VW to install charging stations at Walmarts


Volkswagen’s ongoing penance for its diesel-emission scandal includes a serious investment in to the United States’ EV charging infrastructure. But critics of the plan have previously suggested it might be a way for VW to capitalize on its corporate wrongdoing. The state of California wanted the German company to focus on disadvantaged communities while automakers worried VW might gain an early advantage in a competitive new market, especially if it could handpick the sites or partner with businesses.

It has been almost 10 months since those concerns were voiced and now Electrify America (a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group) has announced it will be partnering with Walmart to install electric charging stations at 100 stores in 34 states across America. That way you can help save the environment while you’re stocking up on plastic cups and single-serve coffee pods that will end up being dumped into the ocean.

However, you can’t fault VW for that. It’s not the automaker’s fault citizens of the world think they can offset rampant consumer waste by purchasing an electric car. Besides, this is a wildly shrewd move on the part of both Volkswagen and Walmart. The store wins because the sites will be located near highways, encouraging low-charge automobiles to pull over and spend time shopping while their vehicle takes on electrons. Volkswagen wins because it has to do this in the first place and has a lot to gain by building a relationship with one of the biggest retailers in North America — if not the whole world.

Plus there is untold value in setting up charging stations in a place people are likely to frequent. That takes away some of the fears associated with range anxiety, and might just convince some shoppers to go electric. It’s a genius-level play until, at least until e-commerce gets to a point where none of us ever leave the house.

“The expansion of Walmart’s electric vehicle charging facilities with our ultra-fast charging systems will provide consumers with a quick and convenient way to charge their vehicles in the time it takes to make their Walmart purchases," said Mark McNabb, president and CEO of Electrify America. “EV owners need a convenient, reliable and fast turnaround in recharging their vehicles. Walmart is the perfect partner for Electrify America to bring electric charging services to EV owners who value their time."

Wayne Killen, Electrify America’s senior director for infrastructure, elaborated further in an interview with Reuters. He said roughly 80 percent of the charging stations would be at store locations alongside highways, while the remaining 20 percent would populate metro areas. The stations, which will use 150-to-350 kW DC fast chargers, should be able to energize receptive cars in just a few minutes. However, not all vehicles will be able to take on electricity as fast as those stations can theoretically dish it out.

“Along with providing our customers with an enhanced shopping experience through added convenience, this initiative also allows us to contribute to the expansion of our nation’s EV charging station infrastructure," said Walmart’s vice president of energy Mark Vanderhelm. “Providing this service is the right thing to do for our customers, our business, and the environment."

Shopping centers will not be the only location you be seeing VW’s Electrify America installing charging stations, though. It’s $2 billion over the next 10 years intends to deploy more than 2,000 charging hubs across in 39 states, as part of its “Cycle One" investment, before the end of 2019. And it promises those sites will be located in convenient “access to retail, dining, parking and other facilities."