Looking for an EV charging location in Virginia Beach using PlugShare the other day highlighted several of the challenges both EV drivers and businesses continue to confront. In this case, I found a charger located at Whole Foods on Laskin Road in Virginia Beach. For anyone who’s been to a Whole Foods store, it’s worth the time spent grocery shopping there, or maybe just having an organic coffee or craft beer on the Porch at the front of this store. The rest of the story though isn’t quite as picturesque. I don’t want to sound like I’m just complaining so let me first say “kudos” to Whole Foods for providing Level 2 EV charging in the parking lot as most grocery stores don’t. In addition, they had the foresight to install it properly by providing a dual charging unit at the center of 4 parking spaces designated specifically for EVs. Finally, these issues are not unique to Whole Foods.
When I tapped on the PlugShare icon for this facility, I noticed the first problem. The store turns off the electricity to it when it closes (from 10:00pm until 8:00am). As expected, looking through the comments, I see several complaints about it. Additional complaints highlight yet another wide-spread issue, Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) cars were often parked in all four spaces. One EV driver indicated that he waited for them to leave while another said they were occupied by ICE cars before and after his visit to the store. Under the description of the facility in PlugShare, there is a statement to “notify manager if non-EV in spot and write a note alerting them to your charging spot.” I’ve highlighted before that localities need to review their ordinances to make sure authorities can issue citations in such cases and then proceed to do so.
I mentioned earlier great it is that Whole Foods provides EV charging in their parking lot but when I checked out their website for store locations and amenities, I found no mention of it for the Virginia Beach location. They highlighted free Wi-Fi but not EV charging, the latter of which certainly had to cost more to install. In reviewing press announcements for the store’s opening, the only reference I could find was “in keeping with Whole Foods Market’s national initiative to reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, the Virginia Beach facility will feature many green building standards.” Somewhere in that statement may be a reference to EV charging. Whole Foods’ online Newsroom indicates that as of 2012 they had 70 charging stations at 27 metros across the US. However, only the Broad Street, New Orleans and the Hill Crest, San Diego stores list EV charging among their amenities on those store’s websites. It seems that Whole Foods are missing a valuable marketing opportunity. In addition to adding the information on store websites, PlugShare, and apps like it, also offer marketing opportunities as long as businesses insure that the stations are entered into it.
It bears repeating that, if electric vehicles proliferate as expected, then businesses and other entities need comprehensive strategies not just to support them but also to maximize the investment they make in doing so.