Editor’s note: Based in London, Ben Moncrieffe is an account director and automotive lead, EMEA, at market research firm C Space. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared under the title, “The death and rebirth of the service station.” 

Service stations and interstate rest stops are at an existential crossroads. Why do they exist? Fuel and rest. Fuel for the car we’re driving; fuel for our bodies and minds; and rest if we’re doing a long journey. Oh, and bathroom breaks. But what happens when we don’t need to stop as frequently as we do today?

Service stations can’t rely solely on our need to stop. Rather, they’ll have to inspire us to.

Technology is changing our mobility. Electric cars are becoming common, and battery technology continues to improve. Sales of new electric cars worldwide surpassed one million units in 2017 – a record volume. This represents a growth in new electric car sales of 54 percent compared with 2016. Predictions are that sales will increase to 11 million in 2025 and then to 30 million in 2030. Even Shell’s CEO announced last year that the next car he purchases will be electric.

Eventually, we will move up the autonomous technology levels, darting through cities and covering vast distances in our driverless cars. Today we need to consider the growth of electric vehicles and the implications for charging them. Infrastructure is nowhere near where it needs to be but new charging points are popping up at service stations, be that one of the many types of public charging services or the Tesla-style Supercharger stations, which charge your battery in about 30 minutes. Long term, we have to plan for technology improving at a rate of knots, both in terms of battery capacity (as a result, range) as well as charging infrastructure (as a result, charging time).

The big boys have already started to adapt, with Shell, BP and Total all investing in or purch...