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Sep 16, 2020

Couche-Tard plans electric-car charging push in U.S., Canada

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Circle K owner Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. is taking its electric car strategy to North America after learning from consumer habits in northern Europe.

The Laval, Quebec-based convenience store giant will add charging stations at locations on the west coast of the U.S. and Canada and in its home province, Chief Executive Officer Brian Hannasch said in an interview Wednesday. Longer term, the company wants to expand into at-home vehicle charging in North America, as it’s doing in Norway.

“We’ll have chargers deploying in the next 12 months in Canada and in the U.S.,” said Hannasch, whose company has outlets in 48 of the 50 states. “Our goal will be to follow the path we’re on in Norway.”

The company, which counts more than 14,350 locations worldwide, has been experimenting with chargers and stations for years in the Scandinavian nation, where subsidies for electric cars helped speed up their adoption.

The potential growth of electric vehicles in North America, Couche-Tard’s biggest market, offers the company a new revenue stream at a time when gasoline demand may have peaked. Couche-Tard received 71 per cent of its revenue and 46 per cent of its gross profit from fuel sales in the fiscal year that ended April 26, according to a recent company presentation to investors.

“There could be a real first-mover advantage to be gained for companies that aggressively develop quick-charge capabilities both in a retail environment, such as at fuel stations, but also for home or office charging,” Jennifer Bartashus, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, said in an email. “Demand for charging stations is poised to grow, particularly as companies are increasingly evaluating electric vehicles for transportation and delivery of goods.”

Hannasch said the company and a partner have mapped out several hundred locations they’re interested in. He believes some of the lessons from Norway can be taken to North America, including the kind of neighborhoods where charging stations are popular.