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They used to be called service stations. Attendants pumped fuel into your vehicle’s fuel tank, cleaned the windows and checked the oil, while you went inside to a diner for refreshments or a general store for provisions.
But an electric future requires a little update and—when we got ahold of the concept—a lot more style. In other words, at the end of The Charge summit in San Francisco in September, Audi unveiled a new service station for the electric era.
At this pop-up experience near the North Beach neighborhood in the center of the city, the general public could see the all-electric SUV, the 2019 Audi e-tron®, in person and place their reservations. They could walk around the other Audi electric studies on display, including the team’s championship-winning Formula E race car with up to 764-horsepower, and the PB18 e-tron concept car.
The pop-up event offered a creative look at how we might recharge in a zero-tailpipe emissions world: with Electrify America chargers, charging one of a dozen or so e-tron models or variants; a fun play area of four-ring swings; the option of eating fresh, delicious foods; and prepping for the next leg of the road trip.
As Loren Angelo, vice president of marketing at Audi of America, said, “The heart of the experience is a modern take on what a charging station could look like in the near future—a place where drivers of electric vehicles can refuel themselves while their
vehicle recharges.”
The station was filled with innovative, thoughtful touches, like a kinetic energy-capture installation that showed users how electric power can come from anywhere, even human movement. The interactive artwork showed the power that humans generated walking, hopping or even dancing across the energy-capturing floor before it lit up lights on the wall in real time.
Just to the side of the charging station was a set of four LED swings that formed our four-ring logo when looked at head-on. In the station itself, users could recharge themselves for free by using “social currency” of sharing posts on their experience via social media. A single post could net a delicious juice or amazing snacks made by a couple of San Francisco’s most innovative chefs.
This aspirational vision of the future resonated with the chefs and co-owners of Michelin-starred restaurant State Bird Provisions, who catered the unique rest stop. Husband and wife Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski were contracted to make the flavorful food at the pop-up snack shop—candied almonds, rice bran oil-fried potato chips with an onion dip, a Meyer lemon ice cream sandwich—but they felt drawn to the concept.
“We look for others who have authenticity,” Krasinski said. “We want it to feel natural, and this was a natural fit.”
The couple walked around the station, engaging guests and hosting in the cleanly designed, digitally inspired station of the future.
It was a delicious note on which to end the summit. But what stayed with the people who engaged with it was the sense of wonder and service when driving long distances on highways was new and exciting. The future may or may not quite reach the innovative, almost deliriously creative heights of this pop-up, but the fresh foods and electric driving that fueled this concept made you not remember the old times but look forward to the new.