UK to require EV charging at all major petrol (gas) stations

old petrol station photo
CC BY 2.0 Andreas Mortonus

Given that oil company CEOs are switching over to plug-in cars, major fuel retailers may want to start thinking about how they can keep a slice of the refueling pie when the day comes that most of us, most of the time, charge at home.

In the UK at least, they will no longer have any choice. Auto Express reports that a new bill—announced during the latest Queen's Speech—will mandate that electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities be provided at all major motorway service stations (essentially large refueling/retail/hotel locations located along major highways), as well as larger gas (sorry Brits, I mean "petrol") stations on the country's trunk roads.

This feels like an important development. While we've written before that 'range anxiety' is often more of a psychological condition than a real world concern—even with today's limited range electric cars—it is still an impediment to more broad scale adoption. By requiring that all major fuel retailers also cater to electric vehicles, the UK government is sending an important signal to drivers that the infrastructure will be in place to get us anywhere we need to go.

Now here in the US, where many citizens are notoriously, if selectively, reticent about government "picking winners", I suspect a government mandate might face some opposition. But let's not forget that these businesses owe their existence to massive public subsidy of roads, not to mention the "hidden subsidies" of environmental and health impacts of gas car emissions.

Political and ideological concerns aside, in terms of making sure that electric vehicle charging infrastructure gets installed, it's a very helpful move for those of us who do drive electric. Between the arrival of 300+ mile range electric cars, and a rapidly expanding network of fast charging, workplace charging and destination charging, highway charging stations won't get used anywhere near as much as their gas (sorry again, "petrol"!) counterparts—so the commercial case for installing them is going to be a harder sell.

But the electrification of transportation is beginning to feel inevitable. Fuel retailers are going to either have to figure out how to stay relevant, or many of them will eventually fade out of the picture. A mandate like this one may be just the shot in the arm they need. If they can evolve their offering to provide more retail, rest and recuperation options as we recharge our long-range electric cars, they may just get a new lease of life.

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