By on April 18, 2018

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.”

[Image: Electrify America]

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32 Comments on “VW to Continue ‘Electrifying America’ With Help From Walmart...”


  • avatar
    Jerome10

    I’m gonna go cynical here….

    Wow! Such brilliance!

    I can expect a whole slew of empty electric charging parking spaces right up front at my local Walmart now? Cuz that’s what all the other electric charging parking spaces around here look like….empty, prime parking spots surrounded by F250 diesels.

    And yeah, I’ll stereotype. My walmart is full of massive pickups and SUVs and a lot of older cars, mine included. I don’t really see Walmart customers as a primo Volt or Tesla or Bolt or Prius Prime driving population. And you think Tesla buyers are gonna be seen charging up at a Walmart?! Pfffttt..

    This is definitely more bluster than anything. What a joke. And “Electrify America” for a company name?! Corporate naming at its best. How original.

    Get so tired of the electric car worship, while meanwhile NOBODY buys these things.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      I stopped at a mall to charge while on a long trip and there were four of us charging at once. I’ve been at other charging stations where they’ve been full.

      By the way, I have seen Teslas and even once a new Rolls at a Walmart. While you might not buy your clothes at Walmart, there are a lot of everyday items that you’d pick up there regardless of income. Soda and over-the-counter meds are the same wherever you buy them. I’m not going to go to Whole Foods if I need some ibuprofen. Also, if you’re on a trip and need a charge, you’re not going to care if it’s a Walmart.

    • 0 avatar
      dantes_inferno

      >Cuz that’s what all the other electric charging parking spaces around here look like….empty, prime parking spots surrounded by F250 diesels.

      Well, SOMETHING has to keep those F250 batteries charged…;)

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    The typical lines at Walmart checkouts alone negate the need for fast chargers. The lines including the 20 or less items checkouts are so slow around here that a 110 volt extension cord would be enough to charge electric cars from 20 to 80% while the hapless customer waits in line.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Walmart may appear to make sense, but I’d bet 95% of Walmart shoppers live locally, even if a high fraction of the stores are situated near highways.

    [In truth, the Walmarts may be close to highways just to make it easier to restock them.]

    So if Walmart shoppers are predominantly locals, then they won’t have a need for a high-powered EV refill because they already left home with a full charge, or they’re on their way back home.

    IMO, fast chargers make the most sense on interstates, toll road rest stops, and on high-traffic roads in the boonies, not in my neighborhood.

    I live 8 miles from the nearest Walmart. If they put a fast charger there, I’d probably never need to use it.

    • 0 avatar
      mike978

      As you say most Wall Mart’s are near highways, so people can pull over on an interstate drive and charge. Only a little more inconvenient than interstate rest stops. Also this doesn’t prevent further road side charging stations. A good move for VW. If they enable all German car companies to use then it will eclipse the Tesla network and remove one if the few competitive advantages Tesla has.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @sce I have charging maybe 5 miles from my house (in every direction) and have used them only once just to test them out (one cluster is at a Target next to an interstate). If I was returning from a long trip and running lower than expected, those locations might be handy to add a bit of extra padding for the last few miles. They are also backup if I ever have home charging issues.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      Walmart prefers to build where their signs can bee seen from the freeway or at least less than 1 mile from an interchange. So yeah I’m not going to charge at the one near my house, but if I take a trip to see my kids I can think of several Walmarts along the way that would make for a convenient place to stop for a charge. Even if you don’t want to shop at Walmart they often have some sort of fast food place/restaurant in the parking lot, next door or across the street.

    • 0 avatar
      JMII

      If you want charging on your trip across America then put these stations in Cracker Barrel parking lots. Every Cracker Barrel I’ve seen is within a stone’s throw of a interstate interchange. Wally Worlds are hit or miss, some are near interstates, but way more seem to be in neighborhoods where people do their shopping closer to home.

  • avatar
    gasser

    I think this makes great sense. Now if you need a charge, you think “Walmart” instead of where the hell is a charging station. Secondly, there’s something to do while your vehicle charges. Tesla isn’t the only game in town, and I think that more and more cars will be all electric or rechargeable in the next 5 years. With regular gas at $3.79/gallon at my local Los Angeles station this A.M., electric car for nightmare traffic is starting to make more sense. Not a Tesla, but perhaps a used Leaf or i-3 might fit the bill.

  • avatar
    mcs

    Here’s the future of EV charging. Lots of locations and experience with vehicle fueling and snacks. Shell is the first, but others will follow:

    https://www.shell.us/business-customers/shellrecharge.html

    https://www.shell.co.uk/media/2017-media-releases/shell-switches-on-shell-recharge-electric-vehicle-charging-service-in-the-uk.html

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      I don’t know who’s first, but the Wawa convenience store in Chester, VA opened an 8-stall Tesla Supercharger in September 2017. It’s at least a mile or two off I-95 on US-1, a parallel road that doesn’t intersect the interstate in an area otherwise diametrically opposed to where one would expect to find a Tesla owner.

      The nearest Walmart to that Wawa is 5 miles off I-95 straight from the interchange and recently opened (AFAIK since the Supercharger went live) the first fueling station in the Richmond, VA area I’ve personally seen that sells E85.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    Well, Walmarts are as diverse as the population they serve. I’ve been to a super Walmart in Bangor, ME and I’ve been to one in Orlando, Florida. Let’s just say the one in Orlando wasn’t for the faint of heart. The EV stations would be disabled in about 2 days.

  • avatar
    Oberkanone

    16 states excluded from charging stations, why are they not part of Electrify America?

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    “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.”

    I personally think VW needs to bleed for their sins, but if they capitalize on their penance by building an infrastructure that is needed, who am I to complain? More power to them.

  • avatar
    dont.fit.in.cars

    Laughable. Big brain corporate governance poorly executed in the trench while scoring points with enviro-weenies. Wasn’t an article posted awhile back EV’s in the sales slide?

  • avatar
    doublechili

    The “intolerant” cohort of society practices tolerance of viewpoint pretty much whenever they watch TV and movies, listen to music, send their kids to school, etc., etc.. So if the “tolerant” ones have to sometimes visit a Walmart, that’s a good thing. Let’s add Cracker Barrel and Chik-Fil-A to this as well.

  • avatar
    THX1136

    Interesting idea. Right now it doesn’t make much sense as the predominant demo for Walmart would not include a significant number of EV owners. Is that to say no one that shops at Walmart owns an EV? No! But the number is quite small depending on the geographic location under consideration. Would EV owners that need a charge stop to do so at Walmart even though they rarely shop there? Yes! Partnering with Walmart gives the charging stations easy “location” recognition – folks will know where a station most likely exists. Locations near high traffic interstate and national highways will contribute to the number of EV’s using the service.

    The point made by an earlier post on the “safety” of the charging stations is well taken. Though I’ve never been there, I’ve heard first hand accounts about the north Omaha location as being in a high crime area. There are other stores in the same situation. Hopefully the decisions made as to where these stations should be located will account for this aspect. Also a solid plan for the maintenance of these stations will be in place and reliable. If Walmart is responsible I wouldn’t count on the stations remaining in operable condition for the long term.

    As another earlier post mentions, even though one may not frequent a Walmart, while sitting there waiting for the EV to charge the owner is more likely to purchase items like beverages, snack food and other small need items during that wait with a store so close by. As the landscape of EV vehicles changes having this in place now – provided the stations are maintained well – will be an advantage in that future of EV charging needs.

  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    OK, stop what you’re doing and listen to “Wedding at Walmart” by the Hellroys.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WqQgdBmM6CQ

    Guess they’ll have to add a line about “chargin’ ‘lectric cars at the Walmart.”

  • avatar
    vvk

    The anti-EV propaganda on this site is blatant. TTAC is full of EV-haters. This is obviously very misguided for a web site catering to auto enthusiasts. EVs are far more pleasant to drive than ICE vehicles, providing responsive acceleration and uniquely refined throttle response, especially compared to automatic transmission vehicles that clog up the American landscape these days. The superior weight distribution front/rear and extremely low center of gravity provide exactly the right go-cart feel even in larger vehicles (Model X) that car enthusiasts crave and appreciate. Even the exceedingly rare enthusiast-grade manual transmission ICE models provide severely diminished enjoyment due to pathetically weak engine braking and the dreaded rev-hang, thanks to modern emmissions controls. EVs provide excellent, super tasty “engine braking” in the form of regeneration, allowing for one pedal driving. The extreme convenience of filling up at home is the icing on the cake.

  • avatar
    PwrdbyM

    “while automakers worried VW might gain an early advantage in a competitive new market”

    What’s this type of economic system called again?…..hmmmmm

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      “What’s this type of economic system called again?…..hmmmmm”

      Not sure how sarcastic you were, but when under the guise of a fine/penalty a government entity specifically directs a business expenditure toward a goal the government says would be of better benefit to the people than the pursuit of profit I believe that system is called “national socialism.”

      • 0 avatar
        Erikstrawn

        Those darn socialists! They used a penalty to force VW to do something good and inadvertently prodded VW to gain a competitive edge in the EV market, which every other company can do because it’s a capitalist economy. If it’s not a successful move, guess what? It still fits the description of a “penalty” that VW deserved.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    I would think that Costco or even Target customers would be much more likely to be EV owners than Walmart.

  • avatar
    nlinesk8s

    The willingness of California politicians to try and force business to conform to their unrealistic visions of social engineering, is what gives California it’s deserved reputation for nuttiness.

    But it makes me think: In ten or twenty years, what will the proles be driving? They can’t afford $3k every three or four years for complete battery packs, or leases, so maybe they’ll limp along by replacing cells as they die out, and there will be a thriving black-market for batteries (the government won’t be allowing servicing of battery packs; can’t have unauthorized people touching batteries, dontcha know)

    Alternatively, the proles will be nursing along their 2018 CUV’s, reminiscent of the classic cars in Havana.

    In either case, I think used ICE cars/trucks will be selling well.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      They’ll be stopping at Walmart to get a boost to make it the rest of the way to where they are going or to the next Walmart if they are on a trip.

      Of course the EVs that will be on the used market in 10 years will have a much greater range than what is available now, so it will likely be a non-issue. So what if the 200+ mile range is cut in half because of battery degradation, 100 miles will still get most people to work and home.

      However the bigger issue with the poor driving EVs is the fact that they won’t have charging at home as they are more likely to be renters. The owners of crappy old apartment buildings are not going to install chargers so having public chargers will be the only way they could drive an EV.

  • avatar
    Garrett

    This pairing doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    What would make a lot of sense is a charging “center” with a small complex of sit down restaurants. Basically, what you see at travel plazas, but recognizing the fact that you’ll have some time to kill, so why not have a better meal than a slice of Sbarro’s pizza.

  • avatar
    greenbrierdriver

    In a world where the local “Meth-Heads” will steal anything to support their needs, the charging cables on these things will likely have a shelf life measured in “Hours til Nightfall” in many of the fine neighborhoods that some Wal-Marts are located.
    Nice idea. Problematic implementation.
    By the way, a Prior poster failed to include the clouds of Smoke from the herd of Idling F250 Diesels which will make it impossible to use the charging stations without choking to death, because you must NEVER turn the engines off. I think there is an obscure Texas law that says that.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Update,
    I passed the seven station Tesla fast charge station located close to my local Harbor Freight and also near the PA turnpike northeast extension, I-78 and US Rt 22. There was one model S with Jersey plates charging. Most of the time there is no one there.
    The local Walmart is farther from these major highways.


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