Big Box Retail and the Future of EV | weatherology°
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By: Meteorologist Michael Karow
Updated: Mar 1st 2021

Big Box Retail and the Future of EV

Several major U.S. automakers are aiming for the year 2035 as the target for when they will cease selling new internal combustion engine vehicles to consumers in favor of electric vehicles (EV). There are quite a few hurdles that will have to be overcome before such an EV future can be fully realized. Aside from vehicle cost, another of the hurdles for consumers is infrastructure, ie. charging stations. Currently, there are still large swaths of the nation's midsection with electric “charging deserts,” or with not enough charging stations to enable long distance travel solely on electric power. A new study from Michigan Tech, though, eyes a pervasive site that could be converted into EV charging stations that would benefit not only consumers but also retailers, namely the parking lots of big box chain stores.

The proposed method involves major retailers installing solar panel canopies which would power charging stations in their expansive parking lots. In the case of a chain like Walmart, for example, 3.1 megawatts of power could be generated per store location, which would equate to 11.1 gigawatts of power generated nationwide, just for that one retailer's chain of stores. This would be enough to cover the charging needs of 90% of Americans living within 15 miles of a Walmart.

Using solar power, the study projects the electricity for the charging stations could be made at a profit to the retailers. Other benefits of the solar canopies would include: providing shade and shelter from precipitation to shoppers in the parking lot, increasing the time and money spent at individual stores (while waiting for their vehicle to charge), as well as enabling greener consumerism.

charging EV map Bloomberg
Public EV charging stations in the Lower 48 States (excluding Tesla-only stations) as of May 2020 - [U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center/Bloomberg News]
Solar Electric Car Charging Station
Small version of a solar-powered electric car charging station - [Brightfield Transportation Solutions]
solar panel canopies parking lot Deshmukh Pearce
Rendering of solar panel canopies in the parking lot of a big box retailer - [Deshmukh & Pearce, 2021]