2020 vision
The future of filling stations

Fuel retailers may be fighting price wars now, but the real battle lies elsewhere. Circle's petrol retail guru Robert Onion looks forward to a return to service — and to pleasure.

Buying petrol is termed a ‘distress purchase’ for good reason — the whole experience is bland, generic and often downright depressing. Amazingly, it is still quite normal to have dirty lavatories, unappetising food, and uninspiring shops. We now even have to pay to fill our tyres with air!

So what is the future of the filling station? There are two major factors that will force a reassessment of how filling stations are operated, used and branded: the demand for alternative energy, and the desire for service.

Alternative fuels will have an effect on where and when we fill up. Given that vehicles will run on a mix of fuels — electricity, natural gas/cng, petrol, diesel or hydrogen — fuel retailers and oil companies will need to devise new strategies to use their real estate. And with a bit of creativity, perhaps we can return to the golden age of taking pleasure in our filling stations.

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