Piedmont gas station could convert to EV charging hub after nearly 100 years

For nearly 100 years, people in Piedmont have filled up at a popular, local gas station on Grand Avenue. 

But as more awareness about climate change and fossil fuel arises, people are trending away from pumping gas and instead, turning to electricity to charge up their cars and trucks. 

So last week, Jeff Hansen, owner of Piedmont Auto Care, sold his station to Shell Recharge, a division of Shell Oil that specializes in powering electric vehicles.

No permits have been submitted just yet but Piedmont city planners confirmed that Shell has approached the city about building an EV-charging hub at the station. 

This would mean that the gas pumps would go away and the EV charging stations would replace them. 

In the past decade, Hansen has noticed a gradual, but steady decline in the amount of gas he sold as more and more of his long-time customers switched to electric cars. 

He said he's excited about the next chapter for this site. The Piedmont Post first reported this development. 

"For this particular lot on this particular corner, let's try this electric car thing and see how it goes," Hansen said. 

His station, which he bought in 2005, is one of the oldest gas stations in the East Bay. It's been serving gas-pumping customers for 95 years. 

Hansen shared black-and-white photos of the gas station when it opened back in 1928. Some photos showed Model T cars parked across the street on Grand Avenue.

Hansen says representatives from Shell Recharge are supposed to be out here on Thursday to survey the site. 

Shell Recharge – the new owners of this lot – are supposed to submit renderings of what an EV charging station would look like sometime in the next week.

Julie Lanoff of Oakland was surprised and saddened to hear about the auto shop closing. 

She considered herself a long-time, loyal customer.

 "Those guys were just the nicest," she said of the mechanics. "We'd always bring our car over and sometimes they'd charge us, sometimes they woudln't. It was just a very good neighborhood shop."

People who live and work nearby were sorry to hear about the closure, but also looking forward to what might replace it.

"There are a lot of folks who have electric vehicles. One of the big problems we face is range anxiety, so to have some place to be able to quickly charge or "fill up" your car is great," said Piedmont resident Kelly Brezovec.

"There's a lot of people who live in apartments and can't have chargers in their garages, so it would be nice for them to have access to a place to charge their cars," said Ryan Nishioka of Oakland.

He said he has a gas car but that if he did decide to get an electric vehicle it would be "nice to know a charging hub is available."

Hansen explained that there are three, 10,000-gallon underground gasoline storage tanks on his property that would have to be replaced by 2025 to continue operating as a gas station.

"Over the years, gas sales have gone down - very slowly - but they're going down. To make a big investment to replace the tanks, to pump gas for another 40 years - does that seem like a good decision?" he asked rhetorically. "I don't think it is."

He said he'll miss his greeting and chatting with customers every day and working with the mechanics at his shop but he's happy about the idea of the gas station switching over to service electric vehicles.

"I do think it's a win-win," he said of the sale of his property to Shell Recharge. "I can leave this corner knowing I left behind something kinda cool... for the next 100 years, at least."