With plug-in electric vehicles like the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf hitting the big-time, there are more and more drivers on the road searching for places to top up their batteries. That demand is starting to influence retailers, with Walgreen Co. and IKEA both announcing that they will be installing EV charging stations at their stores.
The biggest announcement came from Walgreens, who is now planning to equip 800 of its drugstores around the country with charging stations. While just a fraction of the chain’s 7,733 stores, the company claims its charging stations will make up about 40 percent of those available in the country according to U.S. Energy Department data. While that data is based on what currently exists, and doesn’t necessarily account for future growth, Walgreens’ stations will significantly boost the charging network and possibly relieve the stress of some range-anxious EV drivers.
Walgreens will begin installing the stations at the end of July, with a majority of the stations being put in large markets like Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco and Washington D.C.
IKEA, the Swedish furniture dynamo, will also soon be offering EV charging alongside flatpacked coffee tables and designer meatballs after announcing it will run a pilot program. Although on a smaller scope than Wallgreens’ endeavor, numerous stores in the Western U.S. will have the electrons flowing.
Because fill-ups from EV charging stations are usually offered for free, one has to wonder why retailers would undertake the cost of installing and maintaining them in the first place. The companies have seemingly figured the number of EV drivers on the road is already large enough to make them worth catering to, and with current battery technology not able to offer the range of an internal-combustion engine, being able to get even a small charge in while shopping could make a big difference over the course of the day. And with the number of EV drivers growing at a steady pace, it must make business sense to try to build a rapport with those potential customers early.