EV charging stations are coming to a travel center restaurant near you

The Pilot and Flying J truck-stop chains intend to plug into a national network of charging sites with 2,000 machines.
Animation by Nico Heins via Shutterstock

Restaurants housed in Pilot and Flying J travel centers will soon be able to draw from a fast-growing pool of potential customers: electric vehicle drivers who need to recharge their rides.

The parent of the truck-stop chains announced Thursday that it is teaming up with General Motors (GM) to provide 2,000 of the charging stations that will form the national electrical-vehicle (EV) plug-in network envisioned by the federal government. The goal is to encourage Americans’ changeover to EVs by ensuring they can readily find a place to recharge while on the nation’s highways.

The plan is a key part of President Biden’s Build Back Better initiative. The administration has set a goal of shifting American buying habits so that 50% of the cars on U.S. roads by 2030 will be electric.

The fast-charge stations will be installed at 500 Pilot and Flying J travel plazas, virtually all of which sport places for truck drivers and auto travelers to buy ready-to-eat food, usually from a variety of outlets. The rest stops, owned and operated by Pilot Co., host a number of big fast-food brands, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Subway.

The travel centers will not be the first restaurant sites to offer the chargers. The machines can already be found in select units of many chains, including Cracker Barrel and TGI Friday’s.

The Pilot facilities will be different because the technology is newer and the stops are part of a network that’s intended to feed EV travelers from one recharge facility to the next. The systems’ provider, EVgo, is aiming to add more than 3,250 charging stations across the continental United States before 2026.

It also makes GM a marketing partner of Pilot and Flying J. Owners of GM vehicles will be offered such perks as an inside track on reservations and discounted prices for some charges.

“We are committed to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, and ensuring that the right charging infrastructure is in place is a key piece of the puzzle,” Mary Barra, GM’s CEO, said in a statement. “With travel centers across North America, Pilot Co. is an ideal collaborator to reach a broad audience of EV drivers.”

The partners noted that the charging stations can accommodate virtually every brand of EV and not just GM cars and trucks.

“We look forward to collaborating with GM and the U.S. Department of Transportation to make convenient coast-to-coast EV travel a reality through our national network of travel centers,” Pilot Co. CEO Shameek Konar said in the statement.

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