Walmart said it will add electric-vehicle charging to thousands of its U.S. stores by 2030, on the belief that EV adoption is reaching a tipping point.
The company plans to add the fast-charging stations to Walmart and Sam’s Club stores coast-to-coast, more than quadrupling its current network of roughly 280 locations.
The pledge will help address a top problem preventing some consumers from switching to EVs – a lack of reliable charging infrastructure.
Electric car sales are rising sharply from a small base. Fully electric vehicles made up 7 percent of new vehicle registrations in the United States in January, compared with 4.1 percent a year earlier, according to S&P Global Mobility. But consumer worries about high prices, sparse charging infrastructure and the risks of road-testing new technology are still obstacles to mainstream acceptance.
Still, Walmart thinks demand has reached a tipping point, said Vishal Kapadia, the retailer’s senior vice president of energy transformation, in an interview.
Once EVs exceeded 5 percent of new car sales in other markets, including Europe and China, “that has been a point where you really started to see things accelerate,” Kapadia said.
Over the last 18 to 24 months, Walmart has seen use of its EV chargers grow “substantially,” in line with EV adoption around the country, Kapadia said.
Making electric cars an easier reach for the masses remains a major pillar of the Biden administration’s green energy policy. The White House aims to address the charging gap with funding from the bipartisan infrastructure law, which provides $7.5 billion to subsidize construction of EV charging stations. The federal government has begun distributing that funding to states.
As of January, there were 150,000 public charging ports in the United States, an increase of 38,000 from the beginning of 2022, according to the Energy Department.
Analysts say that number needs to grow by more than fivefold by 2025 to meet demand. Better maintenance is also essential to address driver complaints of broken and unreliable chargers.
“Charging companies in many cases are not doing a good job delivering on reliability,” Rod Lache, an auto analyst at Wolfe Research, said at a recent automotive conference. “It’s a big problem because you could potentially damage the industry for some time if that’s not addressed soon.”
Kapadia said maintenance would be a top priority for Walmart’s network. The company sees EV charging as both a profitable business on its own and a way to bring customers into stores, he said.
“There’s an obvious opportunity for us to leverage the real estate footprint that we have, which is very unique within the market,” he said. “We’ve got a Walmart store or Sam’s Club within 10 miles of 90 percent of the population in this country . . . we know we can address range anxiety in a way that no one else can.”
Over the years, the retailer has tried to use its giant parking lots to draw customers in other ways, including by allowing recreational vehicles to park overnight.