WAG test drives electric fill-ups
HOUSTON — Walgreens will receive a jolt to its brand image in February as the chain begins playing host to NRG’s eVgo electric vehicle charging stations across 18 locations in the Houston market. The eye-catching stations will help position Walgreens, and such other participating retailers as H-E-B and Best Buy, as cutting-edge companies with an eye to the future — and as responsible neighbors intent to make good on the promise of sustainability.
“This is another way we are providing our customers with an environmentally sustainable shopping experience, and it sets us apart as a retailer who is moving clean and green energy alternatives forward,” stated Menno Enters, Walgreens director of energy and sustainability.
Driving that healthy brand image home to consumers makes sense for retailers today. But down the road, these charging stations — where potential shoppers are captive for as many as 30 minutes — also may represent an entirely new revenue stream for retailers, said Arun Banskota, president of NRG’s EV services. “There is going to be revenue-sharing possibilities in addition to driving more people into these stores,” he said. And that could happen in as little as two years, depending upon how fast any EV market develops, he added.
Similar to the way mobile phone companies quickly drove cell-phone penetration, NRG will be covering all up-front costs — the home charger, at-work charger and publicly accessible chargers — for a subscription fee ranging between $49 and $89 per month.
Under the best market conditions, electric vehicles may capture 10% of the auto market by 2020, projected Antonio Benecchi, a partner at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants. While aggressive, it’s a projection justified by such recent announcements as that of Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who is targeting production of 500,000 EVs per year as soon as 2013. “The market has almost reached a point of no return with these vehicles in terms of investments that car makers have made [and] investments that the government, at different levels, [has] made,” Benecchi said.
Roland Berger, in partnership with the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute, in October released a report outlining how far along major metropolitan areas were in developing the EV infrastructure.
The top five most-prepared cities are along the West Coast: San Jose, Calif.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Sacramento, Calif.; and Portland, Ore. Houston also was identified as one of the “first-wave” cities.