In the Facebook group, “Chevy Volt Owners,” a member named Andrew Goodwin posed this question: “Any ideas on how to encourage businesses to install charging stations?” As my reply grew into several paragraphs, I realized it was time for, (you guessed it) a blog post!
Recently, I was asked for suggestions by a group of app developers competing to win a $10K contest. They were working on a charger locator app. Of course, I explained there were already lots of app that did this. We brainstormed and came up with some ideas to make their app more useful. They ended up winning the $10K and a follow-on investment of $10K. They are continuing to add functionality. One item I suggested is the ability to, while at a location that doesn’t have a charger, click a button like “charger needed here.” The app would find the businesses in the immediate area and send them a letter/email/etc, letting the business owner/manager know that EV drivers who want to do business with them would appreciate a charger at their location. The app is named Juxt. The developers are considering adding this function.
What’s even more important however, is that when you visit a business that already has a charger, that you ask for the manager and express how much you appreciate it being there, and how the charger’s presence is a major factor in why you go to that business, rather than one that may be more conveniently located.
Also promote the fact that there’s a charger there by letting everyone you know that has an EV, via social media like Facebook & Twitter. Make sure you get the business’ Twitter handle and use it in your tweet, so the business sees the free publicity. Ask those EV drivers to also contact the manager, if they use the charger, to express their gratitude.
Nothing succeeds like success. Why do these businesses install chargers? Some do it purely for the environmental impact, but rest assured, part of the reason they do, is to attract more business and increase customer loyalty. The problem for EV owners (and the business owner) is these businesses have no way to evaluate the success or failure of the endeavor. Make sure they know it matters to you. When they realize their charger IS attracting customers, perhaps they’ll add more prominent signage, ask those that don’t drive electric (or are not charging) to avoid parking in that spot, add additional chargers, heck, they may even put the fact they have a charger in their advertising! Back in the 60’s, many motels advertised “Air Conditioned!” Or “Color TV!” because it affected their income. Back then, there must have been other motels that didn’t offer those amenities, whose owner thought, “There aren’t that many shows that are in color. Any revenue generated by having those expensive color TVs won’t justify the cost!” Just like many are probably thinking today, “There aren’t that many electric vehicles. Any revenue generated by having those expensive chargers won’t justify the cost!”
It is especially important that we do this with businesses at which our EVs will be parked for longer periods of time. In my area, many Walgreens drug stores have chargers, but who wants to shop at a drugstore for an hour or more??? (sorry Walgreens) I used a charger at a Walgreens, but the reason was a) I desperately needed the EV charged, because I was taking it to a public demonstration and b) the was a dining establishment next door, where I could grab a quick dinner, while the EV charged. A much more strategic placement of chargers would be at hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, sport venues/stadiums, airports, nightclubs, public parks or any other place patrons could be reasonably expected to visit for prolonged periods. The next time you go on a road trip and book a reservation, ask if the hotel has a charger. If they say they don’t, just say, “Oh. I drive an EV and need a hotel with a charger. Thanks anyway.” If they say they have a charger, say, “Great! That’s exactly what I’m looking for. I’ll book a reservation with you.” If this happens enough, it’ll get things going in the direction we all want.
Finally, don’t complain if the charger does not provide a free charge! It’s enough that we want the business to install a charger, which can be very expensive. As EVers, we’re not looking for a handout. We all can afford to pay for the electricity (unless it’s offered at a ridiculous price (I’m looking at you, Blink!).
Statistics show that the vast majority of us charge at work or home. One reason for this, is that many of us drive plug-in hybrids and not having access to a charger away from those two locations won’t prevent us from reaching our destination. However, more and more purely electric vehicles are coming to market (like the recently announced Chevy Bolt) and we will eventually have a major chicken-and-egg situation. EVs need chargers and chargers need EVs. Let those of us who know where best to locate them, guide those that don’t.
Vote with your pocketbook. It’s the only vote that matters to businesses.