By Joseph Tohill
Despite tepid gains in 2011, the electric vehicle (EV) market has finally shifted out of first gear. Consumers are increasingly turning to EVs for transportation and EV charging stations are beginning to pop up in parking lots all over the country. But a closer look at exactly where these EV charging stations are surfacing reveals some notable trends. In particular, EV charging stations are becoming a more common element of the commercial landscape as retailers provide customers with EV charging services while they shop.

Some might claim that installing EV charging stations in a parking lot would have a negligible impact on a retailer’s bottom line. After all, a large proportion of customers would not own EVs.
However, such a short-sighted perspective fails to account for the continued growth of the EV economy and the consumer-driven shift towards more sustainable transportation. Market analysis from Pike Research suggests a compound growth rate in EV sales of 43% between 2011 and 2017, with projected annual sales of 370,000 units by 2017. With nearly every major automaker on-board to release an EV this year, more and more people will inevitably be driving around in an electric vehicle. They will also inevitably need a place to charge their vehicle.
Providing a place to charge EVs is how forward-thinking retailers are differentiating themselves from their competition.
In terms of convenience, it allows a small segment of the retailer’s customer base to charge their EV while shopping. By installing charging stations in their parking lots, retailers are providing their customers with an amenity not yet common in other commercial spaces. It contributes to the convenience factor of an EV owner’s trip, since they can charge their EV while conducting their business. And once the customer is aware of the charging station’s existence, they have a higher propensity to return to that retailer for future shopping needs.
But the benefits of installing an EV charging station go much further than the practicality of providing EV owners with a place to charge their car. Retailers are ever-conscious of their corporate image, and incorporating EV charging stations in their commercial landscape indicates they are both innovative and sustainable. This especially scores them points with eco-conscious shoppers who make purchasing decisions based on environmental values.
Even customers who do not presently own an EV will notice when a charging station pops up in a retailer’s parking lot. It become a conversation piece for regular customers and injects a progressive, eco-friendly element to the overall shopping experience.
Thus a retailer’s decision to install a charging station does more than just provide EV owners with a convenient way to charge their vehicles. It allows a retailer to tap into the emerging EV economy and establish itself as a sustainable company that is ahead of the curve.