Retailers are well acquainted with their customers’ request to “charge it!” when they’re buying goods and services. But now “charging it” has taken on new importance for retailers at Kimco’s Westlake Shopping Center in Daly City, Calif. We’ve just installed an NRG eVgo Freedom Station on the first floor of the center’s parking garage, enabling customers to quick charge their electric vehicles (EVs) while shopping at the wide range of retailers at the center.

BOOST: An eVgo Fast Charger juices up a Nissan Leaf at Westlake Shopping Center

BOOST: An eVgo Fast Charger juices up a Nissan Leaf at Westlake Shopping Center

This is the first of seven eVgo Freedom Station sites we’re planning to add to Kimco shopping centers in California this year, with the next slated for Corona Hills Plaza in Corona.

NRG eVgo, which is a part of NRG Energy, has been installing its stations at multi-family communities, office buildings, and homes, in addition to retail locations along highways, to create the nation’s first privately funded electric vehicle charging ecosystem. We see EV charging stations as especially well-suited for the retail environment because they are an amenity that will attract a growing amount of new foot traffic to the center.

The eVgo Freedom Station sites at Kimco centers can charge any vehicle with a plug, and consist of two chargers, enabling two vehicles to be charged simultaneously. There is a 480-volt DC Fast Charger, which lets customers get an 80 percent charge in about 30 minutes. There is also a standard 240-volt Level 2 charger, which delivers up to 24 miles of range per hour. The charging station is open 24/7 to eVgo monthly subscribers as well as pay-per-use customers.

Pacific Gas & Electric, the region’s utility provider, ensured we had the adequate infrastructure in place to support the DC Fast Charger, since this equipment draws a heavier electricity load.

Installing EV charging stations at our California centers helps our retailers tap the heart of the U.S. EV market -- which has grown considerably over the past year. California is the largest EV hotbed in the U.S. with about 30,000 EV vehicles, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy California. That comprises roughly 35 percent of the total EVs in the U.S.

POWER UP: An eVgo Level 2 charger is located in the parking garage at Westlake Shopping Center

POWER UP: An eVgo Level 2 charger is located in the parking garage at Westlake Shopping Center

From a national perspective, the number of EVs tripled to about 53,000 from 2011 to 2012, according to Pike Research. The organization expects the U.S. to become the world’s largest electric car market by 2020, with projected sales of 1.8 million EVs by the end of the decade.

Adding EV charging stations to Westlake is also part of Kimco’s continued commitment to enhancing the sustainability of our shopping centers. Westlake in particular has been a focus for many of our improvements lately, as we strive to make it a modern center that meets customers’ needs. For instance, it is the site of our new energy retrofit project that we worked on this summer with an EDF Climate Corps fellow, Linus Ik-Pyo Hong. We’ve also installed energy-efficient lighting in the common areas, and added a new energy management system to monitor and control usage.

The NRG eVgo Freedom Station sites planned for Kimco shopping centers are also playing a role in supporting state and national energy initiatives. The eVgo stations help carry out a new California bill, the EV Open Access Act, which guarantees EV owners the same access to public charging stations as other car owners do to gas stations.

The stations also help support California’s Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which aims to have 1.5 million zero emission vehicles in the state by 2025. The charging stations also help meet the goals put forth by the Department of Energy’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, which aims, in part, to create the charging infrastructure needed for widespread use of EVs.

Building a network of quick-charge EV stations at our centers will be a value-add across the board for our retailers, their customers, our industry, the country’s energy infrastructure, and our company. We’ll keep you updated on new developments.