The hybrid fueling station—a convergence of electric vehicles, green technology, and the oil and gas industry
For the last several years, we’ve been witnessing an increasing demand for low carbon emissions. This relentless public pressure has resulted in a green movement to reduce pollution by advancing the electric vehicle. With this transition looming, oil and gas producers are facing an uncertain future when it comes to consumer oil demand. How will they fit into the picture? Will they be involved at all?
While we don’t definitively know when—or how fast—electric vehicles will displace the traditional combustion engine, two things are certain: 1) Electric vehicles are a major market disruptor to the automobile industry, and 2) they’re on the rise. We can say with some degree of certainty that a rapid evolution is underway, and it could leave some oil and gas companies in the dust.
As electric vehicles become more prevalent, traditional fueling stations will become less and less viable—until they are no longer needed at all. Imagine thousands of abandoned gas stations around the world. Picture the technology, the building materials, the waste, the leftover gas. How can we mitigate these losses while evolving to fit our future needs of sustainability?
I believe a solution lies with the hybrid fueling station. The hybrid station transforms the current gas station into a facility that can support the electrification of vehicles. This integration will not only make use of _q_tweetable:With the hybrid fueling station solution, gas stations will be afforded a new lease on life._q_our existing fueling infrastructure, but it will provide oil and gas companies the opportunity to participate in a rapidly-evolving market.
Gas stations aren’t exactly known for being environmentally-friendly, but the hybrid station presents a sustainable and supportive means to reduce our environmental footprint. Plus, we can further transition these hybrid stations into full-service charging facilities when combustible engines become obsolete all together.
Breakthroughs and barriers
Recently, electric car battery technologies have attracted heavy investments and experienced significant developments. For example, companies like Tesla Motors and Panasonic are working on an electric battery to rival the range of fossil-fueled vehicles. That’s just one more marker signaling the verge of replacing combustion engines and mass producing rechargeable batteries. But what are the barriers blocking progress?
Range: The maximum range of a Tesla Model S is an approximate 539 kilometers (335 miles). It’s a reasonable distance, but, the “range anxiety” of most motorists still presents a problem for industry experts. Nobody likes getting close to empty!
Charging time: People spend an average time of 3.5 minutes to fuel up their vehicles. To achieve a reasonable range on electric vehicles, current technologies require an average charging time of 22 minutes—still considered inconvenient by most people.
Cost: A Tesla vehicle can cost up to USD $80,000, representing a high cost premium over an equivalent gasoline powered vehicle. And this figure doesn’t even take operating costs into consideration.
Oil and gas companies are sitting on assets that, though mostly untapped, are well positioned to take advantage of electric vehicles in a low-carbon economy. And while there are innovations to develop enhanced batteries, super-superchargers, in-road continuous charging systems, and other new technologies, they do not address the barriers listed above. But, a hybrid fueling station does; here’s how:
Range: There is already a massive network of gasoline stations. By converting gas stations into hybrid fueling stations, we can retrofit this already-existing infrastructure to facilitate electric charging stations as well as petroleum-based fuel.
Charging time: To match the fueling time of gasoline cars, electric charging time needs to improve six-fold. That technology may not even be feasible! So, we may have to adapt our designs to facilitate replaceable battery packs, much like the D cells in toy cars.
Costs: With charging capacity readily available through hybrid fueling stations, the race for the longest-ranged electric vehicle is no longer a primary focus. This allows electric car manufacturers to optimize vehicle design at a cost premium.
An ideal solution
Existing gas stations can be converted into hybrid fueling stations as follows:
- Partially convert gas pumps into charging stations.
- Reconfigure the traffic flow to accommodate fossil fuel and electric vehicles.
- Revamp the station stores to offer food, drink, and comforts during charging time.
- Retro-fit the fueling stations to use a combination of grid and renewable power.
- Partially convert the station to support a bulk battery facility for fast battery swapping.
- Fully convert the fueling station to house only charging and swapping facilities.
A game changer for the industry
Evolving gasoline stations into hybrid fueling stations using renewable energy can improve the public’s perception of “dirty” fossil fuel. Plus, the development of hybrid fueling stations will help oil and gas companies to:
- Remain viable as an energy company in a shifting market.
- Facilitate integration and partnerships in the evolving convergence of services.
- Receive public acceptance as being environmentally conscious/progressive.
- Achieve competitiveness to provide green energy solutions.
- Achieve access to federal funding and carbon offsets.
With the hybrid fueling station solution, gas stations will be afforded a new lease on life. These stations will not be obsolete or abandoned, and they won’t pose as threats to the environment. More importantly, oil and gas companies will be afforded the opportunity to adapt to a greener future.
About the Author
Victor Tam is a vice president and regional business leader for our Oil & Gas business in western Canada. A mechanical engineer with over 25 years of industry-relevant experience, he dedicates himself to the professional development of his staff and to helping his team to accomplish goals efficiently.More Content by Victor Tam