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Retail Leading the Charge

Retailers in several channels adding electric vehicle charging stations
RENO, Nev. -- Retail stores around the United States are installing charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) to serve owners of an emerging fleet of electric cars, bikes and scooters, according to a report by USA Today.

"There weren't any retail charging stations in the Reno market so it was a chance to become a leader," Steve Reimer, who opened an Einstein Bros. bagel shop in the Nevada city in December and installed Reno's first charging station, told the newspaper. "It just seems like the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint."

Some charge [image-nocss] for the service--the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn., has a $3 per hour fee--others offer it for free. Three EV charging stations are being installed at the mall, Michael Farkas, CEO of Car Charging Group, told the paper. The firm owns and maintains the units and splits revenue with the mall.

The equipment costs $2,000 to $6,000 plus installation; costs are partially offset by federal tax credits of up to 50%, he said.

Whole Foods Market opened two stations last April in Austin, company spokesperson Rebecca Scofield told the paper. Whole Foods also installed charging stations at stores in Connecticut, Denver and near Dallas in 2010, she added. Use of the Austin stations is limited, but "we expect it to go up," Scofield said. "If the excitement is any indication, we'll definitely see a big explosion in the use of these cars."

In Bellingham, Wash., a charging station was opened at The Market at Fairhaven in January 2010, Sue Cole, spokesperson for The Markets, a chain of 18 Washington supermarkets, told the paper. It was the first grocery store in the country to install one, according to Cole.

"People can pull in, plug in and during a shopping trip, they can get enough juice to go another 10 miles," she said.

Best Buy installed EV stations at 12 stores, including in Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, Phoenix and Tucson.

In Michigan, the Meijer chain installed EV chargers at three stores in metro Detroit and near Grand Rapids as part of the company's "focus on sustainability," Frank Guglielmi, director of public relations, told USA Today. An additional 10 to 20 could be installed in stores across the Midwest this year, he added.

And as reported in CSP Daily News, convenience retailers BP/ARCO, Murphy, Spinx as well as drugstore chain Walgreens and restaurant chain Cracker Barrel have installed or are installing EV charging stations. (Click here for coverage.)

As more charging units are installed, Farkas told USA Today, the practice at many locations of providing the service for free will end. "Nobody is going to give out electricity very much longer," he said.

Retailers will help overcome consumers' biggest concern about electric vehicles--that motorists will become stranded on the road if they run out of juice, Farkas said.

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