What is Retail Charging?

Retail charging refers to electric vehicle charging at retail locations such as malls, shops, and supermarkets.

Application of Retail Charging

It is becoming a common sight for retail store parking lots to have EV chargers installed as it is convenient for EV-driving customers and adds a new revenue stream for retail businesses.

Retail charging refers specifically to charging an electric vehicle at retail locations, and there are specifics to that—mainly about the type of chargers that are suitable for retail sites. 

One option is to install Level 2 (fast) chargers. These are the most commonly used chargers overall, as they are quite versatile. Level 2 charge points come in various configurations, support a range of speeds, and are compatible with different plug types either natively or with an adaptor. These types of charging stations are also represented across the entire pricing spectrum, so CP owners have lots of flexibility regarding their budget.

Another option is Level 3, also called “rapid” or “DC” chargers. These charging stations can top up an EV in minutes and even provide a full charge in under an hour. 

Their rapid speeds make them ideal for retail sites like supermarkets, where visits last only a short time because EV-driving customers can just plug in their cars, do their shopping, and have a decent state of charge (SOC) by the time they are ready to leave the establishment. However, DC chargers are significantly more expensive than Level 2 charge points, to the point that they may be unfeasible for site hosts and charge point operators (CPOs). 

Moreover, the cost of the charger is not the only expense. DC chargers work with a three-phase current. Such a high-powered output naturally means high-powered input, which requires the appropriate electrical installation, which comes with high costs of its own.

Lastly, the high-powered requirements of these chargers are reflected in electricity costs. The supply of so much energy in such a short time is expensive.

In sum, for most retailer charging needs, Level 2 charge points may be just what’s needed. While slower than DC charge stations, fast chargers are considerably more affordable, they are more versatile and rarely require modifications to the electrical network.

Importance of Retail Charging

For all the challenges mentioned above, retail charging remains integral to the EV charging ecosystem. This is because retail locations are everywhere, making them ideal spots for building a wide EV charging network. Furthermore, the prevalence of retail locations makes this an attractive niche for CPOs and electric mobility service providers (eMSPs).

It is only natural that EV drivers would favor retailers that offer EV charging. Recent advancements in EV technology have eased range anxiety, but now charging anxiety sits in its place. While EVs are getting more reliable even for long-range trips, the charging infrastructure is far from optimal. So, drivers prefer to visit retailers where they can top up their batteries while shopping.

Indeed, this means that retailers can score several points if they offer EV charging. Importantly, it makes their business more attractive to an entire segment of consumers—EV drivers. Retailers can use EV charging to serve their customers and engage drivers who have only come to charge. In either case, it’s an extra revenue stream and one that can easily scale. Equally important is the message that retailers send by installing chargers—it shows the public that the retailer cares about sustainable transportation and the needs of this segment of customers that have chosen zero-emission vehicles.

EV charging businesses can make good use of the retail charging segment. For example, retail stores bring something of great value to charge point operators—strategic locations. Retail establishments, especially large chains, are usually located in strategic high-traffic areas, which is an excellent opportunity for a CPO to scale their business.

CPOs can benefit from the entire customer experience that EV drivers receive while visiting retail stores. As long as these establishments offer quality customer service, the positive experience will transfer to the CPO. Alas, the opposite is also true. Poor customer experience can affect CPOs, even if it is unrelated to charging. This is why it is so essential for CPOs to make sure that they partner with quality retailers and that both parties conscientiously fulfill their duties.

Practical Examples of Retail Charging

Suppose an EV driver goes out to do their weekly shopping, and they have several options for where to shop. On the way to the store, they realize that their EV needs to be charged up to get back home. Logically, the driver will prefer the location that offers ultra-fast charging stations. In addition to being a customer of the respective site, the EV driver will most likely spend more time on site than usual while waiting for their car to charge to the desired SOC. They are also more likely to become repeat customers if they aren’t already.

Additional Information About Retail Charging

As mentioned, having EV chargers that offer top charging speeds comes with some consideration about the grid and the electric bill. Fortunately, there is a solution going by the name of dynamic load management (DLM) or dynamic load balancing. DLM is a technology that intuitively manages energy consumption at a site, alleviating grid pressure. Put simply, a DLM adjusts charging sessions in a way that allows power consumption to remain under a certain threshold.

This means that site hosts can install powerful charging networks without altering or upgrading their electric systems. At the same time, DLM brings more flexibility to CPOs in setting up charging tariffs and allows them to optimize costs and increase revenue.

As far as revenue sharing is concerned, CPOs and site hosts can enter into a variety of agreements. The details of these agreements will inform factors such as pricing structure, revenue sharing model, maintenance responsibilities, using the services of eMSPs, etc. CPOs and site hosts can be different organizations, or a retailer can be the CPO of its chargers.

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