Coffee? Burger? In Luxembourg, Shell operates the world’s largest petrol station, servicing up to 25,000 customers per day

Coffee? Burger? In Luxembourg, Shell operates the world’s largest petrol station, servicing up to 25,000 customers per day

Fully electric vehicles come with a number of challenges, of course. Not everyone can easily charge overnight at home and ensuring a public network of sufficient charging stations is one of them. And when you get to a charging station, what then? Grab a coffee, some lunch? The thing is, it will take much longer to recharge a battery than to fill up the tank with the black stuff. In our time poor world, we generally want to get in and out of the gas/petrol station as quickly as we can. I always look for the 'pay at pump' option. Okay, I may occasionally want to go inside to pay and use the integrated convenience store to pick up some milk, but that's quite rare.

The thing is, the petrol station is not exactly a place to want to linger. It's not been created that way and has a pretty long and embedded history in our culture as a place to get in and out of as quickly as possible. The petrol itself is - despite occasional efforts from the oil companies at product differentiation - essentially a commodity product. Convenience and habit largely govern where we stop to refuel and the thought of having to spend more than a few minutes on the whole transaction is a little bit scary.

Interesting then, that Shell in the UK is trying to rethink the refuelling station for the electric future. Just how do you make the petrol station a place where people want to spend more time? How do you re-imagine it?

Shell plans UK's first 'no-petrol' station

It may take longer to refuel for electricity, but that's okay if everyone can adjust to that. You pull in to the service station and expect to take 30 minutes or so attending to your diary, grabbing a bite and a coffee, heading for the yoga room or having a shower. I don't know what it would be, but there are obviously plenty of possibilities for filling this time. And it may well be that people will be fine with that when they have learned to allow for it.

Right now though, in Britain anyway, a regular petrol station with an electric charging station in the corner would probably not quite cut it. There are only so many car mags to browse and the coffee out of the machine is not that good. And there is generally nowhere to sit, other than the toilet (if there is one and more often than not there isn't).

Aside from the evolving 'customer experience' element that might come with recharging, the car manufacturers will obviously be going all out to get the fast-charging time down. I was interested to see that Honda is shooting for 15-minute recharge time on electric models it is planning by 2022. That sounds pretty ambitious. If it can come down to as low as ten minutes later on, then the implied required change to our behaviours at the recharge/refuel station becomes much less of an issue. It's the 30-40-minute fast charge time that would put people off, at least right now. Unless there are free newspapers, doughnuts and coffee, perhaps. Or virtual reality sets for immediate total immersion in an environment of your choice. I'll take a beach in Bali for half an hour - plus doughnut and coffee - anytime.

ANALYSIS - Future Honda electric models and platforms