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CR Report: Charging the Future—The Role of Retail in Our EV Transition

Executive Summary

Around a third of Americans say they would be interested in buying an electric vehicle (EV) if they were to get a vehicle today, but this growing interest in clean transportation is dampened by our nation’s lack of progress in building out EV charging infrastructure. In fact, charging logistics is the attribute Americans most commonly select as preventing them from getting an EV if they were to get a vehicle today—and among those people, the scarcity of public charging stations is the most common specific charging consideration holding them back. 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, according to recent federal data.

There is a key player being overlooked in the effort to build out our EV charging infrastructure: retail stores. Retail stores make excellent candidates for the placement of EV chargers. Their brick-and-mortar facilities have parking lots located near highways and convenient points of interest in communities across the country. And they have a self-interested reason to install EV chargers: Following the installation of a nearby fast charger, retailers see an increase in both foot traffic (an average of 4 percent) and revenue (5 percent) as consumers shop and run errands while they charge their vehicle.

Further financial incentives are available through the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which authorized $7.5 billion to build out a national EV charging network, and the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides tax credits of up to 30 percent of the cost of installing EV chargers (up to $100,000 per charger) for qualifying retail store locations.

This report, based on CR’s first-of-its-kind investigation, examined which retailers are leading and which are lagging when it comes to EV charging. The findings are bleak: Only about 1 percent of the 270,000 retail locations controlled by the 75 retail and fast-food companies we reviewed offer any EV charging. Big box retailers have the highest proportion of store locations with charging infrastructure, but it’s still very low. On average, EV charging is available 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.

All other retail sectors trail these numbers by a wide margin. In short, these results show that there is no retail category where a driver can be confident that an EV charger will be available. 

This study’s additional notable findings include the following:

  • Only one retailer, Ikea, offers EV charging at nearly 100 percent of its U.S. locations.
  • Among big box retailers, including Target and Walmart, no company except Ikea currently offers EV charging at more than 10 percent of its locations. 
  • In the grocery sector, 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 in total.
  • Wawa and Sheetz are leading the convenience store category with more than 10 percent of locations providing EV charging. Larger chains like 7-Eleven and Circle K claim they are developing internal charging networks, but neither currently provides charging at more than 1 percent of store locations. 
  • While Kohl’s has made significant EV infrastructure investments in its department stores, Ross, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and TJX Co. combined have installed charging at fewer than 10 locations. 
  • The drugstore category shows a split between Walgreens and CVS. While Walgreens is making progress, CVS has made no public statements regarding whether it will expand EV charging beyond its current offering at fewer than 10 store locations.
  • Discount stores like Dollar General, Dollar Tree, and Five Below have effectively made no investments in EV charging despite the critical role these companies, with their nearly 40,000 store locations, could play in improving access to rural and under-resourced communities. 
  • No leading fast-food company reviewed by CR has made significant progress. No company offers EV charging at more than 1 percent of store locations.

CR is urging retailers to 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. 
  • Educate customers and employees about EV charging.
  • Be transparent with charging locations and amenities. 
  • Ensure that chargers are properly maintained.