The fuel station of the future
11. May 2021
Aral AG has transformed a fuel station into a mobility hub in the centre of Berlin. Petrol and electric vehicles cannot only be filled up or charged there, a wide range of sharing and micromobility offers are also available. In this way, the concept of a fuel station that totally focused on cars up until now is to be adapted to satisfy the needs of the future.
The new concept of Aral combines refuelling and charging. © Aral
Expansion of the existing infrastructure
A means of transport's suitability for daily use essentially depends on the availability of the necessary infrastructure for its operation. In particular when talking about the future outlook of electromobility, it is mostly pointed out that a corresponding amount of charging stations have to be available to ensure widespread usage thereof. However, this also applies for vehicles with combustion engines, which have an average range of 482 km per tank of fuel; in contrast to electromobility a sufficient infrastructure has been in place here for decades already so there is little need for action. Since October 2020, Aral has however been proving in Berlin that the mobility of the future can make use of the trusted pit stop at the roadside: A conventional fuel station is being transformed into a mobility hub, the existing infrastructure is being expanded.
On the Aral premises on Holzmarktstraße in the centre of Berlin, located between Alexanderplatz and Ostbahnhof (East Station), the focus is no longer purely on filling up with petrol and diesel. It is now also possible for customers to refuel electric cars for their onward journey at two battery-based – hence independent from the energy network - high-performance charging points with 320 kW. These charge themselves up autonomously, if no vehicle is attached.
The Jelbi location on the fuel station premises. © Aral
Furthermore, a so-called Jelbi location was installed, which bundles a host of different sharing offers for eScooters, bicycles, electric mopeds and cars - from cambio, Miles and Greenwheels. These can be activated and operated using the Jelbi app, which is issued by the Berlin Verkehrsbetrieben (BVG/Berlin Transport Companies). Plus, users of electricity-based micromobility can also exchange empty batteries for fully-charged ones within 30 seconds at a Swobbee station. A DHL packing station and a supermarket for everyday requirements that is open 24 hours a day are also found on-site; direct connections to three railway and subway lines rounds off the multimodal offer. The site is thus on the one hand a fuel station and on the other an interchange station.
Short routes and modal flexibility
The "fuel station of the future", as the company calls it, is to serve as a hub. The transformation from the car-oriented - which the urban fuel station symbolically stands for - to the mobility-oriented city is thus receiving an important boost. After all, lacking availability and thus the dwindling comfort of many means of transport are a frequently cited argument for people not wanting to do without their own car. The sharing offer and the direct public transport connections combat this problem.
With this initiative Aral is additionally placing the focus on a guiding principle that is experiencing a renaissance in modern city planning: function mixing. A "city with short routes", where different usage functions are found in a confined area instead of lying far apart from each other - as was usually the case in the car-oriented city planning of the 1960s and 1970s that were only reachable with a set of wheels - is combatting the dependency on individual motorisation. The central and predominantly commercial urban space figuratively speaking comes closer to its surrounding area through the bundling of mobility providers - also for those who are travelling without a car.
With its "fuel station of the future" Aral is demonstrating which importance the right contextualisation of mobility clusters is taking on. Whereas for instance fuel stations on the motorway require a stronger focus on fast-charging stations for electric cars as a pit stop, they display little usage potential as mobility hubs, precisely this is however of utmost significance in the inner-city environment. With regards to achieving the mobility transformation, this could even exceed the effect of the charging stations. The secondary usage as a 24/7 supermarket would also probably offer less added value on motorways than in the centre of Berlin.
Patrick Wendeler, Chairman of Aral AG, sees great future potential in this initiative. "The diversity of the mobility options plays an ever-increasing role especially in urban space and our fuel stations can become a practical hub here," he stated. The aim of the Bochum-based BP subsidiary is ambitious: In the coming months over 100 ultra-fast charging points with a charging capacity of up to 350 kW are to be put into operation by the company. The duration of a charging process is then similar to the time taken for refuelling with petrol or diesel.
The electricity that is need on the premises is to be generated autonomously in future to allow a self-sufficient supply. As such the parent company, BP, is working towards the goal of becoming climate- neutral by the year 2050 or earlier - if possible at all levels. If the offers are accepted by the population to the desire degree, mobility hubs like Aral's "fuel station of the future" will make a valuable contribution towards sustainable urban mobility.