One of the big holdups stopping drivers from buying electric cars is that there aren’t many places to recharge the battery as it’s dying down. Hence, the concept of “range anxiety,” in which electric car owners drive with a nagging fear of getting stranded due to a dead battery. Seeing opportunity, a few businesses are installing EV charging stations at a rapid clip, and some of these stations are free for anyone to “fuel up.”
While the nation’s first EV highway is in the works in Washington State, most drivers of electric cars have gotten used to recharging vehicles at home or at the scant few charging stations out there. Soon, they’ll have more options.
The Chicago Tribune (via Consumerist) reports that Walgreens just announced it’s installing EV charging stations at 800 of its drugstores around the country. Customers will be able to recharge outside a Walgreens by year’s end.
Finally, per Minneapolis Star-Tribune, EV charging stations are also being installed at Kwik Trip convenience stores in the Midwest. A couple dozen charging stations are already operating, and Kwik Trip allows customers to do fuel-free “fuel ups” free of charge.
Why would a business offer this service free or charge, or even bother with the expense of installing charging stations for what is still a very small population of drivers? A source quoted by the Star-Tribune offers an explanation:
“Most gas stations don’t make money on gasoline, they make it on soda and coffee and potato chips,” said Environmental Law and Policy Center executive director Howard Learner. “So it may well be that certain service stations or toll plazas will offer car charging to get people in the store to buy those things. It’s a rapidly emerging market.”
Considering how long recharging an electric vehicle takes (an hour’s charge may only allow for a few miles of driving) customers using these charging stations may wind up buying a lot of soda, coffee, and potato chips—IKEA furniture and the gamut of products at Walgreens as well.