Imagining the Energy Station of Tomorrow
As the world shifts from fossil fuels and greener energy options become more efficient and inexpensive, the days of the internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV) are numbered. Electric vehicles (EVs) continue to rise in popularity and affordability, and their growing adoption is marking a change in the automotive industry that will have a ripple effect across enterprises.
One business that will immediately feel the impact of the impending green shift is the service station. Whether you call it a gas station, petrol pump or garage, the sight of outdoor fuel pumps and an attached store is ubiquitous across the globe. But in a world saying goodbye to fossil fuels, will the neighborhood service station of the future still have a reason to exist? How will businesses stay afloat without the steady revenue stream provided by oil?
Surviving & Thriving in a New Reality
Foundational changes will be required to meet the needs of new customers and maintain relevance in the future. Fundamental to these new businesses will be serving the needs of EV owners. When it comes to recharging an EV versus fueling an ICEV, two key differences are apparent:
- Charging an EV takes longer than refueling, leading to more time spent at the service station.
- Vehicles can be charged autonomously, so customers will have no need to stay with their car.
That means that the customers of the energy station of the future will likely have plenty of spare time to spend while they wait for vehicles to recharge.
Following the Trends Shaping Consumer Behavior
Just as the “refueling” needs of EVs will have a profound impact on consumer behavior at the energy station of the future, other technological advancements will also drive experiences for tomorrow’s consumers. We spoke with a number of customers who highlighted several trends that will likely be key in shaping the desires of future consumers, including:
1. Focus on Sustainable & Local
People are increasingly buying from brands with strong values and a focus on sustainability. That will be even more important for future energy stations as future customers will be much more likely to remember and act on brands that impact their lives – for better or worse.
2. New Brands & New Perspectives
In recent years, traditional service station brands have faced indirect competition from new market players, like auto makers offering independent EV chargers. To win customer sentiment and repeat business, organizations will need to start expanding the services they offer to appeal not just to the immediate needs of customers, but also their lifestyles.
3. Fewer Cars, More Options
In conjunction with the rise of EVs, other alternative transportation options are becoming more popular as well, like micromobility and car sharing. While EV car owners and drivers will always play a critical role as customers, a variety of other groups with different lifestyles and preferences will also need to be considered if businesses want to maximize market share.
4. Cutting-Edge Convenience
Designing for an uncertain future requires imagination, but what are leading organizations doing today to elevate consumer experiences? Our work with MAPCO shows what a modern, hyper-convenient retail and fueling experience can look like in the present. Through extensive consumer research – including a full-scale store prototype for real-world testers to experience the redesigned concept – we helped the company pioneer a new store design and layout that includes:
- Open floor plans with high ceilings and large windows
- Clean, expanded restrooms with modern fixtures
- Affordable, high-quality food
- Comfortable indoor and outdoor seating
- Free Wi-Fi
The result is a location that provides experiences like no other, inviting customers to relax and recharge at their own pace.
The Features Future Customers’ Want
By embracing evolving needs and a world breaking away from ICEVs, tomorrow’s service stations can evolve beyond a mere pit-stop into a true community hub. Energy stations of the future will offer signature experiences that champion and effortlessly fulfil sustainable lifestyle goals by redefining energy, re-imagining mobility and rallying communities. With customers spending more time at a service station while they wait for their EV to charge, they could occupy their time with a plethora of interesting experiences.
Mobile Work Opportunities
An emerging segment of the market for future energy stations is the business traveler. These customers will have the same EV-charging needs as other customers, but while they’re waiting, they’ll expect different experiences. With extra time, business travelers could find a well-furnished and convenient working center a big factor in their choice of energy station. By providing comfortable working conditions, with accessible and reliable Wi-Fi, the energy station of the future that gives mobile workers what they need could become the preferred home-away-from-home for countless customers.
Confections & Culinary Creations
Service stations and convenience stores continue to break new ground and introduce fresh and healthy foods to the masses, but the possibilities in the future are even greater for more restaurant-like experiences. Service stations could even offer delivery with branded EVs to compete with both restaurants and delivery services, taking new market share in the process.
At the same time, many customers will want frictionless, hyper-convenient experiences that help them get in and out quickly with minimal turbulence. Striking the balance between each customer group will be key for businesses.
Whether they’re children traveling with families or visiting tourists, curious learners will be able to find lessons in energy, sustainability and more from interactive kiosks, TVs and AR/VR experiences. Local information and relevant updates can help provide an incentive for travelers who value education and have extra time to learn.
As energy production goes green, tomorrow’s energy station has a unique opportunity to shed current negative environmental reputations and embrace sustainability and community involvement. This presents a unique opportunity for action-led initiatives that can positively affect customers’ daily lives and lead to harmony between sustainable practices and thriving business, promoting public trust and company involvement simultaneously.
Becoming a Destination for Travelers
Since their introduction, service stations have gone through dozens of iterations and innovations. As the world embraces an electric future, there’s no doubt that tomorrow’s energy station will be different from anything the world has seen, while retaining all the convenience and essentiality that has made them a fixture in modern life. But even for market players that have been leading the industry for centuries, there is opportunity for tremendous growth by making bold choices and providing innovating solutions for the problems of tomorrow.