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Electric car charging towers could replace gas stations, one day

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This urban development concept by Ennead Lab is a cool futuristic alternative to traditional gas stations, but can the infrastructure keep pace with the electric car?

If this architecture firm has its way, the gas stations of the future will look very different indeed.

The Charging Tower is a concept created for a new urban development in Shanghai by Ennead Lab, the research arm of New York-based Ennead Architects. It’s an idea of what will replace current gas stations in a future where electric cars are more popular. Ennead calls it a “roadside beacon for electric cars.”

With its multiple levels housing stacked electric cars, the Charging Tower resembles a parking structure more than a gas station, which is the whole point. Charging an electric car takes a lot longer than pumping a tank of gas, but Ennead hopes to use that as an advantage. The tower has a relatively small footprint, allowing it to fit into dense urban areas. That gives drivers plenty to do while they wait for their cars to charge.

The Charging Tower can accommodate drivers who are in more of a hurry, too. It includes options for both standard charging and a faster “super charge” (a name Tesla probably isn’t too happy with). Analogous to DC fast-charging stations like Tesla’s Superchargers, these stations are located on the ground level so cars can get in out quickly. The slower charging stations are housed on the tower’s upper levels.

With two charging speeds, the Charging Tower can accommodate drivers making a brief stop on a long trip, or those traveling locally, Ennead says. Local drivers may be able to afford to wait longer, killing time while running errands, eating, or shopping. Long-distance drivers will likely use the Charging Tower more like a traditional gas station, stopping just long enough to top up with energy before continuing on.

While it’s unclear if the cities of the future will be dotted with towers full of charging electric cars, a switch away form internal combustion will almost certainly have a major impact on infrastructure. Charging stations can be placed anywhere electric lines are located, and usage patterns may differ from gas stations.