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LAS VEGAS -- While different forecasts offer varying opinions on just how quickly consumers will adopt electric vehicles in the coming years, the fact is that more models are coming onto the market and the way consumers "fuel" up is beginning to change.
President Obama has publicly stated that his goal is to have one million plug-in electric vehicles on U.S. roads by 2015. For the convenience and petroleum retailing industry, this would mean one million vehicles driving an average of 40 miles a day without the use of fuel.
Speakers at the NACStech workshop, "Servicing the Electric Car Customer," said electric vehicles are a definite threat to the channel. Every mile driven on battery power reduces the amount of fuel purchased at retail gas stations, noted Ray Hutchinson, vice president of corporate development for Gilbarco Veeder-Root and one of the session's presenters.
However, electric vehicles present an opportunity for the industry's retailers, too, the panelists said. No one chain is known as the place to get a charge, so the opportunity is there to "own the space," according to Owen Resh, marketing director at Aker Wade.
Other insights that came out of the workshop were:
• There are two types of plug-in electric vehicles entering the global market: the plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, which has electric propulsion as well as an internal combustion engine; and the electric vehicle, which has 100-percent electric propulsion.
• Plug-in electric vehicles require frequent charging, so "destination charging" and "convenience charging" facilities will be needed for successful adoption.
• Electric vehicle drivers are older, affluent and educated -- a prime demographic.