Gas Stations Could Become Fitness Centers in an Electric Car Future

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Here’s an interesting thought. What happens to the nation’s network of gas stations down the road when full electric cars – especially those of the self-driving variety – come to prominence? Analysts suggest there will be more than 71 million autonomous vehicles out and about on the nation’s highways and thoroughfares by 2030.

Athletic equipment maker Reebok in Boston recently teamed with the global architecture and design firm Gensler in San Francisco to tackle the issue in a new “Get Pumped” program. The companies want to help re-envision today’s gas stations as roadside “fitness hubs,” where motorists can stop to enjoy a healthy meal, get some exercise, and “prioritize their mental and physical wellness.” The goal is to ensure that wherever one lives or travels, a healthy gym and restaurant would be no more than a few miles away. To that end, Reebok and Gensler have developed a plan that would redevelop existing filling stations according to either of three health-minded models:

• The Network: As big-rig trucks turn to electric power, and eventually come to drive themselves, major interstate-highway rest stops could find themselves in dire straits without a major makeover. In this case, Reebok suggest they be turned into full-blown fitness centers where motorists and their passengers can shake off the road trip cobwebs by, say, running, spinning, boxing, or taking Crossfit classes while they replenish their vehicles’ batteries. Biscuits and gravy at the diner would be replaced by much healthier fare to help energize, rather than render comatose, interstate motorists.

• The Oasis: Larger gas stations that are situated adjacent to smaller local highways would be transformed into “recharge zones” that would offer those having the most-grueling commutes a post-work mental and physical respite that doesn’t involve a stop at the local tavern. Instead, weary workers would be able to avail themselves of yoga and meditation pods, and have their nutritional needs met in a healthy way via a juice bar and a farm-to-table restaurant.

• The Community Center: Smaller neighborhood gas stations could be reworked to become mini health facilities that address area residents’ needs. For example, the former repair shop section of a given building could be converted into an area for teaching nutrition classes, while the mini-mart can be reconfigured to sell locally sourced and especially healthy food, and pop-up facilities can be used to conduct Crossfit and spinning classes.

“We envision our cities of the future to have a network of fitness oases between home and work where you could stop and recharge more than just your car,” says Alfred Byun, a designer at Gensler. “Imagine an option to leave the traffic jam to unwind with yoga, get your Crossfit fix, or pick up a green juice and your weekly farm share all in one place.”

In the meantime, given the fact that most gas-station mini marts are quite literally the repositories of every type of junk food known to humanity, it would be a nice change of pace for some to instead offer healthier fare like smoothies and fresh fruit in addition to or as an alternative to the usual gloppy nachos and day-old hot dogs.

We might even call them “less filling” stations.

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