VW to Continue 'Electrifying America' With Help From Walmart

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky

Volkswagen’s ongoing penance for its diesel-emission scandal includes a serious investment in to the United States’ EV charging infrastructure. But critics of the plan have previously suggested it might be a way for VW to capitalize on its corporate wrongdoing. The state of California wanted the German company to focus on disadvantaged communities while automakers worried VW might gain an early advantage in a competitive new market, especially if it could handpick the sites or partner with businesses.

It has been almost 10 months since those concerns were voiced and now Electrify America (a subsidiary of Volkswagen Group) has announced it will be partnering with Walmart to install electric charging stations at 100 stores in 34 states across America. That way you can help save the environment while you’re stocking up on plastic cups and single-serve coffee pods that will end up being dumped into the ocean.

However, you can’t fault VW for that. It’s not the automaker’s fault citizens of the world think they can offset rampant consumer waste by purchasing an electric car. Besides, this is a wildly shrewd move on the part of both Volkswagen and Walmart. The store wins because the sites will be located near highways, encouraging low-charge automobiles to pull over and spend time shopping while their vehicle takes on electrons. Volkswagen wins because it has to do this in the first place and has a lot to gain by building a relationship with one of the biggest retailers in North America — if not the whole world.

Plus there is untold value in setting up charging stations in a place people are likely to frequent. That takes away some of the fears associated with range anxiety, and might just convince some shoppers to go electric. It’s a genius-level play until, at least until e-commerce gets to a point where none of us ever leave the house.

“The expansion of Walmart’s electric vehicle charging facilities with our ultra-fast charging systems will provide consumers with a quick and convenient way to charge their vehicles in the time it takes to make their Walmart purchases,” said Mark McNabb, president and CEO of Electrify America. “EV owners need a convenient, reliable and fast turnaround in recharging their vehicles. Walmart is the perfect partner for Electrify America to bring electric charging services to EV owners who value their time.”

Wayne Killen, Electrify America’s senior director for infrastructure, elaborated further in an interview with Reuters. He said roughly 80 percent of the charging stations would be at store locations alongside highways, while the remaining 20 percent would populate metro areas. The stations, which will use 150-to-350 kW DC fast chargers, should be able to energize receptive cars in just a few minutes. However, not all vehicles will be able to take on electricity as fast as those stations can theoretically dish it out.

“Along with providing our customers with an enhanced shopping experience through added convenience, this initiative also allows us to contribute to the expansion of our nation’s EV charging station infrastructure,” said Walmart’s vice president of energy Mark Vanderhelm. “Providing this service is the right thing to do for our customers, our business, and the environment.”

Shopping centers will not be the only location you be seeing VW’s Electrify America installing charging stations, though. It’s $2 billion over the next 10 years intends to deploy more than 2,000 charging hubs across in 39 states, as part of its “Cycle One” investment, before the end of 2019. And it promises those sites will be located in convenient “access to retail, dining, parking and other facilities.”

[Image: Electrify America]

Matt Posky
Matt Posky

A staunch consumer advocate tracking industry trends and regulation. Before joining TTAC, Matt spent a decade working for marketing and research firms based in NYC. Clients included several of the world’s largest automakers, global tire brands, and aftermarket part suppliers. Dissatisfied with the corporate world and resentful of having to wear suits everyday, he pivoted to writing about cars. Since then, that man has become an ardent supporter of the right-to-repair movement, been interviewed on the auto industry by national radio broadcasts, driven more rental cars than anyone ever should, participated in amateur rallying events, and received the requisite minimum training as sanctioned by the SCCA. Handy with a wrench, Matt grew up surrounded by Detroit auto workers and managed to get a pizza delivery job before he was legally eligible. He later found himself driving box trucks through Manhattan, guaranteeing future sympathy for actual truckers. He continues to conduct research pertaining to the automotive sector as an independent contractor and has since moved back to his native Michigan, closer to where the cars are born. A contrarian, Matt claims to prefer understeer — stating that front and all-wheel drive vehicles cater best to his driving style.

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  • Greenbrierdriver Greenbrierdriver on Apr 19, 2018

    In a world where the local "Meth-Heads" will steal anything to support their needs, the charging cables on these things will likely have a shelf life measured in "Hours til Nightfall" in many of the fine neighborhoods that some Wal-Marts are located. Nice idea. Problematic implementation. By the way, a Prior poster failed to include the clouds of Smoke from the herd of Idling F250 Diesels which will make it impossible to use the charging stations without choking to death, because you must NEVER turn the engines off. I think there is an obscure Texas law that says that.

  • Felix Hoenikker Felix Hoenikker on Apr 19, 2018

    Update, I passed the seven station Tesla fast charge station located close to my local Harbor Freight and also near the PA turnpike northeast extension, I-78 and US Rt 22. There was one model S with Jersey plates charging. Most of the time there is no one there. The local Walmart is farther from these major highways.

  • Wolfwagen What I never see when they talk about electric trucks is how much do these things weigh and how much does that detract from the cargo-carrying capacity?
  • Wolfwagen I dont know how good the Triton is but if they could get it over here around the $25K - $30K They would probably sell like hotcakes. Make a stripped down version for fleet sales would also help
  • 3SpeedAutomatic You mentioned that Mitsubishi cars had lost their character. Many brands are losing that that element as well. GM is giving up on the ICE Camaro and Dodge on the ICE Challenger. There goes the Bad Boy image. Might as well get your teeth pulled and dentures put in place. Would like to see a few EVOs with cherry bomb exhaust and true 4 cylinder BIG blower turbos; 4 wheel drift capacity is mandatory!!🚗🚗🚗
  • Tassos Here in my overseas summer palace, I filled up my tank twice in May, at 68 and 52 euros (a full 90+ liter tank fillup has taken 130-135 Euros in the past, and I am 23 miles from downtown here, while only 1-2 miles in the US)Still, diesel here is MUCH cheaper than gas. Yesterday, I paid 1,488 a liter while gas was at least 1,899 (regular).Multiply by almost 4 for gallons AND by an additional 1.1 for $.
  • 3SpeedAutomatic IIRC, both China and the EU use a standardized charger connection. About time the US & Canada to follow.Would take some of the anxiety out of an EU purchase and accelerate adoption. 🚗🚗🚗