The ultimate guide

We have put together this guide to help you navigate the EV charging industry and better understand the great opportunities it unfolds for retail chains.

As we are globally facing unprecedented environmental, economic, and social challenges, the world is increasingly looking at an industry at the forefront of it all: Retail.

Transportation, warehousing, heating, refrigeration, lighting, … the retail industry monopolises a lot of resources. Of course, while this is only a part of a larger equation, the energy retail companies need to operate and grow is frightening.

Now, if recent studies show that worldwide retail leaders are ready to make a change, how can retail businesses do significantly more for the environment and earn the trust of their customer base without reducing their margins?

The answer is EV charging. 

And retail businesses are at the centre of it all.

We’ve put together this quick guide to help you picture the HOWs and WHATs of EV charging and WHY now is the time for retail organisations to invest.

1.The importance of (Smart) EV charging


What is EV charging?

EV charging is the process of supplying electric vehicles with … electricity.

As the term “smart” suggests, smart charging uses technology to optimise the time spent charging a vehicle. Simply put, it charges EVs based on the current state of the energy grid. 

The result? A charging experience that is more efficient and cost-effective for the consumer.

A needed asset to stabilise our electricity grids

The electrification of our society is an essential step towards fighting climate change. The problem is that as we move towards electric mobility, we’ll ask for more from the electricity grid. This means that grid congestion is a real risk.

Contrary to popular belief, EVs don’t heighten this risk. They help minimise it, and V2G is an important part of the equation.

 

How V2G (vehicle-to-grid) can help

Simply put, Vehicle-to-Grid charging is a growing technology with the power to transform the way we use our energy grids.

V2G makes it possible to pump the energy stored in EV batteries plugged to the network back into the grid, if and when needed.

Good to know

You may also hear V2G charging used interchangeably with the term bidirectional charging. They’re similar, but different. While V2G charging goes one way (from the vehicle to the grid), bidirectional charging, as its name suggests, goes two ways. Bidirectional charging allows cars to charge efficiently while also helping with the power grid.

 

2.The EV market is booming

In Europe, the EV market is seeing unprecedented growth, mostly thanks to the European Green Deal and other carbon emission-free measures.

  • By the year 2025—only a few short years away from now—it’s predicted that 1 in 5 new cars sold will be electric around the world. 
  • By 2030, that ratio is expected to increase to 2 out of 5.
  • By the year 2035, we expect all new cars sold to be electric.

What’s more, we expect electric vehicles to reach price parity with internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles in 2025.

 

A win for the environment, a win for everyone

Although persisting rumours say otherwise, electric cars have a much smaller footprint than ICEs, even when we consider the energy needed to charge them throughout their entire lifespan.

Likewise, although it takes a considerable bit of energy to produce electric vehicles’ batteries, their overall lifetime carbon footprint is much lower than the average ICE.

Now, if the increase in EVs is a good thing, one question remains: Do we have the infrastructure to charge those vehicles? 

Yes. 

But we’ll soon need more. A lot more.

3. New EV charging infrastructure is necessary

Which came first; the EV or the charger?

Range anxiety is a common fear among potential EV drivers. After all, how could one beat long distances if there aren’t enough charging options on the way?

The reality? It’s already possible to cross our continent with an EV. What’s more, the network of fast and ultra-fast public charging points is already well established and developing fast.

Source: Transportenvironment.org (2021)

Much like we expect a certain number of gas stations throughout our cities and towns, there is an acceptable minimum number of EV charging stations. In fact, a commission appointed by the EU set out that we should aim for 10 EVs per public charging point (PCP) to allow for everyone to have room for charging. Right now, that number is above 7.5.

State of EV charging blog post charts-08-1


We know that even if the majority of EV drivers choose to charge their vehicles at home or at work, we need more public chargers. The current models tell us that we should, at best see 11.38 EVs per PCP and, at worst, 13.79 EVs per PCP by 2030 in Europe. While it’s slightly higher than the optimal 10 EVs per PCP objective, it’s fair to assume that charging technologies will gain in performance with time and, therefore, reshuffle the cards.

Or course, retail spaces play a pivotal role in increasing EV infrastructure accessibility. Not only are these businesses already situated near large population areas, but they also tend to offer large car parks.

 

4. Retailers have a chance to meet new needs and habits


“We think that in the future, our customers will expect EV charging as much as water coming from the tap,” 

—Mikko Henriksson, General Manager, Scandic Hotels Turku, Finland.

EV charging is like tap water: your customers expect it wherever they go

Throughout recent years, we’ve seen innovative ways malls and other shopping centres can adapt to meet the changing customer appetite. 

From lifestyle centres to modern refreshing takes on legacy shopping centres, retail development of the 21st century has a whole different set of offerings compared to its predecessors. 

Today, going shopping is often an experience where convenience and entertainment meet.

Today, convenience means EV chargers.

Consider this. In 2022, we partnered with Kantar to perform a study to understand where EV drivers expect to find the most EV chargers. We found that a staggering 87% of drivers (current and prospective EV owners) say that the presence of EV chargers has an impact on the retail store they go to. Only 5% said it didn’t matter.

 

retail kantar

 

Turn visitors into loyal and returning customers

Retail professionals know that a shopping experience is so much more than just checking items off a list. Your customers’ experience begins in the parking lot. Or, more accurately, it often begins with a Google search—and soon, we can expect prospective visitors to look for EV charging amenities the way they look for store hours or store types.

By offering EV charging stations in the parking lot of your retail development, you work on your reputation and develop your customers’ loyalty. While we know that EV chargers will soon be an expectation, now is the time to impress your customers who aren’t accustomed to seeing EV chargers on every errand they run.

A stronger employer brand as a positive externality

This positive impression is not only reserved for customers. By investing in the environment, retailers will also attract more talent, especially among younger generations, looking for socially responsible employers. In that sense, the presence of EV chargers is a great catalyst for retail brands to strengthen their overall sustainability strategy.


There is also an immense opportunity to integrate EV charging into customer loyalty programs— a reality for department stores, chain stores, and even local businesses.

 

5. generate new revenue streams


A new usage emerges: charge while you shop

Data says it all. 80% of the fuel purchased in the US occurs at local convenience stores.

In other words, drivers refill their tanks on their way to or from the store. We expect the very same behaviour from EV drivers. In fact, their experience should even be better as they will be able to charge their vehicles while they shop, thus avoiding an extra stop, or unnecessary queuing.

With current technologies allowing for a full charge in 30 minutes or less, you can expect EV drivers to spend more time than ICE drivers at your locations and, therefore, a larger average basket size.

For petrol station managers, there is also a retail opportunity. While we’re likely to see a decline in the number of petrol stations as we know it with the growth of the EV market, we will still need public charging amenities. It takes longer to charge an EV than it does to fill an ICE car with gasoline. By offering entertainment and shopping options to those waiting for their car to charge, petrol stations can take advantage of an already emerging market.

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Attract new customers with EV roaming

Much like mobile phone roaming kicks in when you leave your home coverage area, EV charging roaming has the same premise—it refers to customers charging outside of their usual service provider. This is a common occurrence not only when travelling but sometimes when charging at a different outlet within the same city. 

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The implementation of EV roaming is essential for a reliable customer experience

By including roaming options in your retail EV charger setup, you are opening up charging options for any out-of-town or country guests—a big pull to your establishment.

 

6. The world needs the retail industry to accelerate

Reduce the effects of your business on climate change

Retail buildings, like all buildings, are responsible for a surprising amount of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

As the United Nations warns us that it’s “now or never” to limit the effects of climate change, many retail managements are looking for ways to do their part without negatively affecting their margins or losing ground to the competition.

With this in mind, EV charging offers a great opportunity to support your customer base in their eco-friendly decision-making. 

Reduce your carbon footprint

The installation of EV chargers helps establish your brand as a sustainability leader and cements your dedication to decarbonisation; the process of drastically reducing carbon dioxide emissions from human activities. 

Not only do EVs eliminate the pollution caused by gasoline, but they also present an important way to regulate our electric grid.

Growing tensions in the energy market require smart energy management solutions

Energy management is what everyone is looking at — and the current geopolitical developments in eastern Europe only make things worse as energy production prices are spiking.

We can see examples of this in Germany, where the government forbids retail business owners from keeping their doors open during the day to save energy, and in many other places across Europe where shops are reducing the amount of time they spend keeping lights on.

By investing in EV chargers, you’re already a step ahead in developing your company’s energy management policy—something that all businesses will likely be expected to have in coming years. It’s better for the environment and better for your bottom line, as smart energy management also results in reducing costs for your business.

 

7. EV Charging for retailers: how to get started?

Sold on the idea of EV chargers but unsure of how to get started? That’s our job.

How to install EV chargers?

Partnering with Virta means you don’t have to worry about the complex EV charger installation process

We handle the installation process for you. Then, we provide you with all the software and support you need to run and scale up your own EV charging business like a pro.

What does it (really) mean to run an EV charging business? 

In other words, what are the key roles and responsibilities you should know about?

The three main roles you’ll encounter in the EV charging world are: 

  • e-Mobility Service Providers (EMSP)
  • Charge Point Operators (CPOs)
  • … and Charge Point Owners (sometimes also called CPOs, but we tend to exclusively use CPO for “charge point operator”).

An EMSP is responsible for offering EV charging services to EV drivers. A CPO operates said charging services. A charge point owner simply owns the charging infrastructure. Sometimes, a CPO and Charge Point Owner will be one and the same (but not always).

Read more about this
EMSP and CPO: the two sides of EV charging network operators.

 

A brand empowering asset

The implications of smart charging on businesses are all-encompassing. Because it’s a cloud-based technology, smart charging can easily be customised (or branded) and offered under a brand that customers already know and trust.

Go one step further

Read how Elbul works with Virta to brand its EV charging (software and hardware) network.

 

This means that instead of companies having to spend millions on developing their EV charging infrastructure (or paying a lot upfront for another company’s chargers), they can partner with us to get stations out to their customers in a matter of weeks.

Virta Charging Business as a Service 

Virta offers retail businesses the opportunity to be an EMSP and/or CPO. Depending on what you which to build, Virta will supply you with all of the materials and expertise that you need to succeed, including hardware and software. 

This turnkey service allows you to deploy a functional EV charging service in a matter of weeks.

Additionally, working with Virta means you only have to sign one contract, thus eliminating the complications involving multiple partners with different agendas as well as the prospects for hidden costs.

Or course, there are many factors to consider when choosing an EV charging partner, such as the features they offer, their installation protocol and security, and whether it’s not a good overall fit. At Virta, we are dedicated to offering the best EV charging solutions for retailers across Europe.

So, don’t be shy and reach out!