When it comes to what drivers want to see when stopping at highway rest stops, Electric Autonomy Canada‘s survey finds the expectations of both EV and combustion-engine drivers are actually not that different
In anticipation of a world where electric vehicles will dominate highway lanes, it’s clear that the traditional roadside fueling stations will need to be drastically revamped in order to accommodate the growing number of EVs.
As part of research for The Electric Fuelling Station of the Future design competition, meant to reimagine what multi-purpose electric fuelling stations of the future should look like, Electric Autonomy Canada commissioned an EV driver survey in partnership with Parkland, the Association des Véhicules Électriques du Québec (AVÉQ) and the EV Society to explore driver consumer behaviour profiles and interests relevant to highway recharging facilities.
The exclusive data reveals some interesting insights into what drivers expect from the industry as it overhauls itself to be zero-emission-centric.
Older demographics leaders in EV adoption
It’s assumed that the youth care more about protecting the environment and fighting climate change than the older generations, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are leading the charge in electric vehicle adoption. Out of the 814 people polled in the survey, a little more than half were EV owners (though, of the rest, most had experience with EVs) and out of that group, 75 per cent of respondents were over the age of 50.
While EV drivers tend to skew older, this is not surprising considering that for most non-EV drivers, high initial purchase price tops the list as to why they don’t own an electric car. Compared to internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, EVs carry a considerably higher upfront price tag, which makes them currently harder to buy despite having a lower cost of ownership over time.
Some of the other reasons why people surveyed chose not to drive an EV include:
- Having range anxiety and logistic concerns;
- Lack of reliable public chargers or shelters when charging; and
- Waiting for better models to become available.
Most popular roadside facilities
But regardless of whether you are an ICE or EV driver, making stops along highways where people are travelling long distances will be necessary. Many of the roadside facilities EV drivers want align with what is already available for users of gas-engine vehicles. From fast food outlets to coffee bars to convenience stores and public restrooms — these are the predictable items that need to be included as we reimagine the future roadside stops for EVs.
But let’s not forget, the most obvious difference between EVs and ICE vehicles is charging time is much longer than the five minutes it takes to add fuel to a car.
The survey found that 65 per cent of EV drivers have waited at least 40 minutes for their vehicles to charge with a DC fast charger, while 35 per cent have waited at least 50 minutes. But as EV charging technology evolves and improves, these wait times are expected to go down significantly too.
The survey showed that EV owners in particular are looking for facilities that will allow them to comfortably connect with other drivers, consume media and lead a healthy lifestyle. Some of the specific features they would also like to see included are:
- Retail and grocery shops where people can do errands;
- Designated shelter and lounge areas in-and-outdoors, where people can nap, stream videos, work or socialize with other EV drivers;
- Outside areas for walking, enjoying the outdoors or for stretching and relaxing; and
- Tourist information directing people where to walk into town or shop for local crafts
The major drawbacks
For many EV drivers responding to the survey one of the biggest drawbacks to stopping for highway charging is that chargers are situated in “uninteresting” locations or in more remote areas of parking lots where there are no immediate amenities or exterior places to sit, keep warm, relax or walk around.
ICE drivers do not typically have to face these types of issues. Therefore as more drivers prepare to transition to electric, future station designers will need to address these concerns and make sure charging station stops along the highways are equipped with enough reliable DC fast chargers and with the appropriate amenities nearby to properly serve the EV community.
On the positive side, EV owners described the best things about charging near highways to be that most drivers recognize the health and safety importance of taking breaks during long drives. The fact that drivers are forced to take significant breaks for charging is beneficial to the mind and body and helps with improving focus and alertness.
Electric car drivers are also very appreciative of the overall culture that comes with driving an EV. The survey found that discovering and contributing to tourism in the new areas people visit is an important part of EV drivers’ experiences, along with meeting and connecting with other EV owners and sharing the same philosophy.
On February 1st, in partnership with our presenting sponsor, Parkland, Electric Autonomy will reveal the winners of the Electric Fuelling Station of the Future design competition. Sign up to our newsletter here for updates and for an invitation to watch the live announcement.