Behold the Electric Fueling Station of the Future

Scottish architect wins design competition for charging hub.

Electric charging station of the future

Electric Autonomy / James Silvester

Treehugger has noted previously that the time it takes to charge an electric car could be a business opportunity, with the development of sophisticated and entertaining rest stops like the "michi no eki" they have in Japan. Many appear to be thinking about this including Electric Autonomy Canada (EAC), "an independent news platform reporting on Canada’s transition to electric vehicles, autonomous transportation and new mobility services," which runs many of the gas stations and associated convenience stores in Canada and a large swath of the U.S., and probably sees this as the future of their business.

EAC just announced the winners of the "Electric Fuelling Station of the Future" design competition, sponsored by Parkland, which drew a hundred entries from around the world. According to the press release: "The goal of the competition was to advance EV adoption and alleviate 'range anxiety' by highlighting the benefits of recharging on a long road trip, especially at a hub designed for that purpose."

roof of electric charging station of the future

Electric Autonomy / James Silvester

The winner was James Silvester, an architect in Edinburgh, Scotland, with extensive experience in hospitality, having worked on numerous hotels in the Middle East. Conventional gas stations are built of noncombustible materials, but contrary to the anti-EV stories, electric cars catch fire at a rate one-hundredth of that of gasoline cars, so Silvester has built a very attractive structure out of wood.

outside of charging station

Electric Autonomy / James Silvester

According to EAC:

"More with Less is beautifully designed like a circuit, punctuated with activities and relaxation courtyards that invite nature in. The timber-framed canopy extends over the charging zones to provide shelter from the elements. Sustainable architecture practices are integrated throughout, from rooftop solar to help power the commercial spaces to a cantilevered design that minimizes heat gain during Canadian summers, yet allows the building to maximize the use of daylight. The building is not simply there to serve a process on the journey, but to provide a space to relax and enjoy."

As the lovely video shows, it has lounges, pool tables, a gym, gardens, lovely music, and the pavement around it is not stained with gasoline and oil drippings. Toronto architect Bruce Kuwabara is one of the judges and to the best of my knowledge has never driven a car in his life and doesn't really know gas stations, but he does know design and says:

"It's as if Steve Jobs had asked them to design something. It is very convenient, very accessible... just very, very beautiful. And I think it would represent such a radical change from gas stations as we know them." 

Gym in electric charging station

Electric Autonomy / James Silvester

It is indeed low-key and relaxing. Architect James Silvester describes it: "Not fireworks and glitz and glam but something that’s of its time: very modern in its form but with pared-back, natural materials. There’s a rhythm in the timber. It’s about relaxation after a long journey.”

Another judge, Simon-Pierre Rioux, describes it as having "a sense of natural beauty and “zenitude.” When Parkland opens one of its trademark convenience stores in it, they will have to change the name from "On the Run" to "On the Kinhin Zen" (Zen Walking).

plug and play

Electric Autonomy/ Pavel Babiienko

The second and third prize winners were much more explicit about having traditional programming. Third Prize winner, Berlin's Pavel Babiienko, had a scheme that "provides not only the familiar services of a store and cafe, but can also allow for a longer break from the road to visit the playground or to read a book in the garden." It deserves a prize just for the clever name: "Plug and Play." Parkland should try and copyright that for this use.

Plan of third prize

Electric Autonomy/ Pavel Babiienko

There is a glimpse of the plan in the video and it is really interesting; the building is described as being "built on modular units, the layout of Plug and Play can be flexibly planned in almost any order and size to create closed or open spaces for specific functions, with visitors moving freely indoors and outdoors." You can see that, all the little boxes and double walls.

Cycle Circle

Electric Autonomy/ Xiaohan Ding and Zhan Ran

In almost every architectural competition I have reviewed on Treehugger, I have found the honorable mentions to be the most interesting, although it's usually clear why they didn't win. There are lots to like in the Cycle Circle from Beijing's Xiaohan Ding and Zhan Ran.

Cycle Circle

Electric Autonomy/ Xiaohan Ding and Zhan Ran 

"Bridging the road and extending into the surrounding landscape, Cycle Circle consists of an inner ring for vehicle charging and rest areas, and an outer loop that forms a novel hiking trail."

walking trail above

Electric Autonomy/ Xiaohan Ding and Zhan Ran 

"The sky trail flies over the highway with a circumference of 1.25 km, designed for a pleasant 20-minute walk that becomes a sightseeing destination along the journey. The roof is equipped with translucent PV film, while the piezoelectric-equipped floor converts footsteps into energy, harvesting a basic power supply for the station from natural and human power."

second prize winner
Second Prize.

Electric Autonomy/ Fabric.a Architects, Istanbul

The electric fueling station of the future looks like it might become a destination on its own, much like the michi no eki in Japan. They combine good architecture with things to do and, no doubt, lots to buy.

Not only that, it might actually get built. "It demonstrates great leadership that Parkland has committed to build the winning design,” said Nino Di Cara, founder and president of EAC.

Darren Smart, senior vice president of strategy and corporate development for Parkland, says: “We are committed to bringing the winning concept to life as part of our ambitious electric vehicle charging strategy in British Columbia and believe the concept could be extended to our other geographies when we see an opportunity to meet emerging customer demand.” 

With a network of fueling stations of the future like these, the time it takes to charge an electric car might well be seen as a feature, not a bug.

Correction—February 17, 2022: A previous version of this story incorrectly noted that Electric Autonomy is sponsored by Parkland. Only the competition was sponsored by Parkland; Electric Autonomy is an independent entity.