What do Walgreens, Kohls, and Wal-Mart have in common? Aside from being large US retailers, all of these companies have also installed EV charging stations at many of their stores. And these are not the types of businesses that randomly blow money on the latest gadgets. They make calculated business decisions about the services they provide based on market research, demographic trends, and proven technologies. It’s safe to say that when it comes to installing EV charging stations, these retail giants have done their homework.

Other retailers still sitting on the fence about EV charging stations would be well-advised to look at the EV market a little closer to see how they can capture EV drivers in their business models. In particular, they should look at the demographic and social trends that are driving growth in the EV market at the moment.

Drivers consider the environment

One surprising element of EV demographics is that environmental concerns are only some amongst several reasons a consumer may buy an electric car. For instance, a recent study of EV drivers in California revealed some interesting information pertaining to Nissan Leaf, Chevy Volt, and Toyota Prius owners.

Environmental concerns came out on top for Nissan Leaf drivers, with 38% citing environmental concerns as their primary reason for purchasing an electric vehicle. Given the Leaf is an all-electric vehicle, this makes sense, as Leaf drivers are completely reliant on the electric grid for power, rather than supplementing electric power with fossil fuels.

Interestingly, Chevy Volt drivers claimed saving money by using cheap electricity was their primary reason for embracing an EV, followed by access to HOV lanes. Environmental concerns came in third place, with 18 percent of Volt drivers citing the environment as a buying motivation.

Toyota Prius drivers were most concerned with access to HOV lanes, followed with saving money and curbing environmental degradation.

Other reasons for going electric

While environmental concerns factored into the purchasing decisions of all groups of EV owners, clearly there were other factors at play. EVs are not just being embraced by eco-minded consumers – they are also embraced by individuals looking to save money and get from point A to point B faster.

In addition, EVs are winning major awards not just amongst other EVs, but amongst all cars in general. For instance, Consumer Reports picked the Tesla Model S as the Best Overall Car of the Year for 2014. Top factors in their decision were the Model S’s emissions-free driving experience, 225 mile driving range, internet access, and cutting-edge interface.

EVs are becoming a mainstream, highly desirable form of transportation that are only going to become more popular in the next few years. While a sustainable image is a good motivation for retailers installing charging stations, the electric vehicle’s wide appeal also means that there are economic and customer service benefits. The demographic trends suggest that electric vehicles are will continue to grow in popularity.

Retailers can use this information to their advantage when determining how to compete over other retailers in the years to come. And one of the ways they can improve their competitive advantage is to install EV charging stations, an increasingly in-demand consumer amenity.

Joseph Tohill is a freelance writer and online communications specialist for organizations in the sustainability sector. He has a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of British Columbia and spent most of his academic career studying sustainable urban development; namely the interdisciplinary relationship between built form and natural environment.