Next Up, Tesla Will Take On 7-Eleven

Back in 2013, the sky was the limit for Tesla and Elon Musk was promising a low-cost 90-second battery swap at charging stations in the future. Since then, reality has set in and those plans seem to be on hold. What's the next best solution for those long charging times? Maybe put your feet up and grab a $1 coffee.

Photo: Getty

Earlier this week at FSTEC, the restaurant industry's annual food-tech conference, Tesla's chief technology officer JB Straubel told attendees that Tesla is making a serious effort to build out convenience stores at its 951 Supercharger stations.

"People are coming and spending 20 to 30 minutes at these stops," Straubel lamented. "They want to eat, they want to have a cup of coffee, and they want to use the bathroom."

At the moment, these stations have a strange, unfinished quality. Tesla owners pull up to a slim charging station, connect the charger and settle in for what Tesla claims is about 30 minutes to get half-way charged. The idea is that you should be charging the car's battery at home overnight and the supercharger shouldn't be needed as regularly as a standard filling station.

But if Tesla really wants to kill the old petrol-powered car, it's going to need to expand its infrastructure and make it convenient enough to drive from the top of Canada to the tip of Argentina. Somewhere along the way, you'll need to pee.

According to Restaurant Business, Straubel showed off slides of a charging station "that looked exactly like a c-store," -- industry jargon for a convenience store. But what would a Tesla convenience store be like? Would it be higher-end? Could you get a massage? Will there be Slurpees?

It seems like these questions are only in the nascent stage of being answered. Straubel referred to the stations acting as "convenience stops" which could imply something closer to a highway rest stop. He also said that the company "already [has] been working with restaurants," so maybe it will offer full-fledged dining. He did say that Tesla is uninterested in managing a food service, so maybe the company will just bring in 7-Eleven and avoid becoming the Bodega of the suburbs.

However Tesla works this out, it's interesting to remember the enormity of the company's ambitions. A lot of focus gets put on the tech and price of the battery-powered cars, but manufacturing and infrastructure are huge parts of the business. The "Gigafactory" plant in Nevada is designed to produce more batteries than the entire industry currently pumps out.

With the superchargers, Tesla is attempting to replace filling stations. But those stations are mostly owned by the oil industry. In Tesla's case, it has an opportunity to control the car manufacturing, fuel delivery, and the sugary treats you pick up while you recharge. It seems wise for Tesla execs not to throw themselves into the complicated supply chain of the food industry, but it still has the option.

One exciting prospect is the idea of teens once again hanging out at the convenience store like the slackers in SubUrbia. Hell, everyone will be hanging out -- they have all got a lot of time to kill.




    To me this is the biggest flaw with electric cars *currently* (excuse the pun). I do regular long trips where I'm driving 700+ KM in a day. While I suppose it's possible to time the recharging stop with a meal break it's inconvenient. Especially on the odd trip where I'm on a schedule and can't afford a 30+ minute stop just to refuel.

    Be interesting to see just how low they can get the recharging time as electric cars become more prevalent. Alternatively, they need to more than double the range so I could do a whole trip without recharging and just refill at the end.

      I do regular long trips where I'm driving 700+ KM in a day.

      How often do you do these trips? If you do them on a weekly basis, then an electric car probably isn't for you.

      If you do long trips less than once a month, you could rent a petrol car for trips and drive an electric the rest of the time.

        That's not cost effective for me. The rental costs are too high to offset it. Though it might work for some people.

    Tesla should worry more about delivering on their promised product instead of expanding into new markets.

    You already have a market with half a million cars preordered and you're unable to fully supply it, which means others might step in and steal your lunch.

    700+ km per day means a minimum of 7 hours behind the wheel, and likely longer, 8 or 9 hours, a half hour break in that amount of driving time seems like something you should take really.

    Even a petrol station stop, where often the pump you want isn't available immediately, and you want to take a pee and go in and pay for you fuel and give the windscreen a quick clean is at least a 10 minute stop, filling a tank from empty etc. most petrol cars aren't going to get you over 700km without refuelling.

      I comfortably get 700km without stopping from a 75 litre tank. Though I would probably stop to fill before it hit 700, just in case.

      Anyway, I said 700k in a day not straight. Though occasionally I will do that too. The more likely trip is 400-500 km (a lot of which is 110kph) meet people and do stuff, often including driving around short distances, then drive back again. While I could I suppose ask to "plug" the car in when I arrive it's not exactly good when it's a business related trip.

      Anyway, even 10 minutes compared to 30 minutes is a big difference.

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