Will autonomous and electric vehicles kill the petrol station?

Pulling up to the pumps and filling your car with fossil fuels will soon become a thing of the past.

Yesterday, France announced its intention to ban the sale of all petrol and diesel cars by 2040, while manufacturer Volvo have pledged to stop making them by 2019.

Autonomous cars might take a little longer to reach the masses, but they won’t be far behind. But what does the driverless, electric revolution mean for the petrol station?

According to Shell’s head of business development Stuart Blyde, who Professional Engineering spoke to at the recent Frost & Sullivan Intelligent Mobility event in London, fuel providers will have to adapt their offering.

“I think there’s going to be this different animal of what a station will be in the future and how it serves people,”

he says.

“I think there will be a diversification not only around digital and energy, but the products that you’ll serve in the store, whether it’s food, goods or experiences. They’ll need to be far more compelling for people to want to stop and dwell for 15 minutes.”

Instead of filling up themselves and then driving off, drivers will have time to kill while their cars are charging.

In the short-term, a lot of infrastructure needs to be built to support a move towards electric vehicles. Currently, there’s a mish-mash of different charging providers and operators, and different brands have different sockets and connections.

There’s no guarantee that the station you pull up to will have a source of electricity that’s in your price plan, with a socket that works with your car.

“There is more investment in charging infrastructure needed,”

said Lucy Yu, head of innovation at the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, at a recent event.

“In more urban areas, people are probably more interested in a faster charge, and less interested in long range.”

Blyde has first-hand experience of that frustration.

“I rented a BMW i3 and drove around London, this was 12 months ago,”

he remembers.

“I stopped when I was being told to stop on the dashboard, at six different places, and at all six places I couldn’t charge up. Either the plug was wrong, the car didn’t work, the infrastructure was switched off and had a sticker on it saying out of use on it. On the road the infrastructure is terrible. At home it’s down to you.”

Read more: Institute of Mechanical Engineers via Fuel Included News