The rise of electric cars will reshape much of the American landscape, from requiring more robust electric grids to making millions of repair technicians retrain. Another industry gearing up for the change? Truck stops.
Charging an electric vehicle (EV) with even the fastest type of charger currently available can take half an hour. According to a new report from the New York Times, America’s truck stop operators increasingly recognize that as a business opportunity.
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“Truck stops are trying to get electric car owners to spend as much of that time as possible inside their stores,” explains Jim Hurless, managing director of real estate services firm CBRE.
Billions Pouring Into Upgrades
Truck stop giant Pilot “started a $1 billion initiative last year to remodel 400 of its travel centers and upgrade others over three years,” the Times reports. It’s the most significant investment in company history.
Rival truck stop chain Love’s is investing about $1 billion to make stores more attractive to EV drivers.
Biggest Businesses Getting Involved
Even major institutional investors see the business opportunity. Under the leadership of investment legend Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway paid $8.2 billion earlier this year “to increase its ownership of Pilot to 80% from 38.6%. And the British energy giant BP completed its $1.3 billion acquisition of TravelCenters of America in May.”
What are truck stops doing to make EV drivers feel more welcome? Upgrading dining options, adding upscale shopping to stores, and building dog parks.
Truck Stops Are Ideal for the Fastest Chargers
They’re also adding DC fast chargers, often with government help.
Level 2 chargers, also called “destination chargers,” refill a battery in about half the time it takes to recharge from a standard wall outlet (Level 1). EV drivers can find them at grocery stores and other locations where drivers might spend long periods. But they’re too slow to be helpful on a road trip.
Level 3 chargers, also called “DC fast chargers,” can do the work in half an hour for many EVs. They require significant electrical infrastructure not found in homes but are a workable solution at extensive facilities like truck stops. And they’re what EV drivers on road trips seek out.
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The Times explains, “Congress in 2021 passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which included $5 billion to pay for up to 80% of the cost of installing fast chargers. Truck stop operators and others are petitioning states for the grants.”
The Department of Transportation has set a goal of having a DC fast charging station available every 50 miles on major interstate highway routes. The truck stop industry already has locations that meet that requirement in many states.
“Truck stops don’t care what type of fuel people put into their cars, just like they don’t care whether people buy Coke or Pepsi or coffee or cake in their stores,” explains David Fialkov, executive vice president of government affairs at the National Association of Truck Stop Operators.