A chain of slow-food restaurants which provide charging services for electric vehicles.
Electric Cafe objectives:
- Combine charging with dining to give drivers something to do while charging their vehicles
- Link metropolitan centers by providing strategically-located charging based on typical EV range limits and distance between large cities
- Provide both high-quality, locale-oriented dining alongside a consistent, reliable experience for both adventurous and conservative travelers
- Rejuvenate rural & small towns by drawing EV traffic out of cities
- Tap into rural renuable energy sources like wind, solar and hydro
The number of electric vehicles and electric vehicle owners in the U.S. are growing each year. While EV range is increasing, many of these vehicles are limited to around 100 miles per charge. This, combined with “range anxiety” means most of these vehicles are purchased by city dwellers doing most of their driving within city limits. While charging stations are expanding in urban areas to meet this need, drivers often resort to fossil-fuel vehicles for city-to-city trips. Electric Cafes placed at mid-points between these cities would allow these drivers to take their EV’s instead.
By strategically placing the cafes safely within range of these EV’s, but outside of the city, drivers can safely consume most of their range during the first leg of the trip, visit the cafe to recharge and then complete their journey to the final destination. While in the destination city, their vehicle can once again be charged and visit another cafe on the return trip.
By combining dining with charging, the time it takes to charge the vehicle is less noticeable and by focusing on quality dining and slow-food atmosphere, more charging time is avaliable without making drivers impatient.
In addition to providing city-to-city capability, the cafes can be a destination in their own right. By placing them in interesting rural communities and locating them in areas that are amicable to foot traffic (downtown “mainstreet” businesses, town squares, etc.), visiting a cafe can be an enjoyable day-trip and can help revitalize business and culture in these communities. By proving a menu that is decided between locally-grown specialties along with consistent favorites, each cafe can provide a unique experience worth the trip. Combine this with seasonal variation and the low costs associated with EV travel and you can see how Electric Cafe’s could benefit EV drivers and small communities equally.
In terms of business model it could be rather straightforward. The cafe provides charging facilities using the current standards avaliable for fast charging. These facilities are powered ideally by renewable sources when avaliable. Charging incurs fees, however fees are waived for customers who dine at the cafe (this may also apply to customers who make purchases from associated local businesses).
A prototype cafe could be created on an existing restaurant site if a suitable one can be found in the right location. Coincidentally Beaver Dam, Wisconsin might make for an ideal candidate location, as it is situated between the cities of Madison, Milwaukee and Appleton. It is also within 50 miles of a number of interesting small communities, which would allow EV owners from these metropolitan areas the ability to use the cafe as a way to visit these small communities.
A prototype cafe as described could be used to fine-tune the product and business model and define an implementation pattern which could be used to build additional cafes in strategic locations. In addition to cafes, other related businesses could be pursued as the network grows (service centers, vehicle dealerships, hotels, etc.). This in turn could provide data which could be used to improve future generations of electric vehicle design as well.
By expanding the operational envelope of current electric vehicles, and exposing EV owners to the unique qualities of rural areas, Electric Cafes could have a significant impact on the expanded use of electric vehicles, and in turn increase the existing benefits associated with their use, while at the same time expanding both the electric vehicle industry, and revitalizing the industriousness of small towns.