Surveys reveal consumer disappointment with not only the insufficient number of EV charging stations but also with the state of those chargers, which are often broken or do not charge at full power.
Retail giant Walmart has a deal with public charging network Electrify America that has located at 285 of the big box store location nationwide, according to Loren McDonald, EV industry analyst at EV Adoption. This makes Walmart the largest provider of charging sources among retail store chains and it would be the fifth largest DC fast charging network if these were Walmart’s own chargers, McDonald reported.
But customers’ dissatisfaction with those Electrify America chargers reflects negatively on Walmart, which only hosts the chargers as a convenience for its customers. The company’s solution is to build its own charging network.
Walmart’s reputation for operational quality and efficiency is peerless, which should give EV drivers reasonable hope for a better charging experience outside Tesla’s walled garden of proprietary chargers.
“As our customers and members continue to look for ways to save money and live better, I am excited to announce our plans at Walmart and Sam’s Club in the U.S. to make electric vehicle (EV) ownership more accessible, reliable, convenient and affordable for them across the country,” announced Vishal Kapadia, Walmart senior vice president for energy transformation in a press release. “By 2030, we intend to build our own EV fast-charging network at thousands of Walmart and Sam’s Club locations coast-to-coast.”
A higher-quality provider will be welcomed by consumers, judging from the results of J.D. Power’s 2022 U.S. Electric Vehicle Experience (EVX) Public Charging Study, which found that 20 percent of respondents didn’t even charge during their most recent visit to a public charging station. The main reason for this (72 percent of the time) was because the charging station was out of order.
“Public charging continues to provide challenges to overall EV adoption and current EV owners alike,” said Brent Gruber, executive director of global automotive at J.D. Power. “Not only is the availability of public charging still an obstacle, but EV owners continue to be faced with charging station equipment that is inoperable.”
“Stations need to be added to areas where there are currently gaps in heavily traveled routes and in high-density areas for people who don’t have access to residential charging, but most importantly, designed with things for users to do while charging—regardless of the use case,” he continued. “Then, we need to make sure those stations are reliable.”
“With a store or club located within 10 miles of approximately 90 percent 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,” stated Kapadia. “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.”
Thre is also the matter of what to do while the EV is plugged in. “And no matter how fast their vehicle charges, EV owners still indicate they need more options for things to do during each charging session to enhance convenience and fill the down time,” noted Gruber.
Walmart is pledging to help customers optimize the use of their time by letting them shop and charge simultaneously at thousands of stores instead of hundreds. “With our chargers located on site with our Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets and Sam’s Clubs, we can offer customers and members the convenience of being able to pick up essentials for their families or grab a bite to eat while they charge,” Kapadia said.
And just as Walmart has pressured the entire retail industry with its Every Day Low Pricing, the company says it will apply that same philosophy to the cost of EV charging. “In line with our purpose, we aim to offer Every Day Low Price charging – helping ease transportation costs, still the second highest household cost for much of our country,” explained Kapadia.
Walmart has not provided details on what charging station manufacturer or manufacturers it will tap to equip its stores, but this along with the need to upgrade the electric grid capacity at all of these stores should prove to be a bonanza for suppliers of these components and the contractors who install them.