How To Do Electric-Car Chargers Right: New Target Store In CA

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Electric-car drivers know the problem all too well. It's called "getting ICEd"--when a gasoline car parks in the spot for reserved for electric cars to use a public charging station.

Now a new Target store, sited in a conventional suburban mall in Fremont, California, offers an example of how to minimize that problem.

"There are six stations in the middle of the lot, meaning no good or bad spots," according to BMW ActiveE driver Robert Olson.

"Then there is one station in the next aisle by itself, and another one up front at of the handicapped spaces."

The result?

"I've only ever seen the charging stations ICEd once," Oldson said, "and that was by some [person] with a GMC Yukon Hybrid--who must have thought it was for hybrids too."

Middle of the lot

In other words, the secret is to install multiple charging stations, and to put most of them in the middle of the lot--not in the most desirable spaces closest to the doors.

When charging stations are added to existing stores, the engineers often take the path of least resistance, and put them as close as possible to the store building.

That minimizes the costs of trenching and cabling to get electricity to a location that didn't previously have it.

But it also means that that space is correspondingly that much more alluring to every single shopper.

Add to that requirements in some jurisdictions that at least one charging station be available to handicapped shoppers--meaning it's both a handicapped spot AND a charging station--and you end up with a very high likelihood that the car next to the charger won't be electric at all.


Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Jack Brown]

Electric-car charging stations at Target in Fremont, CA [photo by Jack Brown]

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More important than you think

Charging-station placement is actually more important than many people think, says electric-car advocate and restauranteur Tom Moloughney.

"People who don't drive electric cars resent  that the spaces are usually in the prime locations," he says. "It adds to their belief that we think we deserve special treatment."

When installing a pair of charging stations in the parking lot at Nauna's Bella Casa, his restaurant in Montclair, New Jersey, Moloughney "actually gave placement a lot of thought."

"I decided to install one in a prime location, to attract conversation and 'electric car awareness'," he said, "and the second one in the least-desirable spot in the lot."

Very, very popular

The ChargePoint Network has also featured the new Target location as its "Charging Station of the Day."

That photo, however, was taken a couple of weeks after the store opened.

Today, according to BMW ActiveE driver Robert Olson, it's always full of electric cars recharging.

That's because, he says, "It's a main charging post for Nissan Leaf drivers to get from San Jose to the upper East Bay."

So, if you're planning to push your workplace (or anywhere else) to put in electric-car charging infrastructure--here's how--keep in mind that putting it in the right place may be the difference between using it and having it ICEd.

[Our thanks to several members of the BMW ActiveE group, especially Jack Brown for providing photographs]


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Comments (17)
  1. WTG Target! its about time we started placing the charging stations in the right location. Providence Centrailia Hospital put theirs in the 2nd row of parking. Walgreens Tacoma put theirs in the back lot. Both I have never seen ICE'd

  2. In a local shopping district near my house they installed two stations in a back parkinglot in the far corner away from the shops. I've noticed that during slower shopping times of the day most people respect the signs. But during busier times of the day they are almost always ICEd. And the people who ICE the spaces back in, I'm positive they are doing this so if needed they can use the excuse of having not seen the signs. I think the key is still parking tickets for violators.

  3. There should be at least a minority of the handicapped spots as ev charging spaces. Other then that, I don't give a hoot where they are as long as they are there somewhere. There needs to be far more ev charging stations/spaces then they are now.

    Workplaces should do more of this: a thousand workers on their own property in their own buildings and large parking structure. They've had two charging stations n two ev only parking spots for a few years. Last month they simply painted the adjacent potential spots as EV only as well. The two 240 ev charging cables can now reach 5 parking spaces. EV owners simply switch the charging cable when their neighbor is fully charged. It easy now with only 5 plug-in cars ...harder later w/ more evs

  4. Great example, nicely done Target. :)


  6. These EVSEs were among the first ones in East Bay. Very welcome and much appreciated addition to all EV drivers. Charging infrastructure is improving now, but this Target store remains a favorite destination.

  7. Charging stations are one way to get your EV customers to stay a little longer, shop a little more, spend a little more. The cost is minor compared to what they buy.

  8. Another benefit of this particular location is that, after shopping at Target, it's a short walk to a nice quiet restaurant for a meal while the car is still charging.

  9. Very thoughtful, good work Target! Also, the two Kohl's locations I've used have their well-marked chargers on the side of the store where folks don't seem to venture. They use solar panels to generate 40% of the store's needs. I'm curious if Target is installing solar as well; overall this is a great movement to be part of.

  10. I hope things change - that picture is saddening... :( Look at all the ICE vehicles and the one white isolated Leaf. If the charging stations are free, people will start to want to get more EVs and use them. But they won't be drawn into the EV fold if the charging is $2.50/hr with one hour minimum, rounded up to the next hour.

  11. Dude, those are chargepoint chargers and usually free to members wherever you find them, the ones at target are typically not set up to require anything and start charging as soon as you plug in. Blink level 2 chargers do typically charge 1.00 to 2.50 per hour, totally wiping out any savings you might gain from not buying gas.

  12. I totally agree that making EV spots out of prime locations is a mistake. I understand the motive, both from an infrastructure issue and an EV promotion tool but in the real world most non-EV drivers don't give a doodle about honoring or respecting and signs about the spaces being reserved for EVs only.

    I made a video about how three locations in my neighborhood with chargers in prime spots are most used by gas cars. Neither the charger providers or the business operators have shown ay concern about how the spaces are misused. You can see the video at the link below:

  13. Here's an insane idea: why not make it illegal to park in an EV spot without an EV?

  14. Works for me and great name. I just wish it were David Gilmour...

  15. Illegal to park unless actively charging is what is required

  16. IMHO level 2 chargers are almost useless. The exception: at home where the car charges overnight. When out and about, who has an hour or two to waste when trying to top off for that drive home? Usually, all Im looking for is a 20 mile boost to get home on those days where I had errands to run on my lunchbreak. A quick stop at a level 3 quick charger can give me that in < 10 minutes, comparable to a stop at the gas station. I know my Leaf well at this point and I have never had the need to get an 80% or higher charge. Those who have a job where they provide level 2 chargers are lucky, but they could probably do without them if more quick chargers were available. I dont think they should have installed anything else

  17. @Tyler: If your Leaf is a 2011 or 2012 model, it only has a 3.3-kW charger, whereas some other electric cars have 6.6-kW chargers (as do most 2013 Leafs)--which doubles the charging rate of a Level 2 station. Is your assessment colored by the low-capacity charger in your car, perhaps?

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