What makes for a good charging stop? Individual electric vehicle (EV) drivers may have their own criteria, but a few characteristics typically make the cut. We want stations to be fast, reliable and available, sure, but we also often look for places to stretch our legs, grab a bite and restock any trip essentials.
Unlike refueling internal combustion engine vehicles, EV charging doesn’t need to happen at convenience stores (gas stations) but can occur at retail establishments, large groceries, fast food locations and more. So where does that leave C-stores with electrification strategies? It depends on who you ask.
Circle K’s ambitious plans in Scandinavia deserve a read and a watch. But EV drivers may be surprised to hear about its charging infrastructure buildout in the Southeast U.S., too — in June 2023, the company went live with its seventh charging site across the Carolinas.
To highlight Circle K’s initiatives, we caught up with Carly Pass, Circle K’s emobility public funding manager for North America (and Charlotte resident), to learn more about how their team is reimagining the service of “fueling.” Responses were edited lightly for clarity.
PINC: At a corporate level, how is Circle K approaching charging? Why is EV charging a beneficial service offering for the company?
CP: In one way, it’s a big announcement that a fuel retailer like Circle K is now adding electricity to its energy offer. As we see it, it represents the continuation of what this industry always has been doing, adopting its offerings to provide the products and services people on the go need — where they need it. This industry started from selling fuel only, added and evolved a convenience offer, and that again is evolving into food. Fast charging is no different — as a retailer dedicated to making our customers’ lives easier, we change as our customers need change.
PINC: We’ve heard about Circle K’s efforts in Europe, but could you share some deployment updates in North America?
CP: Since starting our EV charging rollout formally in North America last year, we now have CK Charge sites live in California, Colorado, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Florida and four provinces in Canada. You can follow our progress with our live map of current and “coming soon” locations on our website, our CK Charge mobile app or your preferred EV charging apps such as PlugShare and ChargeHub. We add sites to our website when they enter construction, so you will see charging sites appear there as our deployment rolls out.
PINC: What can drivers expect from their Circle K charging experience? What makes Circle K an ideal location for charging stops?
CP: We have selected sites because they have all the necessary components needed by our current and future customers:
- Key locations on high-traffic corridors like I-77, I-85 and I-95
- All of our stores offer amenities that customers expect for a short break on their journeys, including fresh food, packaged snacks, drinks and clean restrooms
- By adding electricity to our energy offer, we welcome all customers, whether they are in need of liquid fuels or electrons
- We provide these services in a safe and secure environment, having long opening hours, dedicated and proud store staff, well-lit parking areas and camera surveillance
PINC: What about the conditions in North Carolina warrant this level of investment in public charging from Circle K?
CP: One factor that has accelerated our deployment in North Carolina is the availability of public grant funding. We received funding for three sites from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Volkswagen Settlement Phase II, and this funding allowed us to look at other sites in North Carolina to ensure we are building a complete network for EV drivers across the state. Counterintuitively, given the lack of zero-emission vehicle policy mandates compared to other states, local jurisdictions in the Southeast have proven to be more supportive of EV deployment than some other areas of the country with onerous permitting processes. We expect other programs, like the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program, to be more successful here in the Southeast due to this higher level of support from local jurisdictions.
We applaud Circle K for its impressive deployment of high-speed charging — it has plans for 200 charging sites across North America over the next two years — and are excited to see what’s to come. Be sure to follow its social media accounts (Twitter/Instagram/Facebook) and charging homepage for the latest on site openings.