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Sick of reading about the future of gas stations yet?
No? Good. Because I’m not sick of writing about them.
In my last newsletter I talked at length about California’s ambitious vehicle electrification goals and the impact they’ll have on the demand for gas. This week I want to talk about the realities of recharging and how those could create a philosophical shift in designing roadside rest stops.
Despite some pretty slick advances in battery technology over the past decade, charging an electric vehicle still takes longer than filling up a gas tank. Even the fastest level 3 chargers still take 30 minutes or more to juice up the average sedan or pickup truck battery.
What to do with all that time?
This is America, so you can bet somebody is going to try to sell you something. This spring, Elon Musk floated the idea of adding short drive-in-style movies and food served directly to your car at a proposed supercharging site on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood. But Stack Charge, a Culver City-based startup, is angling to take the idea even further. The company recently purchased a 1.3-acre plot in Baker, California that will host a charging station replete with restaurants, lounge areas, WiFi and other amenities. The company’s goal is to install 40 chargers and open by Q2 2023. Plans for an additional 10 hubs spread across Southern California are also in the works.
Compared to your average Shell or Exxon station, the mockups look downright swanky—more along the lines of a new Chipotle or a bank than the familiar brightly-lit convenience stores bearing gifts of burnt coffee, hot dogs on rollers and Monster Energy cans. This is fine, and I’d definitely be grateful for a place to sit and scroll on my phone while my car charges, but maybe we haven’t gone far enough. What else could you do in 30 minutes? How about an arcade? Trivia? Ping-pong tables? Nine holes of mini golf! Carnival rides! A TED Talk! A round of speed dating! Slot machines! A Build a Bear Workshop! A grocery store!
Admittedly, some of these ideas are better than others, but the point remains: EV charging will change how we view rest stops and will open up new commercial opportunities. Suddenly a quick sit-down restaurant becomes much more realistic. Are we about to see an Applebee’s renaissance? Is Darden Restaurants stock a smart buy? Maybe. For now, EV drivers are overwhelmingly wealthy and white, so I’d be guessing more along the lines of juice bars, coffee shops, kale salads and gluten free cupcakes—a hilariously disorienting departure from the current gas station model.
The big unknown for Stack Charge (and their overall business model) is the future. Improvements to batteries and infrastructure are already reducing charging times, and new chemical formulations like niobium anodes and solid-state tech could bring charging times in line with gas refueling, which raises the question of whether The Stack Charge is preparing for a future that won’t last.
I’m all for having healthier food options available on the road, but you’re going to need a pretty strong speed dating scene to remain at a rest stop in the middle of the desert on I-15 for even a few minutes longer than necessary…
LA Venture Deals Slide Amid Economic Worries
Venture capitalists are investing less money and striking fewer deals with L.A. startups lately, according to new data and interviews with experts. Still, second quarter deal count and investment volume were at or above some quarters in 2019 and 2020.
Disney Surpasses Netflix's Subscribers, But Will Raise Prices
The Burbank-based company surpassed Netflix in total subscribers after signing up way more viewers than expected last quarter, but the surge was somewhat overshadowed by a new plan to raise prices.
Salon Booking App Boulevard Brings in $70M
The Los Angeles-based company aims to digitize the methods many salons used to book clients. It saw big growth during the pandemic as more consumers prioritized self-care appointments like skin treatments and haircuts.
Warner Bros’ 'Multiversus' Surpasses 10M Players
“MultiVersus” is free to play. Like most free games, however, it features a multitude of microtransactions that let players buy power-ups for their characters, for a better shot at knocking out the competition. The game has already gone viral.
Listen Up: Concrete Rose’s Will Bumpus on Mission-Driven Investments
On this episode of the LA Venture podcast, Concrete Rose Capital's L.A.-based partner Will Bumpus discusses how the firm hopes to support a virtuous cycle of wealth and opportunity for underrepresented communities of color.
Save the Date! The dot.LA Summit Is Coming
dot.LA is proud to announce the 3rd annual dot.LA Summit coming up on October 20th & 21st at the Petersen Museum. Join hundreds of top founders, investors, and operators for the largest celebration of L.A.'s tech and startup ecosystem. The jam-packed program includes the dot.LA Awards, pitch competition, panels, workshops and more. Ticket sales begin shortly - be the first to know by signing up here. Interested in sponsoring this year's Summit? Email summit@dot.LA for more information.
What We’re Reading...
- Elon Musk sells nearly $7B in Tesla shares.
- The U.S. military expands electric aerial vehicle company Joby Aviation's contract to include the Marine Corps.
- The L.A. Rams partners with Dapper Labs to create NFTs for the upcoming football season.
- Santa Monica-based metaverse basketball startup Gym Class raises $8 million.
- L.A.-based fintech startup ComplYant offers free tax tools for L.A.-based businesses.
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