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Consumer Reports study finds retailers could be key to expanding EV charging

CR report highlights which retailers offer EV charging and opportunities for retailers to increase revenue and use available federal financial incentives to expand charging availability

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports (CR) published a new study today that evaluates the availability of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations and the commitments made by companies to provide charging at 75 of the largest national and regional retailers across the United States. Among the retail locations reviewed by CR, only about one percent offered EV charging. At the same time, CR found that EV charging stations offer significant benefits to retailers, and government incentives are now available to help them offset the installation costs.

CR analyzed over 270,000 store locations across major retail categories, including big box, convenience, grocery, drugstores, department stores, and discount stores. EV charging is available on average at 1 out of every 14 big box store locations, 1 out of every 15 grocery stores, and 1 out of every 40 department stores. These findings indicate that there is currently no retail category where drivers can confidently expect to charge their EVs.

The report cites independent data that show that installing EV chargers can be a way for brick-and-mortar retailers to increase foot traffic (an average of 4 percent) and revenue (5 percent). The majority of retail locations across the U.S. are eligible for federal benefits that can defray 30% (up to $100,000) of installation costs. 

“Retailers are uniquely positioned to address America’s charging challenge because they have easily accessible, convenient locations in virtually every community,” said Drew Toher, sustainability campaign manager at Consumer Reports. “Installing EV chargers can help retailers meet a triple bottom line—helping people, the planet, and profits. Companies can attract more shoppers, elevate their brand, and leverage federal incentives, while consumers benefit from the convenience of integrating EV charging into their routine stops. And by prioritizing equity in the placement of charging locations, retailers can help ensure that sustainable transportation options are accessible to all communities.”

The report includes survey data that show many Americans are interested in buying or leasing EVs but charging logistics, such as where and when to charge the vehicle, are one of the biggest obstacles to adoption. However, except for IKEA, no retailer provides charging at more than a third of its stores. This study’s other notable findings include: 

  • Big Box Retailers: Among big box retailers, including Target and Walmart, no company except IKEA currently offers EV charging at more than 10 percent of its locations. IKEA is the only retailer that offers EV charging at nearly 100 percent of its U.S. locations.
  • Grocery Stores: Amazon and some regional supermarkets, including Big Y, Hy-Vee, Meijer, and Raley’s, offer EV charging at over 10 percent of their locations. Trader Joe’s and Aldi are lagging behind, with a mere 10 locations combined.
  • Convenience Stores: Wawa and Sheetz lead this category, with more than 10 percent of locations providing EV charging. Larger chains like 7-Eleven and Circle K currently do not offer charging at more than 1 percent of store locations. 
  • Department Stores: Kohl’s has made investments in EV infrastructure by installing EV charging at over 10 percent of its stores. Ross, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and TJX Co. combined have installed charging at fewer than 10 locations. 
  • Drugstores: Walgreens is making progress by installing EV chargers at hundreds of its store locations and committing to even more. Meanwhile, CVS currently offers charging at fewer than 10 store locations. 
  • Discount stores: Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Five Below have effectively made no investments in EV charging. With their nearly 40,000 store locations, these stores could play a key role in improving access to rural and under-resourced communities. 
  • Fast Food: No leading fast-food company reviewed by CR offers EV charging at more than 1 percent of store locations.

According to modeling from the federal government, less than a tenth of the estimated 1.25 million public chargers needed to meet the demand for electric vehicle infrastructure by 2030 have been built. Retailers can and should play a key role in meeting this rapidly growing demand for chargers. In some areas of the U.S., retailers have an opportunity to be the only EV charging location available in under-resourced communities, positioning them as key stakeholders for their communities’ clean transportation future.

Retailers have the opportunity to own the solution and improve access to EV charging across the US to make charging more convenient, reliable, and safe, but they need to make serious investments. CR is recommending retailers do the following: 

  • Commit to—and follow through on—clear, specific timelines for the installation of EV charging equipment. 
  • Prioritize equity considerations when weighing site locations to ensure EV charging is available in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. 
  • Educate customers and employees about EV charging.
  • Be transparent with charging locations and amenities. 
  • Properly maintain chargers to ensure the durability of charging stations.

Consumer Reports is calling on current and potential EV owners to join CR’s effort to leverage consumer pressure and advocacy to encourage retailers to install more EV charging at their stores.

The findings of the report were shared with nonprofit organizations such as the EV Charging for All Coalition, Forth, and Green Latinos, who offered these statements:

Andrea Marpillero-Colomina of the nonprofit organization Green Latinos said: “We are at a crucial moment for determining how to make EV infrastructure accessible in all communities. This report highlights the potential that neighborhood retail holds to become sites for safe and affordable public charging. By installing charging ports at familiar places and this technology into our everyday lives and activities, we have a much better chance of succeeding in creating an inclusive charging future, particularly in communities that in the past have experienced under-investment and been under-served by transportation infrastructure.”    

Vanessa Warheit of the EV Charging for All Coalition said: “While most EV charging takes place at home, many apartment residents lack at-home charging. This report starts a much-needed conversation about the myriad potential benefits to retailers from offering EV charging, and perhaps more importantly, the role retailers can play in increasing access for Justice 40 communities, particularly for multi-family housing residents and retail employees.”

Prateek Suri of the nonprofit organization Forth said: “Publicly accessible Electric Vehicle (EV) charging needs to be ubiquitous for drivers to be confident on the road. This report from Consumer Reports (CR) identifies and highlights the opportunity for retailers to step up and drive change while boosting foot traffic and revenue. With federal funding available, this is the best time for retailers to invest in EV charging. Echoing the recommendations in the report, we urge retailers to commit to clear timelines, prioritize equity, educate customers, and ensure proper maintenance of chargers. Together, we can make EV charging accessible for all Americans, driving us towards a more sustainable future.”

See CR’s complete analysis of EV charging at major retail stores

Media Contact: Emily Akpan, emily.akpan@consumer.org