April 22, 2013

EVs may still be rare, but more retailers opening up on-site charging stations

Posted by: in North America

The 180,000 electric vehicles on the road around world account for just 0.2 percent of passenger cars, but reportedly the international goal of reaching 20 million EVs by 2020 is well within reach. Readying for a future in which cars need charging stations, retailers and restaurant chains are working with companies in the EV charging market. Tim Hortons, Kroger Co. and Walgreens are among those in various stages of installing chargers in their parking lots.

To encourage the investment, ECOtality Inc. in the U.S. is selling potential partners on the ability of its Blink EV chargers to offer “a competitive differentiator and reason for customers to stop, shop, and eat.” Partners can also “take advantage of the advertising space” on Blink’s charging stations. The electric vehicle supply equipment, as it’s termed, can also bring public relations benefits. “While EVSEs may not be a profit-generating enterprise in the near term, there are other benefits to installation, such as promoting sustainability through ‘green PR’,” states an August 2012 report out of UCLA.

Though it’s cheaper to install EV charging stations than traditional fueling stations, questions remain about their viability and even their environmental credibility. Charging mats, which use magnetic induction technology (i.e., the same general principle as your electric toothbrush), may be a more convenient alternative. Meanwhile, the “chicken or the egg” question persists: Companies looking to establish a viable model for EV charging need a significant volume of cars on the road—indeed, many charging stations are going unused—yet consumers remain wary of running out of charge while driving.

Image credit: Tim Hortons

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