Convenience Store Chain Installs Network of Free Electric Car Chargers, at 120 Volts

By · March 22, 2011

EV Charger at a Kwik Trip location in Wisconsin

One of approximately 70 ultra-simple 120-volt electric vehicle "charge stations" installed by Wisconsin-based Kwik Trip convenience stores. Photo from 300mpg.org.

Electric car charging infrastructure is not such as big deal—at least according to Kwik Trip, a Wisconsin-based chain of convenient stores. Just stick a 120-volt outlet on a pole, plunk it in the ground, and print up a sign that reads, “Electric Vehicle Charge Station.”

Ben Nelson, a green car advocate, reports on his blog 300mpg.org that Kwik Trip has quietly installed as many of 70 of these stations (outlets on poles with signs) in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa. The EV charging spots give Ben another reason to like Kwik Trip. He already enjoys their coffee, and it’s one of the few locations where he can find E85 for this flex-fuel gas-powered pickup truck.

Kwik Trip should be applauded for this grassroots pro-electric campaign. Kudos for support of electric cars from the heartland! As Ben states, “It’s not part of any fancy ‘Brand-Name’ charging station, such as ChargePoint, which has a mapping system, iPhone Apps, or other sophisticated mapping/advertising system.” As we’ve discussed on PluginCars.com, too many high-tech charging network start-ups take big public dollars yet keep access locked up in proprietary networks. Of course, Kwik Trip also has profits in mind—electric car owners might be more likely to stop there for a “kwik charge” and pick up some chips or coffee.

Of course, there are a couple of glaring problems with this picture. A gas station located in a remote location—without other worthwhile amenities around—is about the worst place to leave your electric car charging for a while. And at 120-volts, the rule of thumb is that you’ll pick up four miles of range during one hour of charging. So, even if you peruse the entire contents of the National Enquirer while sipping down your convenience store coffee, you might only pick up a mile or two worth of electric fuel. (Some of the locations have restaurants or are adjacent to shopping centers.)

Ben Nelson extols the virtues of grassroots simplicity brought to EV charging.

The good news is that Kwik Trip staff told Ben that the chain is planning to upgrade to “something more powerful in the near future” for its chain of 210 stores.

Thanks for the tip from Ryan Erdman.

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