What if Starbucks were your filling station?

Hyatt and electric car company Tesla are partnering to put charging stations in hotels. It raises interesting questions about the future of the filling station.

The common wisdom is that gas stations make almost no profit off the gas itself (the gas companies make a ton of profit, of course) and must have side businesses like garages and, above all, snack shops to turn a profit.

What if you were to turn that equation on its head and add a "filling station" to, say, a Starbucks? That's the intriguing possibility raised by an article on SFGate about Hyatt Hotels and Tesla Motors, the Google-founders-financed electric car start-up. (It's also been written up on CNET News.com.)

"Hyatt will install Tesla recharging stations at three hotels, stretching in an arc from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe.... By placing rechargers at Hyatts at Fisherman's Wharf, Sacramento and Incline Village on Tahoe's North Shore, a Tesla owner could drive from San Francisco to the lake without fear of running out of juice. Tesla has already driven one of the roadsters from Tahoe back to the company's San Carlos headquarters without recharging, but that was downhill, said Diarmuid O'Connell, Tesla's director of corporate marketing."

The two companies talked up the brand alignment between them, and how a Tesla customer is a Hyatt customer. Whether that's true or not, it's rather more upscale than an oil company aligning itself with, say, a fast food company to supply burgers at its stations.

Hotels are good places for charging because customers will leave their cars overnight. Starbucks could enter the picture when you can charge more quickly.

A separate news item in Technology Review about secretive battery manufacturer EEstore claims that they have a battery technology that will give a range of 200 miles--and charge in less than 10 minutes. If it's true (and there are plenty of skeptics), that would make a Starbucks a perfect place to add a charger. Pull up and park, plug your car in, stand in line for a latte, come on out and you're off with another 200 miles. It would transform the aesthetic and tone of "filling up" from one that has become grimy and unpleasant to one that is clean and faintly European.

The gas station as a "third place." I love it.
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