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Full Charge Ahead: why retail destinations should capitalise on EV charging

Marcus Jaye
18 July 2022

Sales of fully-electric new cars have risen from fewer than 1,000 in 2011 to nearly 100,000 in the first five months of this year. The demand is huge and with sales of petrol and diesel cars set to end by 2030, it will become even greater.

In 2021, more battery electric vehicles (BEV) were sold than over the previous five years combined (2016-2020), with 190,727 registrations (11.6% of all new car sales), while plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEVs) made up 7% or 114,554 cars.

To offer context and the size of the market, there is estimated to be 32.7 million cars in the UK and over 8,350 petrol stations in the UK currently.

This EV revolution could be a boon for retailers and landlords. Shopping centres and retails parks have the opportunity to not only entice shoppers their way by easy and plentiful charging facilities, but to also benefit hugely from the multiple visits and dwell time created by charging electric vehicles.

Depending on the costs of installation and electricity, they could even make a profit as a supplier.

Ample EV charging facilities are a huge opportunity for retailers and shopping centres owners to gain a head start on competitors by tapping into the demand for charging and also banish ‘charge anxiety’.

Places like Bluewater and Bicester Village should be installing vast banks of chargers for electric cars to encourage visitors, both near and far. People with electric cars will choose where to go on who has the most, best and reliable chargers and will spend time there while their vehicle is charging. So, what are they waiting for? (Pun intended.)

Joel Teague, CEO Co Charger, helps people who can’t install a charger at home, charge minutes away from home. Co Charger Hosts rent out their chargers, helping neighbours charge and encouraging everyone to swap to an EV more quickly.

He thinks if people are going to switch to EVs they need an option that’s dependable, convenient and affordable. “We already have over 400,000 charge points in the UK – it’s just that 90% of them are private and vastly under-utilised,” he says.

Many people cannot install a private charger at home. Research by Connected Kerb puts it at well over 50% of UK motorists – 15m – because there are those who have a rented property or where the electrical system can’t support a charger, or where the parking space is located where you cannot run a power line.

Range anxiety has been replaced by charge anxiety in recent years. “Now, ‘Charge Anxiety’ is more commonly used, as this takes in concerns over whether you can find and use a charge point that’s working and available,” says Teague.

“If we’re talking about base charging then it’s a bit like asking ‘how long does it take to charge a phone?’: the answer is, 'Who cares if I’m asleep or getting on with my life while it’s doing it?’,” says Teague. “In practice it’s about 6 hours per week, but with home or community charging the only time spent is plugging it in – it’s actually a lot quicker than fuelling a conventional car,” he says.

Retailers fall into the ‘destination’ charging category. “There are two options here: either offer it for free to attract more customers, or monetise it,” says Teague. “The latter has a high up-front cost because payment systems are generally expensive and the chargers themselves need to be high wattage (at least 22kW) to make it worth plugging in for a short time.”

Teague says EV owners will tend to prioritise destinations where they can charge if that destination is too far away to make the round trip comfortably on a single home charge. “So, when a city or town council is planning for public EV chargers, they should be aware that they are not really catering for their residents; it’s the visitors that will use them,” he says.

It typically costs £5,000 to install a slow-fast charging point and £85,000 for a rapid or ultra-rapid charger.

Shell recently opened its first EV charging hub in the UK in Fulham, London, where petrol and diesel pumps at an existing fuel station were replaced with ultra-rapid charge points. A global pilot, this is the first time the company has converted one of its existing sites to cater solely for electric vehicles. The Shell Fulham features nine high-powered, ultra-rapid 175kW charge points which can charge most vehicles from 0-80% within 10 minutes – three times faster than more widely used 50kW rapid chargers.

The hub includes a comfortable seating area, free Wi-Fi, a Costa Coffee cafe and an extensive Little Waitrose & Partners. In July 2021, Shell announced that up to 800 Shell electric vehicle charging points would be installed in as many as 100 Waitrose sites across the UK by 2025 and it will install a further 100,000 public electric car charge points in the UK by 2030, 11,000 of which will be DC fast chargers, the remainder AC chargers for overnight recharging.



Jennie Colville, Head of ESG and Sustainability at Landsec, owner of Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, says: “Installing more EV charging points across our sites is an important part of our wider strategy to support the sustainable choices of our guests, as well as our business.

“In total, we have over 300 EV charging points within our portfolio, with more planned for installation later this year. For example, at Bluewater in Kent, we recently expanded the number of charging points available, bringing the total to 63.”

Bluewater says the average visitor returns 27 times a year. When consumers become more familiar with charging their cars, the types of chargers and cost will become more important.

This month, at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet shopping centre in York they expanded their EV charging station. Run by RAW Charging, eight dual chargers are now available at the site and have been upgraded to a maximum of 22kW with the ability for 16 vehicles to charge simultaneously at the site.

Paul Tyler, centre manager at McArthurGlen Designer Outlet York, said: “We know that more and more people are using electric or hybrid vehicles, so giving customers the option of reliable and affordable onsite charging during their visit was important to us and we’re looking forward to seeing them being used.”

The government wants a tenfold increase in UK charging points to 300,000 by 2030. A typical electric car (60kWh battery) takes just under 8 hours to charge from empty-to-full with a 7kW charging point. Most people’s charging will be about topping up, unless on a longer journey, but this has huge opportunities for coffee shops, hairdressers, nail bars and supermarkets, not mention other retailers.

‘Destination’ charging is also a huge opportunity for out of town retailers and landlords who have probably seen a drop in visits due to the current price of petrol.

Landlords with generous EV facilities will become more attractive to retailers as well. They will be able to charge a premium if they can demonstrate the demand created. The typical dwell time for consumers is between 20-40 mins, but will depend on how strong the charger is and how much is needed. This time is a huge selling opportunity.

The EV charger is currently seen as a nice ‘green’ add-on to the car park. Soon it will be a necessity and the demand of millions and millions of cars will prove what an attraction that electric plug is. It’s time for retailers and landlords to charge ahead.

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