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December 1, 2023

Alternative Fuels: How Will these Impact the Future of the Forecourt?

As Europe moves towards its decarbonization targets with sales of internal combustion engine (“ICE”) cars being banned between 2030 and 2035 and alternative fuels no longer optional, station owners are pausing to reimagine the future of the forecourt.

With changing driving habits, our collective approach to driving is changing too. Service stations across the EU will likely be revamped to provide drivers with a whole new consumer-friendly experience.

This raises several questions. Will city centres stop selling petrol and diesel entirely? Might subscription model pricing mean drivers stay loyal to their preferred forecourt? How will retail options change with the increased dwell time of electric vehicle (EV) charging?

As local governments invest in EV infrastructure and other clean fueling options, it’s clear that the traditional “Stop and Go” service stations may transform into multi-purpose destinations replete with new-look retail and leisure options.

Fueling experts, Dover Fueling Solutions® (DFS), consider what the service stations of the future may look like.

Alternative Fuels: How Will these Impact the Future of the Forecourt?

An evolved consumer experience?

It’s forecast that the European EV infrastructure boasts the most mainstream motoring potential of all clean fueling options, with 1,390,000 units sold across the continent per year. This is sure to increase dwell times across the forecourt as even the most rapid EV public chargers take 10 minutes to charge.

Forecourt station owners can capitalise on this uptake in dwell time by enhancing retail and entertainment offerings. Convenience stores will likely be transformed into multi-purpose hubs with fresh food and a fast, easy and digitally enabled shopping experience. This could include easy payment through apps, cashless stores and whole-basket scanning.

Whereas convenience drove earlier generations, it’s likely that sustainability concerns will underpin the buying habits of the future. It’s likely stations will have to carefully curate their product assortments, while building out shops and cafes could offer further opportunities to improve profit margins. 66% of prospective EV drivers, for instance, reported they’d frequent retailers more regularly should they provide usable charging facilities.

Additional services will also likely assume centre stage including children’s play areas, click & collect departments and co-working spaces.

Pump modernisation

As stated, the forecourt is likely to include a mix of EV charging and other alternative fuels, so spaces in between the pumps will need to be bigger.

One of the biggest threats to the fueling industry at the moment is petrol skimming, with consumers increasingly falling prey to both thieves swiping their cards and fraud schemes. Enhanced security software at the pump can protect against this.

Other areas of pump modernisation will likely be technologically led too. This could include a consumer-friendly interface with EU languages, the ability to pay by card, app or in-car and digital pricing transparency.

Drivers may also soon be able to order refreshments and other items at the pump before collecting in-store. This is currently an emerging trend in the North American market and will likely soon hit EMEA.

Alternative Fuels: How Will these Impact the Future of the Forecourt?

Will traditional pumps still be required?

2030 will not signify the complete demise of ICE vehicles. Traditional petrol and diesel pumps will still be required long after the switch and will still have demand in the marketplace.

The average lifespan of an European car is 12 years, which would mean traditional pumps could still be needed beyond 2040. As ICE cars become less mainstream, it’s likely that these pumps will be set apart from cleaner refueling, especially with an expected emphasis on sustainability across all areas of the forecourt, not just in terms of charging and refueling but in the retail and leisure offering too.

Some experts predict the future may see a revival in the vintage sports car market which would mean petrol pumps will still be needed to service these. Whether these will be housed on the same site as clean fuels or on a different complex entirely remains to be seen.

Alternative Fuels: How Will these Impact the Future of the Forecourt?

In summary, while for the foreseeable, traditional petrol and diesel pumps are likely to remain fixtures of the forecourt, it’s likely that the traditional petrol station will become a completely evolved consumer experience.

Station owners can take full advantage by offering bespoke food, beverage and entertainment options, while forecourt and pump modernisation and recharging subscriptions services will surely become commonplace.

The rise of the alternative fueling forecourt offers massive opportunities for fuel retailers and businesses should look to double down by offering access to the plug – and the pump.

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