No more gas stations? This electric vehicle charging provider is ramping up ad sales in anticipation of a fuel-less economy
Image a world with no gas stations. While it seems improbable today, it’s quite possible—if automakers come through on their aggressive plans to launch electric vehicles into the market, including General Motors, which says it wants to sell nothing but EVs by 2035.
Beyond having major implications for the automotive market, the shift away from gas-fueled cars would upend the retail and advertising ecosystem built around the internal combustion engine economy. Consider all the impulse purchases of beer, soda, snacks and smokes at gas stations, and the marketing aimed at driving that revenue.
One company preparing for this gas-less future is Volta Charging, which operates a network of more than 1,700 vehicle charging stations in 23 states, with plans to grow that to 3,000-plus by the end of the year. The company’s business model includes selling ads on 55-inch digital displays on the chargers, which are located near retailers such as malls, supermarkets and even a zoo.
“In a world of electric mobility, drivers will no longer drive to fuel, but they will fuel where they drive,” says Drew Lipsher, Volta’s chief strategy officer, who discusses the ad strategy on the latest edition of Ad Age’s “Marketer’s Brief” podcast.
That means no more special trips to the gas station. Instead, Volta puts its stations in a range of places, from a drug store to a movie theater, and it matches charging speeds to the so-called dwell times at those locations. So someone spending 45 minutes inside a grocery store would know that their car would get recharged for that entire period.
The ads Volta sells are targeted at anyone passing by the station, rather than just the person filling up. “We are really a broadcast medium as opposed to a one-to-one medium like … gas station networks,” he says. “The EV driver is less than one than one-tenth of one percent of the impressions we deliver on a monthly basis. We are advertising to that high-value audience that walks in and out of that Kroger, in and out of the Whole Foods.”
Large portions of Volta's network are ad-supported, meaning charges are free, with the company's ad revenue subsidizing the electricity costs. The pitch to advertisers and property owners is that the ads can help drive shopping patterns.
“As brands are trying to influence behavior in store or on property, getting the ability to reach consumers directly before they walk in is something that is really unique and differentiated,” he says. “It’s also on the last half yard of retail, so if you want [you can] influence purchase decisions just before someone pulls out their wallet.”
On the podcast, Lipsher dives deeper into what a gas-less economy might look like.
The “Cokes and smokes” sales that happen at gas stations are “going to go somewhere else,” he says. And “we believe we can help influence it at the property partners we have.”