The EV charging stations of tomorrow may not be too dissimilar to today’s gas stations and rest stops.
Certainly, there will be dull bare-bones locations with multiple charging units, perhaps with a mini-mart attached, and more inviting outposts with a full-service restaurant and a playground for the kids. But engineers and architects are also reimagining them with appealing futuristic designs and activities and amenities to keep you occupied while your vehicle charges.
Tesla already has some charging stations with lounges, coffee bars, vending machines and branded merchandise.
At least two restaurant chains are planning full-service locations, so you can have a meal as your vehicle is charging, just as charging units in shopping malls allow you to shop or eat, while your vehicle recharges.
The Subway sandwich chain plans to open charging stations with shaded picnic areas, playgrounds and eat-in dining. There also are plans for dedicated promotions available only while using the charging kiosks. The full-service EV stations will be called Subway Oasis.
Convenience store 7-Eleven is doing something similar, rolling out fast-charging units at select locations across the U.S. and Canada, to be branded as 7Charge.
The ElectrifyAmerica charging network is also planning flagship locations with such features as customer lounges, dedicated event spaces and solar power.
The results of two recent competitions show even more promise for the future of EV charging station design.
Level Studio’s Electric Oasis, which won the American Institute of Steel Construction’s 2023 Forge Prize, envisions an EV station with leisure at the center. The inviting design shows solar-powered canopies that would shade charging vehicles while simultaneously powering the station’s services, including a gym, co-working space, shopping and restaurants – all things to do in the average four hours it takes for most vehicles to charge on the conventional Level 2 mid-speed system.
Similarly, the Electric Autonomy contest invited architects and designers from around the world to re-imagine the highway gas station. More than 100 responded. Winners from Canada, Turkey and Berlin all showcased a similar theme of style, function and things to do.
The Canadian winner designed a facility with charging units spread around a shaded structure with a huge overhanging roof to protect against harsh weather. The underside has solar-powered lights to make the station easy to see from the road, and provide protection from the weather, but no amenities while you wait.
The Turkish winner designed a doughnut-shaped facility with chargers circling the outside and amenities such as a gym and play space for the kids in the doughnut “hole.” The outside also features landscaped grounds with walking paths and picnic areas. Most EV charging stations utilize solar power, but this design puts a green roof atop every side-by-side charging station.
The winner from Berlin offered a complex with a cafe and work and study spaces that utilize natural light in an open, airy design. Light woods are used throughout to further the relaxing feel of the inside space. And outside, there is a play area for the kids and lounge chairs for the grown-ups.
EVs are here to stay. The design and technology of charging stations are evolving to match the design and technology of the vehicles using them.
AAA’s Recommendation: Whether you own an electric vehicle or a gas-powered car is up to you – and you should consider lots of factors in making that choice. No matter what type of vehicle you’re choosing, we recommend visiting a dealership, test driving one, and asking as many questions as possible to make an informed decision.