Tesla Wants to Turn Superchargers Into Full-Service Convenience Stores

September 23, 2017, 3:23 PM UTC

This Sunday at the FSTEC restaurant-technology conference, Tesla CTO J.B. Straubel suggested the electric carmaker could be branching out into a new business: convenience stores.

During the talk, as reported by Restaurant Business, Straubel explained that long-distance Tesla drivers typically spend 20 or 30 minutes at roadside Superchargers – that’s how long it takes to add about 170 miles worth of battery power. And while they’re waiting, Straubel said, drivers “want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, they want to use the bathroom.” Straubel says Tesla wants to satisfy those needs by, basically, turning Superchargers into full-service rest stops.

That could both improve driver experience and drive revenue. By way of comparison, most gas stations these days make the majority of their profits from food sales, not gas. And Tesla charges many drivers nothing at all to use Superchargers, so adding coffee and snacks would radically change the math on an expense that doesn’t directly generate much cash directly.

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Building out services would also address a broader concern drivers have about electric vehicles. Spending 20 or 30 minutes charging up every 200 miles might sound like an unreasonable hassle if you compare it to the five minutes it takes to fill a gas tank. But how often does a gas station visit actually take five minutes, once a driver has used the bathroom and perused the sandwich case? If Superchargers had more services, the wait time might not seem nearly as long.

Straubel said Tesla doesn’t have much interest in running those operations itself, but is instead looking at partnering with experienced operators. Tesla already partners with restaurants to install either lower-power chargers or Superchargers in their parking lots, so this wouldn’t be entirely new territory.