It may not predict a plug-in vehicle future, but there is something interesting happening in the UK. Auto Express notes that there is a worry about "fuel deserts" growing because there is now a record low number of gas stations in the UK. The UK used to have 21,000, now it has less than 8,500. The drop doesn't come from a lack of demand due to automotive fuel choices but because of, "increasing fuel taxes, crude oil prices and business rates, as well as unfair pricing regimes from some hypermarkets and oil companies," which are working against independent stations, said Brian Madderson, chairman of the industry body RMI Petrol, to Auto Express.

The number of fueling stations in the U.S. is also dropping, according to the U.S. Census, but no one here is worried about fuel deserts.


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  • 27 Comments
      Bloomsbury
      • 3 Months Ago
      It's not really that big of a deal now with GPS. You'd have to be really in the middle of nowhere to be more than 30 miles away from a petrol station I'd say. Most modern cars can get at least 300 miles to a tank, so when your refuel light comes on you should easily be able to find a place within range. I think the difference now is that there used to be situations where you'd have 4+ petrol stations within one mile (like in the US when you come off the highway), but that's not good business with their current margins, so now the owners tend to be more selective with their locations.
        DaveMart
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Bloomsbury
        A big deal for whom? If you live in an area without a station, what do you do when you need to fill up, drive 30 miles?
          Bloomsbury
          • 3 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          If you live in those areas then you'll regularly have to drive to larger towns anyway. For those examples I'm talking about places that are really surrounded by nothing in the countryside for miles. Any reasonably sized town will have a petrol station. People that live in the countryside and do a lot of driving locally (such as farmers) will have stored petrol.
          DaveMart
          • 3 Months Ago
          @DaveMart
          Hmm. Poverty is hitting rural areas badly in the UK as in the US. I doubt that many of them are running into town at the drop of a hat.
      imoore
      • 3 Months Ago
      Clarkson and company will not be happy to hear this.
        Ford Future
        • 3 Months Ago
        @imoore
        Clarkson needs an oil company script to tell him what to think.
      Guillaume Séguin
      • 3 Months Ago
      Fun fact in Ireland: There is only one finished motorway linking the 2 main cities : Dublin and Cork. You can now drive from one to the other in 2 hours (150 miles). But they forgot to place a petrol station on it :) 150 miles isn't a big deal but that means you have to leave the motorway, find a village/town and tank up there.
        Tom
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Guillaume Séguin
        @Guillaume Séguin "There is only one finished motorway linking the 2 main cities" Did you want a couple of extra scenic route motorways between those two cities? :-)
      Marco Polo
      • 3 Months Ago
      Three factors determine the viability of service stations. 1) Profitability. Most independent fuel stations have lost a major source of revenue in car repairs and tyres. The margins on fuel sales are so small, that only very high volume stations can complete with mini-super-mart operations. 2) Modern cars and car owners have so much greater range, and frequently travel on major highways where the major service stations are located. 3) Real estate. Most small independent service stations can covert the real estate to far more profitable uses.This very good news for the oil companies as it reduces fuel delivery costs.
      Guillaume Séguin
      • 3 Months Ago
      A few years back, I was tourng in the highlands, and we almost ran out of petrol. I know this is not well populated, but it took us at least 50 miles to end up at a police station asking for help. There is a definite desert up there.
      paulwesterberg
      • 3 Months Ago
      Peak oil. Peak gas stations. Better public transit and high property values means very few gas stations in urban areas where population growth is the strongest. Suburban growth has peaked commuting long distances is too expensive in the face of rising petroleum costs. Lack of opportunity and jobs in the rural countryside means a decreasing population and few new stations.
      Arun Murali
      • 3 Months Ago
      Well if we continue on this path for few more years, some one can do a review of a petrol car and show that it stopped in the middle of the road and they had to invite a whole group of college students to push it 50 miles to the nearest gas station, that will take many beef stakes and probably 10 hours. Finally we can conclude that "Petrol cars are awesome, but petrol is the only problem". :)
        Tom
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Arun Murali
        Fuel tank technology will have come on in leaps and bounds by then, lets not worry about it.
        Dave D
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Arun Murali
        Oh, come on guys....it's funny LOL
      Actionable Mango
      • 3 Months Ago
      How can 8,500 be a record low? At some point in history someone built the first gas station there. That would set the record low at one. Unless there were no gas stations, then 8,501 gas stations were all built simultaneously.
      Ford Future
      • 3 Months Ago
      "unfair pricing regimes from some hypermarkets and oil companies" Oil Company says Gas Station Owners aren't allowed to be profitable. Oil Company sets the price, forces the gas station to take on more price risk. Oil Company says FU to it's very stations.
        Danaon
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Ford Future
        Uh, actually it's the distributor that is the problem. Thanks for injecting your ignorance though.
          • 3 Months Ago
          @Danaon
          Hey, that was funny, cause it was not directed at me.
        EZEE
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Ford Future
        Oddly, no where in your post did you cite, "Increasing fuel taxes." Interesting thing - my side (evil right wingers who starve children and throw old people into the street, forcing them to eat dog food) like to blame government and not hold oil companies accountable. Your side (enlightened left wingers who are kind and accepting of everyone, while continually dancing on the side of a green grass hill, with ever other person being of a different race, or endangered animal, singing the coca cola song, "If I could teach the world to sing") largely ignores the role of government, while blaming the oil companies. One certainly COULD say, that oil companies certainly benefit from rising prices - be that at the pump, or simple commodity markets, for something that largely costs teh same to produce (except in some difficult deep water drilling situation). Likewise, one COULD say, that high regulatory burdens, and taxes at the pump of $1, $2, $3, $4, etc., depending on the country, might ACTUALLY cause prices to rise. Interestingly, in the end, doesn't EITHER situation benefit the green side? I mean - if the oil companies manipulate the market to cause prices to rise, doesn't that reduce demand? The same as the high tax situation brought on by the government? Sure, when governments collect the money, they can spend it on groups of people singing on the sides of hills, whereas the oil companies will spend the money to enrich their Wall Street Fat Cat Buddies, but if the goal is to reduce consumption to make green alternatives that much more attractive...well...what is the issue?
          DaveMart
          • 3 Months Ago
          @EZEE
          EZEE: I think the word you are looking for is 'fallacy' A phallus is, well, something entirely different! :-)
          EZEE
          • 3 Months Ago
          @EZEE
          Not a comment on that, but, everyone out there says that higher prices result in lower demand. People drive less, which is supposed to be a good thing. If an independent gas station is surviving on a tight budget, then any reduced demand might be it. The oil companies will treat gas stations differently. Would Shell sell gas cheaper to a shell station than an independent? Of course, and that is their choice. Again, fewer gas stations, less demand...isn't that the point? We can't dream of the day of no gasoline powered cars and bemoan the death of the gas station...
          Spec
          • 3 Months Ago
          @EZEE
          Increasing fuel taxes would hit all the petrol stations equally, so they are really irrelevant to the story. (Do you think the UK government charges 5% at one station and 10% at another station?) However, the different oil companies and oil refiners do treat the various stations differently and thus are relevant. So explain how equally applied higher fuel taxes matters to inter-station competition?
          EZEE
          • 3 Months Ago
          @EZEE
          @Spec Also, interestingly, when you ask how this affects competition between gas stations, if the tax is applied evenly - well it actually does. The phallacy is that businesses do not like regulation. In many cases they don't mind it, and actually like it - when it serves a purpose. Some years ago the government proposed new regulations on soft drinks. It would be applied evenly, so no problem, right? Well, the problem was, Coke and Pepsi, through the economics of scale, could afford the extra regulation - the smaller soft drink makers could not. So even though it would cost Coke and Pepsi money - they both looked at each other and smiled. They knew that the upstarts, such as RC Cola, Vernors, and others, would not be able to absorb the new costs without either raising prices, or producing at a loss. Now, the upstarts are all owned by the big boys. This is one area where (trust me on this) - the left and the right SHOULD agree with each other - if you want business out of politics, simply create a simple tax code (say, 9% of corporate profits, regardless of how they get it), and an even set of regulations. You take the incentive for businesses to pump billions into politics to get favors. Think of all of the contortions that went on to get healthcare passed. All of the special favors...obviously the right did nto like that, but I imagine those on the left must be annoyed with the process and the back scratching, even if they like the end result. Although off topic...if you don't bail out banks, for example, they will be more conservative with what they do with the money they have. Goldman Sachs was bailed out several times prior to the financial collapse. What was the lesson? Make risky investments, and if you fall, both republicans and democrats will bail them out. Makes me wonder what will stop Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, etc., from overspending again n the future (further off topic, but then, the mind wanders).
      Jass
      • 3 Months Ago
      Actually, the US has fuel deserts too. Go find a gas station in Manhattan.
        Dave
        • 3 Months Ago
        @Jass
        google maps shows quite a few. unfortunately, theyre hard to find with a gps cuz u lose satallite signal among the skyscrapers
      PhilipHa
      • 3 Months Ago
      The reduction in the number of petrol stations is also less relevant today as a result of cars having greater range as they become more efficient - they don't need to visit petrol stations as often. I haven't seen an increase in queues at petrol stations as a result of this reduction. I feel the second biggest driver after improved mpg for the reduction in numbers is the growth in supermarket petrol stations who are able to cross-subsidise their petrol prices - I don't see increases in taxes as a signifcant driver in the reduction of numbers of stations - this is something the car and petroleum industry raises in any discussion whether they are directly relevant or not.
      diffrunt
      • 3 Months Ago
      Re: US fuel stations in decline----chatted with a gentleman who owns several jiffy stores in lower NE US. his current gross profit margin is 4.5 to 5 cents per gal.
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