RS Automotive has run a gas station in Takoma Park, Maryland, for 60 years. The business is still there, but it’s not a gas station anymore, at least not technically. It’s now the first in the U.S. to ditch oil, installing four electric vehicle chargers in place of the former gas pumps.
The Electric Vehicle Institute, a Baltimore-based company, first met the gas station’s owner two years ago as the company installed electric chargers in other parts of Takoma Park. The owner, Depeswar Doley, had recently started servicing electric cars at the auto service center adjacent to the gas station. At first, they discussed adding a single charging point. But because Doley was already losing money selling gas, they started talking about going further. “That part of his business just wasn’t working, and he wasn’t happy with it,” says Matthew Wade, CEO of Electric Vehicle Institute. “And we said, well, we have this great idea. What do you think about converting it to an all-electric charging station?” Pressured by his high-school age daughter to consider the environment, Doley decided to make the change.
With a grant from the Electric Vehicle Institute and the Maryland Energy Administration, the gas station took out underground storage tanks for petroleum and installed new power lines and high-power charging stations. Wade says that demand for new charging points in the area is quickly growing; one charger installed in a community center parking lot drew long lines of taxi drivers. “What we’ve seen is this kind of exponential growth of EVs in Maryland,” he says. There are now more than 20,000 registered EVs in the state. Converting a gas station can also make economic sense, he says. “There’s a ton of cost synergies of reusing that existing infrastructure. You don’t have to bulldoze what was there before.” Electrical wiring on gas pumps, for example, can be used for some of the wiring on new chargers.
The number of chargers is growing nationally, although the oil and gas industry is spending millions to try to slow it down. The EV charging company ChargePoint plans to roll out 2.5 million chargers by 2025. Electrify America, a project funded by Volkswagen after its emissions scandal, is installing thousands of chargers across the U.S. along highways and in communities. Tesla has nearly 15,000 chargers. Gas stations may be a likely next place for chargers to grow. One of the world’s largest suppliers of fuel dispensers to gas stations invested in a company that makes high-power EV chargers last year. And more gas station owners may decide to follow the example of the Maryland gas station and fully convert, especially as the gap between the number of electric cars and available chargers grows. “You can make a business case for this,” Wade says.