Five years ago, walking up to the door of a grocery store and seeing spots for charging an electric car was odd and the parking spaces were virtually always empty. Today, more and more retail outlets are putting in charging stations to accommodate the growing number of electric and hybrid automobiles flooding the market. According to the Electric Drive Transportation Association, hybrid and fully electric vehicle sales have soared since 2009 and now represent nearly 4 percent of all car sales in the U.S.
In big cities like Houston, where trucks and SUVs still reign supreme, the roads are full of hybrid vehicles in particular. Longer commutes mean higher gas costs, and anything that can increase the time you spend on the road before filling up, all the better.
Whole Foods was one of the early adopters and it is not uncommon to see a pair of electric cars sitting in charging spaces at the location on Waugh Drive. IKEA announced this week that it had just completed the addition of two charging stations at its location on the Katy Freeway. "IKEA has a never-ending job of asking what we can do today to contribute towards a better tomorrow," Houston store manager Nabeela Ixtabalan said in a statement. "Hosting electric-vehicle charging stations is one way to help accomplish this goal."
While a pair of charging stations at a couple of the more liberal store chains in Houston probably won't cause residents to trade in their gas guzzlers for Teslas, it demonstrates a continued demand for options in vehicles, a trend that increases by the year. Eventually, these may be more commonplace than we think, particularly as electric vehicles become increasingly more sophisticated.
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For now, the charging stations remain slightly more than a curiosity for most, but they wouldn't be getting added to store lots if there weren't at least a marginal demand. Retailers like Whole Foods and IKEA clearly want to be ahead of the curve.