To say electric-vehicle (EV) charging is engrossing the convenience-store industry would be an understatement, as both large and mid-sized chains are revealing plans to build EV-charging stations on site. In the past year alone, news has come from Circle K, EG Group, Phillips 66, Pilot and many others — some of which are launching hundreds, if not thousands, of charging points at their locations.
But what if c-store customers could do more than just charge their EV on site. What if they could browse — and even test drive — different electric vehicles?
Starting next year, they’ll be able to.
Hartford, Connecticut-based Noble Markets, which currently operates 11 convenience stores and fueling stations in Connecticut, plans to debut a massive 24,000 square-foot EV showroom and service center at several of the new c-stores it’s currently building throughout its network.
“My best description [of the showroom] is that it will act as an EV Apple store,” Michael Frisbie, owner of Noble Energy Real Estate Holdings and Noble Gas, Inc., parent company of Noble Markets, said in an interview.
The EV showroom and service center will be a separate building from Noble’s new convenience stores, which, at over 8,000 square feet, will far surpass the size of the average U.S. c-store. The showrooms will be two stories with an elevator and will be “set up for customers to see, touch, feel and test drive EVs,” Frisbie said. Multiple tenants will share the space and it will have a service center that will service many different EV brands, he said.
The showroom and service center rollout will begin next March at a c-store currently under construction in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. Noble has plans to debut “several” of these showroom and service centers across New England, Frisbie said.
These facilities underscore Noble’s larger initiative of building its new “hybrid” fueling stations that feature “larger sites with more high-level food offerings,” Frisbie said. Specifically, Noble is planning to build four new stations per year over the next five years, “strategically connecting New York to Boston with automobile refueling infrastructure,” he said.
Besides the showrooms on site, these locations will include eight EV-charging stations in the forecourt, as well as outdoor seating with a fireplace. Inside the store will include seating for indoor dining; food offerings from Italian deli Nardelli’s, Fuel America Coffee House and Noble’s proprietary Frisbie’s Dairy Barn ice cream; and standard convenience items, ranging from cigarettes and gum to packaged beverages and snacks. Self-checkout will also be available.
Noble also recently debuted its new Soapy Noble express car wash program, which will open in various markets “where they make sense,” Frisbie said.
Frisbie said the idea for its new store model came from watching trends in the c-store space and the “desire to be an industry leader.”
“We are building new-to-industry locations that will support the current needs for gasoline/diesel, but also the electrification, and whatever other sources of fuel that come along over the next 20 years,” he said.
Noble’s new EV showroom and service center opening in Sturbridge is also the headquarters for the Electric Vehicle Discovery Center (EVDC), a nonprofit run by Frisbie and two others, one of whom is the COO of EV-charging company Plug’n Drive. The EVDC aims to be an “education and experiential EV learning facility” in a “non-sales environment,” according to the organization’s website. Like Noble’s EV showroom and service centers at its c-stores, the EVDC will allow consumers to explore and test drive a variety of EVs and learn about charging solutions.