The rise of electric vehicle (EV) ownership is set to spark new expectations from customers when it comes to refueling.

EVs are set to change when, where, and how owners refuel, and there are vital questions that are yet to be answered, such as what will people do while they wait for their EVs to charge?

A new report from Kalibrate titled The Electric Opportunity: Mapping the habits, preferences, and needs of electric vehicle drivers, explores the changing relationship between customers and retailers, and how best to plan for the future of refueling.

Oliver Shaw, CEO, Kalibrate, says: “Refueling an EV isn’t like refueling a traditional vehicle – it can take significantly longer. Is there an opportunity for retailers to offer customers new experiences while they wait?

“Retailers know EV adoption is increasing, but without clarity of what the future will look like, many are hesitant to accelerate their plans for the future.”

Kalibrate conducted a survey of 1,433 consumers and 520 retail business stakeholders across 10 countries and discovered several key takeaways for retailers looking to prepare for increased EV adoption.

It found that while 86 per cent of retailers say EVs and EV charging will be a future revenue-driver for their business, 55 per cent think the market is too unpredictable to begin making concrete plans, and 52 per cent have not begun developing an EV strategy.

“Retailers know EVs are the future of transport, and that charging represents a big opportunity. Yet the uncertainty of the future is stopping them fully embracing the market. Inevitably, it’s the early adopters that will reap the biggest rewards,” says the report.

EVs are the future of transport, but questions still remain: what infrastructure do we need as drivers switch to electric vehicles? How will refueling habits change? What exactly do EV drivers look like today, and how will that change in the future?

Of the retailers surveyed, more than half (57 per cent) said that they’d like to better understand the characteristics and behaviours of EV drivers, and 67 per cent said that their EV strategy would likely change over the next three years.

Of the consumers surveyed, 83 per cent of current EV drivers purchased their vehicles within the last two years, 54 per cent intended to buy within the next two years, and 28 per cent intend to buy within five years.

It’s clear that retailers can’t simply transpose the habits and preferences of fuel drivers onto an EV driver audience and to make the most of the opportunity, they need to better understand EV customers’ behaviour.

Kalibrate says: “58 per cent of drivers often visit shops or businesses that offer EV charging, even if they’re not actively looking to charge their car. Some 59 per cent of drivers tend to spend more at shops or businesses that offer EV charging, and 67 per cent of drivers would think more positively of a shop that offers it.

Retailers also should understand where and how often EV drivers refuel, with 51 per cent saying that they recharge at least once daily.

“When it comes to where they’d like to see charging points, 61 per cent of EV drivers would like to see them at their place of work, followed by 57 per cent at shopping venues, 43 per cent at hospitality venues, 42 per cent at motorway service stations, and 41 per cent at existing fuel stations.”

An interesting point to consider is the majority of respondents said they are likely to shop and spend money when taking a 30-minute break to charge their EVs on a journey – suggesting providers of charge points could profitably invest in grocery and other offerings.

For example, 60 per cent would grab a drink or a bite to eat, 42 per cent would shop for essentials like groceries, and 29 per cent would shop or browse shops to pass the time. By comparison, most of these activities come in higher than checking work emails (36 per cent), browsing social media (33 per cent), or catching up on the news (25 per cent).

Bearing all this in mind, it’s easy to see why some retailers still have questions before launching their EV strategy, but the market is evolving quickly, and the time is now to start planning for the future of refueling.

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