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Source: AURA EV charging

Accelerating electric vehicle adoption hinges on drivers having more convenient places to charge, especially for those who can’t charge at home, experts say. That’s why retailers play a big role in realizing the charging network’s full potential.

As Canada moves toward its 2035 climate goals, EV sales are increasing.

In the fall of 2022, there were 33,399 new plug-in hybrid and battery electric vehicles registered across Canada, which amounts to 9.6 per cent of all new vehicles registered, according to Statistics Canada. That was up significantly from 7.7 per cent in the first three months of 2022.

At the same time, the public charging network grew by 30 per cent, according to Natural Resources Canada data.

The current number of public chargers is about 20,000, a fifth of which are DC fast chargers (DCFCs). But a recent report by clean-energy advisory firm Dunsky estimates that the country’s public network will need at least 32,000 DCFCs and 410,000 of the standard speed Level 2 chargers by 2035 to meet its EV adoption objectives under optimistic policy conditions regarding access to home charging.

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That’s where businesses come in, says FLO’s Chief Marketing Officer Chris Thorson. “There is a clear opportunity for the business community to step up by offering chargers to EV drivers in exchange for a fee or for customer loyalty,” he says.

According to Thorson, installing EV chargers can benefit retailers in several ways:

More revenue: EV drivers pay to use businesses’ charging stations. Retailers can determine rates by time or power consumption, or they can provide free charging in exchange for in-store spend and business loyalty. Either way, the investment can pay off, especially with current government incentives softening price for the charger and installation, says Thorson.

More in-store traffic: Market research shows that 90 per cent of EV drivers are likely to browse a nearby store while charging their car, with most of them spending at least some money while they wait. Gordon McMillan, an EV driver in Southern Ontario, says he chooses his charging locations based on what other services are nearby. “I was meeting a friend in Burlington, and I suggested Denninger’s specifically because it was near a FLO charging station,” says McMillan. “We had a quick bite and a good gab, and by the time I was ready to get back on the road, my EV was charged and ready to go.”

Customer loyalty: Thorson says having reliable, good quality charging stations turns EV owners into repeat customers. “You’ll become one of their go-to spots for a top-up, and may even broaden your clientele,” says Thorson.”All of these options for revenue generation increase the end-user base.”

An opportunity for retailers

Canada is making headway on its 2035 ambitions with initiatives that put chargers roadside and in residential areas, but those locations only serve some types of EV drivers.

Jose Hollanda, director of marketing programs at FLO, says having greater availability of EV chargers in shopping districts, parking lots and in busy nightlife areas responds better to most EV drivers’ preferred way of charging: “grazing”.

Instead of letting their batteries get close to empty, EV owners tend to “graze” whenever possible to keep their batteries topped up. That means they’re always looking for ways to charge while running errands or while they work. “Every time you have a chance to charge – be it at home, the grocery store or at work – it takes seconds to plug in and leave your car charging,” says Hollanda.

Therein lies the opportunity for retailers and other small business owners. Once EV drivers have discovered the charging spots most convenient for their lifestyles, they’re more likely to return. Thorson says FLO has been working with large grocery and home improvement chains. They realize it’s going to drive business and drive traffic because more customers are starting to become EV drivers,” he says.

Beyond profits, installing EV chargers are also a way to reflect business owners’ values, and even help them achieve their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) goals. Real estate giant Cadillac Fairview (CF) – owners of CF Chinook Centre, CF Pacific Centre and CF Toronto Eaton Centre, among others – says having EV charging stations aligns with its ESG priorities.

“At CF, we remain deeply committed to, and continue to build upon our climate action solutions, which includes a focus on sustainable transportation,” says John Massey, Vice President, Operations. “Having FLO electric vehicle charging stations as a value-added amenity for our clients and visitors was an easy yes.”

CF currently has 397 EV charging stations at select sites across Canada, with plans to install more in the future.

There is, of course, a direct cost to installing chargers. A Level 2 7.2-kilowatt FLO commercial charger starts at just over $5,000, plus installation. How quickly this investment pays off depends on the location, EV adoption rates, the local community’s price sensitivity and several other factors, says Hollanda. “Organizations should keep in mind all the indirect benefits and ROI from the chargers, such as the additional traffic and visibility, when looking to understand their return on charging stations,” he added.

Getting started

The first thing businesses looking to install EV chargers should do is find a reliable charging partner. Nothing is more frustrating to a driver than pulling up at a charger that’s out of service. According to Thorson, FLO’s chargers have a reliability of more than 98 per cent.

Any retailer who’s keen to get started can contact a charging solution provider directly or reach out to dedicated installers. It’s important to keep in mind that installation time depends on the type of charger they choose and should always be done by a licensed electrical contractor.

“It usually takes three to four months to plan, purchase and deploy a Level 2 charger and nine to 12 months for Level 3 fast chargers,” says Thorson. “Our folks will help walk you through that process to make it seamless for everyone.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with FLO EV Charging. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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