It is no secret that electromobility is on the rise. In 2022, 12.1 percent electric cars were sold in the EU, amounting to a total of 1.1 million. This number was shared by the manufacturer’s association Acea. Back in 2021, KTCHNrebel presented a study by Aral on the filling station of the future. But what does it look like today?
The trend is primarily toward large charging parks with many charging stations on expressways and near highways. Comfort is a must: Most stations have a roof, and many charging parks also have shops and food on site. In general, most of the charging parks that already exist and/or are planned have a similar structure to classic filling stations or rest stops, with one small but subtle difference – much more emphasis is placed on comfort and high-quality gastronomic options, ensuring that waiting times can be optimized.
Innovative e-fueling station: sustainable charging, eating, relaxing and/or working
Fastned, a Dutch provider of high-power charging infrastructure, built the “Ladepark West” (Charging Park West) near the Bochum cross on the A 448 in Bochum, Germany in 2022. Yellow roofs protect against rain during the charging break. Along with restrooms and a Fastned lounge open 24/7, there’s also a playground for kids. In terms of gastronomy, the aim is to provide more than just filling station snacks or baked goods. In fact, the Bochum-based restaurateur Christian Di Veronica will open his Italian-Mediterranean restaurant at Ladepark in spring 2023. “We are looking to offer not only breakfast and an attractively priced lunch menu, but also high-quality evening dining,” explains restaurant owner Christian Di Veronica.
This is a fully-fledged concept similar to his other restaurant “viva la Mamma” in downtown Bochum. At that restaurant, he focuses on homemade pasta, pizza and antipasti. He is offering his dishes from a food truck until it is finished. A three-story office building is planned behind the restaurant. Environmental considerations have also played a role, with all the electricity used for both operations and charging coming from renewable energy sources. A roof-mounted photovoltaic system is also expected to improve the eco-balance.
E-fueling stations with gastronomy: Europe-wide expansion planned
Fastned already operates 200 fast charging stations in the Netherlands, Germany, Great Britain, Belgium, Switzerland and France. In 2021, the company partnered with other e-mobility companies to open the UK’s largest fast-charging station in Oxford, England. This Energy Superhub offers 26 fast charging stations from various operators with an output of up to 300 kW. You will notice the development here as well: during their stop, travelers can have a coffee, a bite to eat, use the restroom, or use the free Wi-Fi at the adjacent restaurant. By 2030, Fastned intends to implement 1,000 fast charging stations along heavily frequented routes in Europe.
Roland Schüren: Master baker and operator of the Seed and Greet charging park
Another example from Germany is the innovative Seed and Greet charging park at the Hilden cross near Düsseldorf, covering an area of around 130,000 square feet. The owner is master baker Roland Schüren. During the charging process, drivers can visit the 160-square-foot café-bistro with an organic bakery. At this café-bistro, you can enjoy breakfast options such as a pastry or full-fledged breakfast. Another tasty treat are their pizza creations made with organic spelt and organic whole rye flour and homemade 7-herb pesto. They also offer ofinis, tartes and salad bowls, as well as organic coffee and tea specialties, which are all available to go. “When it comes to food quality, we also focus on sustainability. We only work with organic, regional and seasonal products and cooperate with local and regional family-run businesses,” emphasizes Schüren.
Sustainably produced: Electricity and food
The 18-million-euro Hilden charging park features a sophisticated energy concept with heat recovery, solar roofs, rainwater and service water secondary use, the park’s organic bakery and wood-frame construction. An innovative highlight: A vertical greenhouse will be built between the two building levels, spanning around 10,800 square feet over four floors by means of vertical farming. Lettuce, strawberries and blueberries are cultivated here to meet the bakery’s needs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. In the first construction phase, just under half of the 116 planned loading spaces were completed. “Germany and Europe don’t just need more e-mobility, but above all they need more e-mobility with electricity from renewable sources,” explains the master baker and businessman.
bk-World: Making charging breaks useful
A smaller idea, but by no means less interesting, are the custom-designed Qubes – modular and transportable elements that can be combined with each other – from bk World e-filling stations. “The entire concept is user-driven,” explains initiator Marc Arnold. “What do I need as an electric car driver during the charging break?” The Franconian company BBC group has undertaken two projects, one in Füssen near the A7 and at the company’s Endsee site. Inside the building cuboids there are restrooms and a lounge, office corners and a children’s play area. The building components are made of spruce and a large proportion of the electricity supply is provided by the company’s own PV system on the roofs.
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They have a different approach to gastronomy here: instead of a restaurant, there is an automated and online-based store system. Refrigerators offer cold food ranging from fruit and granola yogurt to salads, as well as beverages, which are served in an automated manner. If you prefer hot food, there is also a pizza machine next to bk-World, which bakes pizza within four minutes. The company plans to open 300 locations across Europe over the next five years.
Oasis by Ionity – when charging your car becomes an experience
The fast charging station operator Ionity is also targeting charging parks with connected infrastructure. The company plans to expand its current sites as well as build completely new stations. These will not only be built alongside highways, as was the case in the past, but also near cities and in the vicinity of arterial roads. Called Oasis, the concept envisions covered charging stations or charging parks with cafés, restaurants or stores and barely resembles the filling stations we know today.
Ionity aims to operate around 1,000 sites across Europe by 2050. “With Oasis, we’re showing what a whole new charging experience can look like. We want to offer our customers more convenience,” says Ionity COO Dr Marcus Groll. Ionity is a joint venture between automotive manufacturers BMW Group, Ford Motor Company, Hyundai Motor Group, Mercedes Benz AG and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche, as well as BlackRock’s Global Renewable Power Platform as a financial investor.
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Fast food at the charging station
Shell Deutschland GmbH and KFC Deutschland (Kentucky Fried Chicken) are working together on another exciting project to promote the development of charging infrastructure for electric cars. To achieve this, Shell Recharge charging stations with 120 DC charging points will be installed at 23 KFC restaurants near freeways in the next few years. Shell and KFC have a long-standing strategic partnership in the convenience retail business. Then guests can use the loading time to visit the adjoining KFC restaurants.
The restaurant chain Peter Pane also wants to serve burgers at e-petrol stations in the future. According to company boss Patrick Junge, filling station operators need to rethink their approach to e-mobility. “In light of the fact that e-cars take a little longer to recharge, ideas are needed to bridge the waiting time and create incentives for driving to certain filling stations,” the Peter Pane boss said. Eating burgers and also charging cars – for him this fits “very well together.” We are already conducting “concrete discussions with a provider and this year we will test whether this concept already works in the medium term.”
Car manufacturers see potential to bridge charging time with culinary options
Vending machines at Audi Charging Hubs
But it’s not all about joint ventures; car manufacturers such as Audi are also banking on their own e-charging capacities. Audi launched its very own concept with its charging hub in Nuremberg. “With the Audi charging hub, Audi primarily serves drivers who do not have the option of charging at home in urban environments,” says press spokesperson Benedikt Still. The fast-charging cube is intended to be an alternative to the often overburdened e-charging infrastructure in cities.
The customer can stay in the lounge during the charging period and use the restrooms and snack and beverage vending machines. You can also find temporary workspaces and a concierge as a contact person. “In the lounge, we currently offer high-quality vending machines. For locations without a lounge, we work with partners in the immediate vicinity to offer a diverse range of services in terms of charging and gastronomy. The Wi-Fi is also free,” emphasizes the press officer. Additional locations are initially planned for 2023 and mid-2024 in Germany.
VW culinary option is part of the charging concept
Volkswagen also wants to establish a Europe-wide network of its own charging points for electric vehicles in cooperation with several energy companies: In Germany, the Group wants to set up its charging points at the Aral filling stations of the British mineral oil group BP. By the end of 2024, up to 8,000 charging points will be built in Germany, Great Britain and other European countries.
Not much is yet known about the culinary options at the locations planned for the future. However, as VW press spokesperson Elena Storm points out, “E-drivers can charge in safe, well-lit and staffed locations and have access to additional services such as food and beverages and restroom facilities.” In Europe, the charging infrastructure is based on Enel, Iberdrola, BP/Aral Pulse or Ionity. Aral Pulse often uses the infrastructure of filling stations to expand charging stations. With Enel, VW opened a joint venture Ewiva at the end of December 2022: premium stations will be opened at hotspots that provide snacks and drinks for customers.
Mercedes plans its own charging network
With its own network and concept, Mercedes Benz wants to improve its customers’ charging experience. It is planning more than 10,000 fast-charging points at 2,000 locations in key cities and metropolitan areas near major transportation routes and convenient retail and service locations in North America, China and Europe. No concrete plans have been announced yet, but the first charging parks in North America are expected to be built as early as in the course of 2023. For the facility itself, Mercedes is promising a generous amount of space and, if possible, a roof; gastronomy and restroom facilities are also planned, as well as surveillance cameras.
More e-power in the USA
The USA also needs many more charging stations, as a study by McKinsey shows: The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) allocates $7.5 billion for developing the nation’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. The aim is to install 500,000 public charging stations nationwide by 2030 that are compatible with all vehicles and technologies. The company Electrify America is working on the construction of new charging stations that focus on convenience and service, just like the European concepts. Since opening the first charging station in May 2018, Electrify America has put more than 3,500 additional charging stations into operation at 800 locations. Unlike many in Germany, the parks are located directly within cities, often in the vicinity of large shopping malls. An additional 1,800 charging parks and 10,000 charging stations are planned in the United States and Canada by 2025.
In a nutshell, charging time is waiting time. And waiting time is mostly wasted time – but no one has time to spare. This means that customers are increasingly looking for ways to make good use of the waiting period at the charging station. In addition to the possibility of working, gastronomy in particular can play a major role here. From high-quality digitized vending machine food or snack options and fast food to full-fledged restaurants with high-end selections, the current concepts already demonstrate a high degree of variety. The fact is, the future e-fueling stations will have to offer more than the familiar filling station charm found between a truck parking lot and a freeway restroom.