By on June 29, 2016

Tesla Model 3 Prototype on road, Image: Tesla Motors

Eager to find locations to expand its U.S. recharging network, Tesla Motors is busy seeking new partners, with fast food, gas stations and convenience stores being top of mind.

One of the chains Tesla is attempting to seduce is the jack-of-all-trades Sheetz, according to the Washington Post. With hundreds of locations in the mid-Atlantic region, Appalachia and Ohio, Sheetz — maker of the Shmuffinz breakfast sandwich — operates a gas bar, convenience store and fast food restaurant at its locations.

It’s the place to be, and Tesla wants a Supercharger on that property.

“We’ve had discussions with them about putting their chargers in our stores,” Michael Lorenz, Sheetz’s executive vice president of petroleum supply, told the Washington Post. “We haven’t done anything yet, but we’re continuing those discussions.”

 

Tesla stated that it wants to partner with private businesses like restaurants and hotels — anywhere people congregate (and could use a battery top-up) — to boost the convenience of owning one of its vehicles. Electric vehicles sales are sluggish, but a combination of lower prices, better range, and improved recharging infrastructure is seen as a cure for tepid public interest.

With volume ramping up (to 500,000 units per year by 2018, Tesla claims), the automaker needs to make ownership as easy as possible. Plunking down Superchargers in population-dense areas of the U.S. helps the automaker’s business model — Tesla doesn’t need to purchase land, owners won’t be far from a station, and potential buyers won’t be put off by a lack of infrastructure.

Tesla’s Supercharger network currently numbers 655 stations (worldwide), with 3,966 hookup points. The lower-priced Model 3 starts finding homes in late 2017, and the 215-mile range EV needs its juice, especially if it’s bound for a single-car household.

Chains like Sheetz make sense for the automaker, because drivers would spend more time at those location than, say, a conventional gas station. No one wants to wait in their car for half an hour, and station owners don’t want a parked vehicle taking up space on their limited footprint, consuming a product that doesn’t make them money.

A Supercharger adds 170 miles of range to a Tesla’s battery in 30 minutes — enough time for a driver to use the washroom, buy a magazine, order and eat a Schmuffinz breakfast, and use the bathroom again.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

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37 Comments on “Convenience Stores and Fast Food Restaurants are Tesla’s Next Frontier...”


  • avatar

    Movie theaters and malls.

    Chargers need to be EVERYWHERE people normally leave their vehicles for hours on end.

    More chargers = less demand = shorter wait times = less range anxiety.

    • 0 avatar
      dogn

      Dude, grocery stores. I’m in there 45 minutes every week. They need to get in touch with Kroger Co.

    • 0 avatar
      Vulpine

      “Chargers need to be EVERYWHERE people normally leave their vehicles for hours on end.”

      Why, when most owners will be able to charge at home for the basic cost of electricity?

      • 0 avatar
        highdesertcat

        That’s what I’m thinking, too. Why?

        Who pays for all those chargers? Who pays for the installations? Who pays for all that electricity?

        What do people driving ICE vehicles get as a reward or incentive?

        • 0 avatar

          Good point on who pays. Most now are free or based on a membership. In the future I would imagine having a membership option with a CC option would be best and to pay by the KWH. Currently in a number of locations you can’t sell power by the KWH unless your a power company so you bill by time. I think an exemption will need to made for car charging for this to work out in the future.

          • 0 avatar
            highdesertcat

            mopar4wd, usually when the advocates of new and better things get these wild hairs, it results in higher prices for everyone, even for those who do not benefit from the new and better things.

            The automotive universe started with EVs, went on to ICEs, and now we have some idealists who want to take us full circle back to the past of EVs.

            The more things change, the more they stay the same.

        • 0 avatar
          VoGo

          Who pays for the chargers? Private companies investing in infrastructure. This is what built America.

          Why would you expect a handout, just because you drive an ICE car? Sounds communist.

          • 0 avatar
            JRobUSC

            “Why would you expect a handout, just because you drive an ICE car? Sounds communist.”

            I’m sorry, I couldn’t tell if you were being facetious, considering you’re the biggest Tesla supporter on here, and every Tesla a rich guy has bought thus far as a bauble of excess has been subsidized by over $30k in taxpayer money.

          • 0 avatar
            VoGo

            JRob,
            I’m a fan of Tesla and EVs.

            I’m not a fan of government handouts to the wealthy, be they Tesla buyers or oil companies.

            Nor do I expect handouts; I earn what’s mine.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    “Use the bathroom again”

    LOL

  • avatar
    VoGo

    At the risk of sounding elitist, is the Tesla target customer someone who regularly dines at a place called Sheetz on something called Shmuffinz? Is this even a real place?

    How is Starbucks not a higher priority?

    • 0 avatar
      anti121hero

      It is unfortunately a real place. They are EVERYWHERE in Pennsylvania and Virginia. Strangely, nowhere to be found here in NY though.

    • 0 avatar

      They are kind of like a giant Cumberland farms (if your from New England) I ate at one in WV once, they are kind of neat in a horrible for your health kind of way. They are hugely popular in WV it seems. Remember Tesla is going downmarket and in some of the rural sections on the midatlantic you aren’t getting much classier.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve had to stop at Sheetz a few times on the way to visit friends in Charlottesville, VA. The patrons, and the general ambience are definitely not something I would associate with an electric car, period, let alone a high end one. I suspect people with a lot of greenitude woudl try to avoid these establishments. They ARE interesting to look at if you find gas station architecture interesting (and I do).

      I think Tesla would do much better putting superchargers in Whole Foods, except for the fact that you probably aren’t in danger of range anxiety when you’re shopping.

  • avatar
    Kenmore

    Mole car has no mouth and it must scream.

  • avatar
    VoGo

    Did I read 3,966 hookup points? Makes sense, I suppose. What else are you gonna do while you wait 30 minutes to charge your batteries.

    Why isn’t this part of Tesla’s advertising?

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    I agree with @Vogo – starbucks would seem to be a prime location for these. They are all over (far more common than Sheetz), with many close to interstates and some of those being 24 hour locations, and would fit Tesla’s buyer demographic better.

    I would think Costco would be another good match. They also share a similar demographic to Tesla, they are the sort of place people generally spend 30 or so minutes, and it might help Costco out because of how far some people live from them. Right now, people may avoid going to a Costco if range anxiety becomes a problem. Life would be a lot easier if they could top off there.

    Similar to these is Whole Foods. The Whole Foods closest to me actually has electric car charging (although I don’t think its a Tesla Supercharger) in specially marked spaces, and in a perfect bit of marketing, it’s the closest spots to the front door aside from the handicapped spaces, so you enjoy prime parking and get to show off how eco friendly you are to everyone else going into the store.

    Looking at it from a Florida perspective, beaches would be a great place for them. Parking is often at a premium, so reserved electric car spots would be useful. Plus, here in Florida specifically, with beaches never more than 100 miles away, having charging available would mean a day trip to the beach would always be possible in the EV.

    The theme parks here in Orlando would be another good option. People do road trips all the time from within 1 way range of a Tesla, but likely couldn’t make it home on the same charge. Having EV charging would make the Disney/Universal/Sea World day trip possible in the family EV from most of North Florida and a good way down into South Florida. Palm Beach to Disney is 160-180 mile drive.

    Final thought would be rest stops along interstates and turnpikes. people like to stop for bathroom breaks and to get out and stretch (and the 150-200 mile range of most Teslas is pushing a lot of bladders to their limit anyway). Pets need to go for walks. kids need to eat the packed sandwhiches. supercharging at those rest stops would be extremely convenient and make long road trips much more doable.

    • 0 avatar

      I think the trouble with places like Starbucks is many of their stores are in leased locations with poor parking as they tend try and attract a more urban crowd, non of which lends itself much to car charging. Costco would be a good spot thou shopping centers etc.

      • 0 avatar
        VoGo

        Right. They would have to be thoughtful about which Starbucks are the right locations for more “hookup points”

        • 0 avatar

          I think a number of them are actually fairly near highways. And some do have parking.

          • 0 avatar
            tjh8402

            @mopar4wd – I’m speaking for what I see here where I live, and most of Central and North Florida is not an urban walkeable community. We are very car dependent, and the overwhelming majority of Starbucks customers will be driving there (the only Starbucks in actual downtown Orlando is in a Hotel). Pretty much all the others have some parking. Preferential reserved EV parking/charging in areas with parking shortages is actually an advantage for this because it incentivizes you to take the EV just to be able to find parking. My best friend almost leased a Nissan Leaf just to go to college because on campus parking was so horrible (far away and hard to find), but EV parking and charging was close and readily available.

            @David c. Holzman – that is more my thinking. I’m not saying every Starbucks but certainly some, especially those near major highways and roadways. I regularly drive up and down I-4 and I-95 in Florida between Lakeland and Jacksonville and I can think of at least 4 Starbucks that are immediately off the interstates (3 of which are open 24 Hours) and at least 4 more that are within a half mile. they are a mix of stand alone and in plazas. Starbucks or Tesla may have to pay for the chargers to be installed, but I can’t see property owners/landlords objecting. You would think if you own a shopping plaza, it would help your business to have available EV charging because it would bring extra traffic from EV owners simply looking to charge (one of those Starbucks in the same plaza as the Whole Foods I referenced earlier).

  • avatar
    Lou_BC

    MacDonald’s and Tesla. Why not? Rotten Ronnies is already the world’s biggest toy distributor.

  • avatar
    orenwolf

    If anything, I’m more surprised that Chevy/Nissan/etc aren’t trying to get into this game. Lots of people seem to think that Tesla’s “first mover advantage” on EVs will evaporate once large automakers get into things full-thrust, but by the time their cars are ready, Tesla will have jumped ahead on charging options.. then home charging/power options.. etc.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      This is why the Chevy Bolt will never sell in large numbers. And it’s one reason why the Model 3 has 370k+ preorders.

      A 200-mile EV is still a city car if it’s on a short leash.

      All the EV mfrs should capitulate and adopt the Tesla charging protocol. Then they can work out a billing scenario unique to each of them.

      • 0 avatar
        mcs

        I drive the crap out of my EV. With 200 mile range, I don’t think I’d ever need public charging.

        Even now, with 100 mile range, most of my charging is at home. Most errands only consume one bar on the charge gauge. Sometimes nothing. One location I travel to is a 100 mile round trip, but I charge there or at a breakfast place that has free charging.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Sheetz already sponsors EV chargers at various locations.

    Here in western PA, Sheetz stores are as plentiful as the semi-domesticated deer we hit year-round.

    When I had my Leaf, a Sheetz 25 miles away had a Level 3 Chademo charger I used once. There are a few other Sheetz stores which would have enabled me to hopscotch 120 miles to State College, PA. After consulting PlugShare, I wisely called ahead and learned that one of them wasn’t working, so I didn’t go.

    Tesla Superchargers are far more reliable. A partnership with Sheetz would be most welcome.

  • avatar
    Blackcloud_9

    If I owed a Restaurant, especially one near an Interstate, I would ABSOLUTELY want a Tesla Charging Station. I would also contract with Blink or NRG EvGo. If you’re driving down the highway in your EV and you had a choice between two restaurants, odds are better that you would pull into the one with the EV charger conveniently located to where you want to eat.

  • avatar
    dividebytube

    The closest Meijer grocery store has five or six Tesla chargers. This location is also very close to the highway. Of course the most number of Teslas I’ve ever seen there has been two – but hey room to grow.

  • avatar
    Vulpine

    I’ve been suggesting that Tesla partner with the big convenience store chains and truck stops for a couple years now; they really are the best places to set up Supercharger stations. The stores/restaurants gain a near-guaranteed paying customer every time, compared to ICEV drivers who will more often pump ‘n go rather than visit the store.

  • avatar
    mcs

    One thing to remember is that in the real world of EV driving, I find myself only topping up enough to make it to my destination with a safe margin. On a 100-mile one-way road trip, I’ll stop for about 12 minutes (according to my records) or so to add some padding to the range. On a supercharger, that would only be 6 minutes. With the 800v chargers that are on the horizon, that’s only a 3-minute splash and dash.

    If I don’t need a full charge to make it to my destination, I’m not spending the extra time at the charger. One caveat is that I work on my laptop and catch up on email while I’m stopped, so sometimes I end up spending more time at a stop than needed finishing up email.

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