More Than Just a Plug Parkland Aims to Offer the Ultimate Charging Experience
By Meline Beach
Twenty minutes can feel like an eternity if you’re in the middle of nowhere charging your electric vehicle. It can feel worse if the charging station is located near the dumpster in a poorly lit part of a parking lot and you have nothing to do or nowhere to go while you wait.
Typically, 20 minutes would be the shortest amount of time it would take to charge an electric vehicle. Depending on the type of charger, it can take upwards of 40 minutes or more to top up your battery.
As battery electric vehicle registrations continue to climb in Canada, many EV owners rely on public chargers for day-to-day use and longer road trips. Compared to the two minutes it would take to fuel conventional vehicles, EV owners have more time on their hands when charging. This is idle time that Parkland is focused on helping its EV customers make the most of every stop with a range of customer-centric amenities.
“Range, or charging anxiety is real for many EV owners,” says Donna Sanker, president of Parkland Canada, “We will alleviate that concern with reliable charging stations and a positive experience across our locations.”
The Canadian headquartered, international retail giant of fuel, food and convenience stores is on a mission to create a better experience for its EV customers. It has plans to build one of Western Canada’s largest and best-run ultra-fast electric vehicle (EV) charging networks and recently announced it is doubling its current 25 sites to 50 across British Columbia and Alberta by early 2024. This network is supported by a recent $6.825-million investment from Natural Resources Canada and the B.C. government.
With over a million customers per day in 25 countries, including Canadian retail locations Ultramar, Pioneer, Chevron and ON the RUN, Parkland is determined to be the supplier of choice for EV customers, similar to how it currently meets customer needs for those who fill up with fuel.
“We are positioned to power electric vehicles and fuel conventional engines,” says Darren Smart, Parkland’s senior vice-president of energy transition and corporate development. “Our charging stations are strategically located to deliver convenient, efficient service and a positive customer experience.”
Branded ON the RUN to align with its convenience store brand, Parkland’s EV chargers will be primarily located at its existing Chevron retail locations in Western Canada, as research shows British Columbia currently has the greatest penetration of EV adoption in the country. Most of these locations include a Triple O’s restaurant, featuring their renowned burgers, shakes and fries, with in-store dining options, M&M food offerings, upgraded washrooms and free WIFI. In parallel with a leading physical experience, Parkland aims to offer its customers a seamless digital experience through its JOURNIE rewards app which will allow customers to locate chargers and manage their charging sessions.
Similar to gas stations, Parkland also offers EV customers access to vacuums, squeegee stations and trash cans at their charging stations as adjacent conveniences.
“We’re trying to set the bar in creating a safe and great experience for EV customers,” says Sanker, who, along with a few other company executives, participated in hands-on research, driving EVs through Canada, the United States and Europe. “We found that many charging stations offered a sub-par experience, with poorly located chargers in unlit areas of the parking lot with unreliable equipment and little to no amenities.”
Simon Scott, director of communications at Parkland adds, “The EV sector is in an embryonic stage and we are in a position to learn, adapt and improve. With a customer-first mindset, we’ve conducted extensive first-hand research, surveys, focus groups and collected anecdotal feedback from customers. We are determined to remain one step ahead of emerging customer needs in creating the best charging experience in the market.”
Parkland aims to ensure operational reliability with trained onsite staff and 24-hour dispatch for any service requirements. Additionally, while some charging providers require two different mobile apps, one to charge and one for their loyalty program, Parkland’s inclusive and free-to-join JOURNIE rewards app offers a single point of login for fuel savings, promotions and EV charging details, including proactive detection to confirm if chargers are available coupled with the ability to start, track and stop charging sessions remotely.
“We partnered with FreeWire Technologies, an ultra-fast charging provider with an excellent track record,” says Sanker. “Each charging station in our network will have two to four ports enabling us to simultaneously serve multiple customers. We were very thoughtful in selecting FreeWire whose chargers have integrated batteries. This enables them to constantly trickle charge and draw far less power from the grid during peak demand periods compared to typical ultrafast chargers. This technology has an additional benefit, as they require fewer electrical upgrades at each site and can therefore be installed more quickly and efficiently.”
As demand increases, Parkland is watching the Quebec and Ontario markets closely. The company’s ON the RUN ultrafast charging network is well on its way to being the electric charging destination of the future, with an exemplary standard of EV charging and customer experience. More than just a plug, Parkland offers extended hours of operation, one-stop shopping, with grab-and-go foodservice and in-store dining, combined with upgraded washrooms, and fast transactions for anxiety-free EV travelling.
Subsequent to this interview, and effective January 1, 2023, Donna Sanker has been named president of Parkland’s USA operating segment.
Meline Beach is a Toronto-based communications practitioner and frequent contributor to Convenience & Carwash Canada. In addition to freelance writing, Meline provides communications and public relations support to businesses across Canada. She can be reached at