Costco Getting Rid of Electric Vehicle Charging Points

August 18th, 2011 · 5 Comments

Costco does a lot for its members and tries to lead the way in environmental issues.  So, they started to install electric vehicle charging stations at several of their locations.  By 2006, Costco had installed 90 EV charging points at 64 of their stores in California, Arizona, New York and Georgia.  Their early adoption led the way for other retailers like Best Buy and Walgreen’s to install them at their stores too.  Unfortunately, the installed chargers are good for older electric vehicles but won’t work for the new cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.  And instead of deciding to update the chargers, Costco has made the decision to remove the chargers all together.  According to Costco, they just don’t get used enough to warrant keeping them around.

“We were early supporters of electric cars, going back as far as 15 years. But nobody ever uses them,” said Dennis Hoover, the general manager for Costco in northern California, in a telephone interview. “At our Folsom store, the manager said he hadn’t seen anybody using the E.V. charging in a full year. At our store in Vacaville, where we had six chargers, one person plugged in once a week.”

To charge or not to charge...

At least in California, Costco could take part in a state-wide grant program to update their charging stations, for free, to the new versions that would work for newer EV cars.  However, they’ve decided against participating.

But now EV owners are hoping to change Costco’s opinion on the charger situation.  Plug-In America, a Californian EV advocacy group, has started a letter writing campaign aimed at Jim Sinegal, CEO of Costco.  So far around 800 people have sent in letters letting Costco know that they are displeased and won’t be members if Costco goes ahead with this decision.  EV fans say they use Costco’s plug-in stations as the company intended – to charge while they make regular purchases there.

“We are past Costco members, and would gladly re-join if we could charge our Nissan LEAF electric vehicle at your stores,” wrote Andrew Basile, of Arrowbear Lake, Calif., in his letter to Sinegal, which he also posted on the MyNissanLeaf forum.

Is it worth it for Costco to keep the chargers around?  Probably not, if no one is actually using them.  Plus, there’s the fact that they are giving free electricity to people.  I don’t know how much electricity it takes to charge one of these cars, but still, giving away electricity isn’t free for Costco since they still have to pay for it.  Is Costco making a mistake removing the charging stations?  Are any of you EV owners?  How will Costco’s decision affect your membership – cancel it or keep it?

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5 Responses so far ↓

  1. 1 Jack Brown // 2015.05.23 at 10:47 pm

    Since this article was written, a significant number of electric vehicles have been sold in the United States. Inface over 325,000 since 2008. It really is time Costco re-evaluates their decision. Consumers with EVs are well poised to spend more time in their stores more frequently. Khols and Target have already realized this. We have kicked off a new petition to encourage Costco to bring back the charging stations. We hope that they put them farther from the front door or tire centers and move them further away, like they have with the gas stations. And we want to be charged for them inthe Costco tradition of anhonest price for an honest service. If you are interested in signing, please visit our petition at http://bit.ly/costcoev

  2. 2 Doron // 2011.08.23 at 11:21 am

    EV drivers are happy to pay for the cost of charging their vehicles. A retailer-specific charging plan (e.g. Costco only) is not the best approach since such retailers have many customers who visit only occasionally. A better approach is one such as the ChargePoint Network where you pay at the time of use, typically a few dollars per hour. There are hundreds of stations nationwide that follow this model.

  3. 3 Jeff // 2011.08.22 at 9:44 am

    We still live in a market driven society. Sounds like the EV drivers want something for nothing. I have a proposal for them: Pony up for an EV membership card, or work out some other multi-party agreement. If the typical membership is $100, you pay something like $500. This defrays the cost of installing and maintaining the charging stations to Costco and allows Costco to measure demand. If demand is lacking, e.g. not enough members to foot the bill for the station + electricity, then no charging stations. EV vehicles remain very cutting edge and are owned by early-adopters. This is a public policy issue. No way anyone can blame Costco, who evidently made a good-faith effort to support the technology, for making a business decision based on a lack of demand.

  4. 4 Doron // 2011.08.20 at 7:46 am

    Give me a break. People who buy “high-priced electric vehicles” are not going to waste their time going up and down the aisles of Costco for free samples of yogurt and pennies of electricity. I have been a Costco member and an electric vehicle owner for years and I wish they would install a charging station ay my local Costco. I spend probably $400 a month at the store and would visit even more if they had a charging station; I would also gladly pay for the cost of charging my electric vehicle, as many stations are already setup to do. This is a shortsighted decision especially now that these vehicles are coming on the market in mass numbers.

  5. 5 Carol // 2011.08.19 at 11:25 am

    I applaud Costco for spearheading the movement and also for having the good sense to change path when it is not working. Having unused parking spaces at courthouses in areas where people can’t afford high-priced electric vehicles (where I frequently work being an attorney), and unused chargers at Costco is a waste of resources – not to mention parking spaces. The price of electricity and the tier system in California is not cost effective either. If costs go up for an unused amenity, I would not support it. I can, however, see customers going to Costco merely to charge their cars while they walk the isles and eat the free samples. Anyone who would give up their membership for this reason is not behaving rationally. Anyone who would rejoin if they had this amenity quite possibly wants the free electricity.

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