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Food Retailers Are Leading the Charge for Electric Vehicles

Eco-conscious companies are expanding the network of charging stations
5/18/2023
Walmart EV Charging
Walmart, which recently revealed plans to build an EV fast-charging network at thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club stores by 2030, already offers more than 1,000 EV fast-charging stations at 280-plus locations.

With the Biden Administration earlier this year revealing plans to create a convenient and reliable electric vehicle (EV) charging network for the approximately 3 million cars of this type currently on the road — a number that the government would like to see grow — food retailers have become important partners in this effort. After all, their parking lots provide convenient places for consumers to charge their cars while they pick up necessary items on their regular shopping trips. Plus, it gives these companies the chance to highlight their commitment to sustainability.

Among the major players, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart, with close to 5,000 U.S. locations, has revealed plans to build its own EV fast-charging network at thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club locations throughout the United States by 2030. This would be in addition to the nearly 1,300 EV fast-charging stations that the company already offers at more than 280 U.S. facilities. The goal, according to an early April blog post by Vishal Kapadia, SVP, energy transformation, is “to make EV ownership more accessible, reliable, convenient and affordable for [customers and members] across the country.” 

Added Kapadia: “With a store or club located within 10 miles of approximately 90% of Americans, we are uniquely positioned to deliver a convenient charging option that will help make EV ownership possible whether people live in rural, suburban or urban areas. Easy access to on-the-go charging is a game-changer for drivers who have been hesitant to purchase an EV for concerns they won’t be able to find a charger in a clean, bright and safe location when needed.”

Similarly, massive c-store chain 7-Eleven has introduced 7Charge, a network of fast-charging stations that will be installed at locations throughout the United States and Canada. The charging stations will be added to 7-Eleven properties that are staffed 24/7 and located in “often traveled corridors,” according to the Irving, Texas-based company, which has more than 13,000 stores in North America. Drivers with station-compatible EVs can use a credit card at the charger or pay via the 7Charge app. Depending on state laws, prices are based on energy consumed and/or time spent charging.

Several 7Charge stations are already in place in Florida, Texas, Colorado and California. The system will also be up and running at more locations across 7-Eleven’s banners that also include Speedway and Stripes stores. 7-Eleven contends that once the installations are complete, this will be one of the largest and most compatible EV fast-charging networks offered by any North American retailer.

Meanwhile, The Kroger Co., which operates almost 2,800 retail food stores under a variety of banner names, has tested and phased in charger installations in partnership with Blink, Electrify America, EVgo, Tesla and Volta to bring hundreds of charging stations to stores in select markets across the country. 

“Increasing our customers’ access to EV charging stations at convenient Kroger locations supports our collective transition to a lower-carbon economy,” noted Yael Cosset, SVP and CIO at the Cincinnati-based grocer, last June. “We are leveraging technology and innovation to reduce our greenhouse-gas emissions and are offering customers easy ways to live a more sustainable lifestyle.”

[Read more: "10 Most Sustainable Grocers"]

Charging options offered by Kroger range in versatility, allowing compatibility among most vehicles, including many direct-current (DC) fast chargers. Charging times can vary from as few as 10 minutes, with most sessions averaging about 30 minutes per vehicle.

For its part, Meijer Inc. notes on its website that it continues to grow its charging offerings in partnership with companies such as Tesla and Electrify America, with the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer currently offering EV chargers at more than 20% of its stores, as well as at two offices and a distribution center. Customers of Meijer, which operates more than 400 supercenters, neighborhood markets and Express locations in six states, can use the Greenlots or ChargePoint mobile apps to gain access to charging stations not owned by Tesla or Electrify America.

EV Charging
Smaller regional players, including Fareway Stores and Tops Markets, are also getting into the EV charging act.

Small(er) but Mighty

It’s not just the big guys, though. Smaller regional food retailers are also touting their rollout of EV charging stations.

For instance, as the number of EV-charging stations expands across its home state, Boone, Iowa-based Fareway Stores Inc., with 130-plus locations in the Midwest, is hosting fast-charging stations at several of its stores, including Adel, Clive, Cresco, Des Moines (Fleur), Knoxville, Norwalk, Sheldon and Sioux City, with more on tap. Primarily situated along highways, these stations are intended to serve traveling motorists.

“We are proud of our tradition and commitment to conserve natural resources,” said Fareway CEO Reynolds W. Cramer ahead of Earth Day in April. “By partnering on additional energy efficiency initiatives, we are helping build stronger communities and provide direct benefits to our customers and area residents.”

Additionally, in a collaboration with Evolve NY and The New York Power Authority, Williamsville, N.Y.-based Tops Markets LLC, which operates 149 stores in three northeastern states, revealed in April that it had debuted its first high-speed EV charging hub at its LaGrangeville, N.Y., store, with EV-charging stations now also available in Williamsville, Rhinebeck and New Paltz in the Empire State. The grocer is currently involved in talks with Tesla and other vendors to add new EV charging stations in New York state’s Erie, Livingston and Cattaraugus counties.

“Tops’ EV charging stations are environmentally conscious and convenient, and tie perfectly into Tops’ sustainability efforts and mission, reducing environmental waste and energy consumption, all while providing our customers with sustainably sourced, high-quality products,” observed Kathy Sautter, the company’s public and media relations manager, last month.

Other food retailers that have rolled out EV charging stations include Albertsons, Giant Food, Save Mart, ShopRite and Target. 

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