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Future-Proofing Petrol Stations

3 min read
To stay relevant, traditional petrol stations should evolve and integrate themselves into the new EV landscape.

Countries around the world, including Singapore, have set targets of having zero-emission vehicles to replace their current vehicular population in order to address climate change and air quality issues brought about by fossil fuel. At the forefront of this charge are electric vehicles (EV). If cars no longer require petrol, what will become of traditional petrol stations? Are there ways they can evolve and integrate themselves into the new EV landscape?

The very first petrol station in the world was a pharmacy in Wiesloch, Germany, way back in 1888, when you had to purchase petrol by the bucket or barrel to fill your vehicle. Since then, petrol stations have evolved to top up vehicles via dispensing pumps, while also sometimes providing car-related services (repair workshop, car wash) as well as other facilities (convenience store, ATM).

With the steady decline in demand for fossil fuels, the outlook for petrol stations looks bleak at first. However, some believe petrol stations are likely to play some role in the EV future. As part of an existing network already in place, these stations are well placed to be converted to provide additional charging coverage for Eds.

As a possible enabler of the EV charge, these stations can provide an immediate availability of charging points. This will definitely ease the burden on city planners looking for new plots to house charging stations, saving time and money as well on planning and re-planning, on adding new infrastructure or changing present ones to accommodate new charging areas. 

In the second quarter of this year, Caltex Singapore, in partnership with SP Group and Chevron Singapore, will equip four of their petrol stations with fast-charging 50kW direct chargers (DC). These DC chargers take only 30 minutes to fully charge an EV compared to AC ones, which can take up to a few hours.

These stations can be at the forefront of trials on pioneering payment modes and systems for EVs. The technology that drives these apps and payment systems can help determine if these solutions are successful and popular before embarking on an islandwide EV payment application. As a test bed for EV-related services, these stations can be the thrust from which the EV revolution can truly emerge. At the Caltex charging stations in Singapore, drivers can use the SP Utilities mobile app to pay as well as to receive real-time updates, such as station availability. This will also help to feed information on driver usage patterns and behaviour, which can be used to refine and enhance the utilisation and accessibility of future charging setups.

Petrol stations have already evolved to resemble mini supermarkets and cafes. In Singapore, the convenience stores in such stations even provide fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables. That is in response to consumer expectations for services that go beyond just refuelling. Many are looking at having more convenient services to check off their errand list while they wait for their cars to refuel. In fact, this desire for convenience is throwing a lifeline of sorts to the humble petrol station looking to further evolve their business into an environment that consumers would want to go to in the future.

By providing these and more value-added services, these stations are potential key assets from which to build a new retail system that contains multiple businesses within a single environment. In time, these stations will generate more than just the occasional need to visit. Considering how petrol stations used to be just for filling up one’s car, this makes sense in the next phase of its transformation.