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The filling station of the future

More and more cars will be powered by electricity rather than the usual fuels in future. So will there even be a need for filling stations long term? “Yes”, says Günther Homolar, who monitors developments and trends in the filling station business for OMV, “even if the range on offer will look quite different from the one today”.

The way we get around is changing: The majority of vehicles still run on gasoline or diesel but new drive forms are quickly gaining ground. Private transport is increasingly being electrified, whether as hybrid options or fully electric, e-vehicles will be a more common sight on our roads in the decades to come. Already in 2020, some 10 percent of new vehicle registrations were for electric cars. The reasons are plain to see – the fuel comes straight from the power socket and ideally from renewables. This is accompanied by a significant reduction in particulate and CO2 emissions and helps halt climate change. What’s more, financial assistance is available in many European countries for purchasing an electric vehicle.

In contrast, from today’s standpoint it looks like heavy goods traffic will move towards hydrogen or LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas). Why not electric trucks? “Because the battery technology is not good enough at present. The batteries needed would be far too big and heavy to deliver the same power and range that are possible with hydrogen or LNG”, explains Günther Homolar.

The filling station of the future will focus on the needs of its customers. There are many scenarios for this, but the main points are that in future we will also offer a substantial range of fuels, shop & gastro items, and services.
Günther Homolar, Senior Advisor Business Development & Strategic Projects, OMV Refining & Marketing GmbH

The changing face of transport – scenarios for the future

Experts have posited multiple possible scenarios for the filling station of the future: 

Filling station 2.0: Gasoline, diesel and electric

“In the private car sector, the process of refueling will increasingly be decoupled from the filling station”, the OMV expert believes. “After all, electric vehicles don’t need a filling station per se. The charging process is frequently being done at home, at work, or at places where you spend longer periods like the shopping center or supermarket for example. The filling station will then primarily be important for travelers and those undertaking longer journeys. Fast chargers provide a charge of 150 to 350 kW, which means charging takes around 20 minutes”. Enough time to enjoy a coffee in our VIVA Lounge in that case. ;)

The filling station as a charging park for vehicles with alternative drive forms

Heavy goods and long-distance transport are set to use hydrogen or LNG in the future. While many freight companies have run their own filling stations for their (mostly) diesel-powered trucks until now, in future they are likely to switch to filling stations. A filling station for hydrogen or LNG requires huge technological and financial outlay making it simply unfeasible. This means the filling station will become a charging park for vehicles with alternative drive forms. A scenario that OMV is already embracing: “As far back as 2012 we opened Austria’s first hydrogen filling station in Vienna. Since 2013 we have been working with partners like Smatrics or Ionity to provide electric charging points at our filling stations. . And now we want to be pioneers in LNG as well and are working with partners to establish an LNG filling-station infrastructure capable of delivering what our customers need”. 

The filling station as a general store

This scenario recognizes the importance of the filling station as a hub for communication and social contact – as a neighborhood store stocked with essential everyday items. As well as services like package delivery, toll sticker sales, and car washing as standard. Fueling will become something of a sideline, with people dropping by for their everyday needs and to meet up for a chat. “We are seeing this in rural areas in particular. That said, many filling stations have also disappeared there in recent years and we too are more likely to build in locations with high footfall and focus on sites in the suburbs or on city bypasses. The filling station has to be easy to get to without taking a diversion and above all it must have sufficient customer traffic. In terms of what is then on offer, there’s a lot of options and we will base our provision on what customers need, as we have done in the past as well”. Who knows? Maybe one day there will be a laundromat at the filling station next to the coffee-to-go stand. Which leads us on to the next scenario:

The filling station as a service hub

Swapping your car for public transport, car-sharing, an e-bike or an e-scooter to get around the city more easily while still using the different services at the filling station. “Especially for commuters, it will become even more important for them to make optimal use of their time and tick off small tasks on the go”, says Günther Homolar. At the majority of filling stations today you can already buy fresh snacks and drinks, withdraw cash, pick up a package or get home delivery. And this trend is set to continue as the range expands based on what customers actually need. “Another realistic scenario is that free space in filling stations is rented out to service providers who are looking for high customer traffic. From passport-photo machines to laundromats, a lot of things are possible”.

So, in the future, filling stations will serve as points of contact for an array of customer needs while being used less frequently for fueling alone. “Even more than today, the traditional filling station will be transformed into a multipurpose service hub for customers on the move”, concludes Günther Homolar.

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