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USA: Electric vehicles: a boon for retailers?

Customers driving EVs spend more time in stores when they are plugged in.
There are comparatively few electric vehicles on the road, but researchers are beginning to uncover consumer behavior trends that could influence everything from how utilities charge for electricity to where and how people shop.

Electric vehicle charger maker ECOtality has learned that electric vehicle (EV) owners spend significantly more time in stores than typical customers when charging at those locations. It has installed chargers at retailers including IKEA, Kohls, Cracker Barrel, and Fred Meyer under a grant from the Department of Energy (DOE).

“We are in the process of vetting information from retailers,” said ECOtality’s chief innovation officer Don Karner. There is an opportunity for retailers to push information to users on sales when they plug in outside of the store, and retailers are finding that EV owners are more affluent buyers, he added.

It will be interesting to know whether EVs will draw consumers toward the all-in-one megastore, small town municipal lots for stroll down Main Street, or both. Charging will be faster as battery technology improves, but likely will never be a quick as pumping a tank full of gas.

ECOtality is collaborating with automakers, the DOE, and Idaho National Laboratory researchers to determine what could happen as EVs become more common. It is amassing data through the DOE’s EV Project, which collects aggregate data on all aspects of vehicle utilization from where they are driven to the battery’s state of charge. No personally identifiable data is shared.


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