Love them or loathe them, gas stations (petrol stations to those of us who grew up with pounds and pence) are a necessary evil of internal combustion engine vehicle ownership.
From the cheapest of student rides to million-dollar hypercars, we’ve all had to visit the gas station at one point or other to hand over our hard-earned cash in exchange for a tank full of that precious carcinogenic liquid that costs an incredible amount of money to pump out of the ground, refine and transport, causes global wars and yes, is one of the reasons we’re facing the spectre of massive, irreversible global warming.
And as those who have made the switch from an internal combustion engined vehicle to an electrically-powered one will tell you, one of the pleasures of electric car ownership is never having to queue for gasoline again. Add to that the fact that most electric cars on the market today come with pre-conditioning, allowing you to step into a fully charged car every morning with the interior temperature just right, and most people never worry about the gas station again.
But as a popular Internet meme doing the rounds on Facebook reminds us, there are things that gas stations are useful for other than filling up with petroleum byproducts. And that means that if you’re new to the world of plug-in ownership and you really do miss that friendly clerk at your local automotive watering hole, you still have an excuse to go there.
So, in the spirit of the meme (and repurposing a few of the good suggestions) here are the five things that you can do at a gas station if you have an electric car.
Your car may not run on black sludge any more, but you might. And while we’ve yet to find tasty, well-made gas-station coffee anywhere on the three different continents we’ve visited, we’re guessing that dropping off at a gas station for a quick shot of caffeine might be one way to ensure you get your gas station fix.
Then again, with certain high-street coffee shops charging upwards of $5 for a cup of fancy joe, dropping off at the gas station could be a way to save yourself some money if you’re not too particular about the form in which your caffeine is delivered. And since you’re already saving money driving an electric car, you could even afford to treat yourself once in a while.
Wash your Car
Unless you’re the kind of person who actually enjoys the weekend ritualistic process of washing, then waxing and then detailing your car, there’s nothing quite as quick and simple as heading to your local gas station and its automated car washing facilities.
Of course, not all gas stations offer fully autonomous car washing. Some simply offer a high-powered industrial-strength hose you can use by the minute, as well as a selection of soft brushes to use to get the worst of the grit and grime off.
Regardless of how your car is washed however, remember to keep those windows and doors closed, and remove all external aerials before entering the wash. Electric or not, getting drenched in a car wash is no fun.
Put air in your tires
As probably the most overlooked part of a car, tires have the most demanding job: namely keeping the car going in the direction you want it to when you want it to.
But as well as ensuring you stop in plenty of time, the pressure of your tires also determine how efficient your car is. Keep your tires over-inflated, and you’ll get great electric range but poor road handling and grip. Keep them under-inflated, and you’ll risk excess tire wear and poor range.
While you should always carry an accurate tire gauge in your car (the ones at gas stations are notoriously inaccurate) inflating your tires at a gas station can be a lot quicker and hassle-free than hand-pumping them at home. And if you’re lucky, it’ll also be free!
Buy last-minute groceries
While not every gas station out there has a store attached to it, most European petrol stations and U.S. gas stations we’ve encountered come with some form of convenience store attached to it, offering everything from milk and basic essentials through to a selection of small presents or perhaps even a select number of coats, gloves or other seasonal wear.
At this point, we should probably note that not every gas-station convenience store has a particularly impressive or high-quality selection of goods on sale, gas stations associated with a big-name supermarket such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco in the UK or Fred Meyer and Safeway in the U.S. carry enough of a selection that you can grab those last minute groceries on the way home from work without braving a full-size store.
And if you happen to live in the UK, where strict laws restrict opening times of larger grocery stores on a Sunday, the gas station can be a great place to pick up that loaf of bread or pint of milk after the main store has already closed.
No, we’re not kidding. You might have decided never again to visit the gas station after buying an electric car, but more and more gas stations around the world are waking up to the possibility that they could offer refuelling options for non fossil-fuelled cars alongside the regular choices of petrol or diesel.
As a consequence, we’ve encountered an increasing number of gas stations which offer either Level 2 charging or DC quick charging for customers, perfect if you happen to be in need of a few electrons while out and about.
Even where there aren’t any official charging stations, you may find some gas stations amenable to letting you plug in to a standard electrical outlet if you happen to be really struggling to find a charge. We’ve certainly done it before in mainland Europe (when faced with a broken CHAdeMO charging station) and when finding ourselves just a little too far away from the next rapid charging station to safely make it there in one charge.
What do you do?
Of course, there are plenty of other things you can do at a gas station if you happen to own an electric car — and we’d like to hear your suggestions. Perhaps your local gas station is the place you sneak a bar of chocolate once in a while? Or perhaps it stocks a particular beverage you’re fond of.
Or maybe you really do just miss the smell of gasoline.
Whatever your reason for stopping, we’d like to hear them in the Comments below.
Credit: Ben Nelson for the funny memes used above.
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