given that cars will need to remain in situ for a while when they’re being charged up, it’s likely that coffee shops will become an important attachment to the traditional forecourt.
The future is already here
A new all-electric facility in Essex, which claims to be the first of its kind in the UK, not only offers an opportunity to stop for a coffee and a sandwich, it also has offices which are available to rent by the hour. Such initiatives aren’t common as yet, of course, but over the next few years they are likely to become the norm. And the possibilities that could be on offer represent an intriguing insight into the way we ‘refuel’ in the future, whether we’re looking to provide the ultimate B2B PR service or simply playing a few gams of Candy Crush on our phones.
After all, not all of us want to work when we stop for a break. Forecourts of tomorrow could perhaps offer small cinemas showing short films, for example, or even sleeping pods for consumers to grab forty winks before hitting the road once again. Soft play areas for the kids would prove popular, and how about golf or motor-racing via simulators? Perhaps at the moment our imaginations are the only things holding us back.