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Your next EV charge could come at a Walmart, 7-Eleven, or even Taco Bell


three electric vehicles sit in front of a walmart sign
Image Credit: Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz) // Creative Commons

Walmart is famous for having everything, from tires, groceries, tech, and furniture to toys, clothes, tools, and bicycles. Many Walmarts have vision centers, vaccine pharmacies, mini-restaurants, and even gas stations in their parking lots so consumers don’t have to go elsewhere for their needs.


Now, the retail/supermarket giant is expanding its “everything store” reputation by building out a network of electric vehicle chargers throughout its thousands of stores.


And they aren’t the only ones. Announced last month, retail and convenience giant, 7-Eleven, is also building out a massive EV charging network; but not just any network as the chain says it will be one of the largest and most compatible of any retailer in North America.


According to a Thursday press release, locations of both Walmart and its division supermarket, Sam’s Club, will house an additional 1,300 EV fast-charging stations, building on the 280 at its locations already across the country.


According to U.S. News and World Report, some of the main reasons some are slow to adopt EVs are range anxiety, lack of charging stations, how long charging takes, and a fear of their electric bill skyrocketing. The convenience of the cooperations’ fast-charging stations could alleviate many of these apprehensions, especially price concerns, as Walmart plans to extend its low-price guarantee to its EV chargers.


This type of move also directly combats range and proximity to charging station concerns because both plan to make charging stations ubiquitous, whether it be Walmart’s “coast-to-coast” promise or 7-Eleven’s pledge to serve “neighborhoods that have, until now, lacked access.”


With each of its more than 5,000 stores and clubs strategically placed within 10 miles of 90% of Americans, Walmart says its plans make EV ownership “more accessible, reliable, convenient, and affordable.” The ubiquity of Walmart stores could change the entire landscape of EVs, as charging deserts are a huge concern that even the federal government is spending billions to combat.


“Easy access to on-the-go charging is a game-changer for drivers who have been hesitant to purchase an EV for concerns they won’t be able to find a charger in a clean, bright, and safe location when needed,” Vishal Kapadia, Senior Vice President of Energy Transformation at Walmart Inc. wrote in the release.


The company is still sorting out the specifics of exactly how many chargers will be installed, how they will be powered, and how close they will be to store entrances, but as Kapadia said via Reuters, he expects there will be about four chargers on average installed per store.


Similarly, 7-Eleven pledged in 2021 to build 500 chargers at 250 North American locations. Now, the “100% green energy” EV charging network will span across their stores as well as their Speedway and Stripes stores once complete. The EV chargers will be in select 7-Eleven stores in the U.S. and will eventually come to Canada. Already, consumers can grab a signature Slurpee and charge their EV in Colorado, Florida, California, and the company’s headquarter state of Texas.


“For over 95 years, 7-Eleven has innovated to meet our customers’ needs – delivering convenience where, when, and how they want it,” Joe DePinto, President and Chief Executive Officer at 7-Eleven said in a statement. “Now, we are innovating once again to meet our customers’ where they are by expanding our business to provide EV drivers convenience of the future...today.”


For both Walmart and 7-Eleven. their EV ambitions are a part of their broader climate targets. For Walmart, that goal is to be zero-emission by 2040, and for 7-Eleven that goal is its 20-year clean energy agreement.


Walmart and 7-Eleven aren’t the only major cooperations getting in on the EV charging game.


In 2022, Pilot announced plans to install 2,000 chargers at 500 locations, and they are just one of the 95% of U.S. fuel retailers who currently offer or plan to offer EV charging stations as surveyed by Boston Consulting Group.


Even fast-food giants are tossing their hats in the ring with Subway pairing EV chargers to their footlongs, Taco Bell serving up charging stations with chalupas, and Starbucks providing charging as energizing as cold brew espresso.


It’s not a secret that the full transition to electric vehicles will hinge on a vast nationwide network of affordable, convenient, and fast charging stations. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), as of 2021, the charging infrastructure for EVs was up by 40% since 2015, and the adoption of EVs has only increased with charging station expansion.


These cooperations may make a pretty penny on charging fees, but the real difference will be if they help make EV charging stations just as convenient and accessible as gas. By 2029, EVs could account for a third of the North American market, consultancy AutoForecast Solutions estimates.


The EV market is one of the few sectors on track to lower emissions in its respective sector, the IEA reports. Still, there is a long way to go meet the United States’ goal of EVs making up at least 50% of all new car sales by 2030.


With Walmart, 7-Eleven, and the litany of other EV-charging stations across retailers, supermarkets, gas stations, and fast food chains, that goal is all the more attainable.


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