The idea that chargers ought to be located in places where people are likely to gather is an intuitive one. In practice, though, many chargers have been placed in remote parking lots or seemingly arbitrary locations. As EV adoption grows, charging will need to blend seamlessly with how consumers already live their lives, says Rebecca Wolkoff, co-founder and chief technical officer of ChargeNet Stations, a fast-charging station development and software startup. The company is working with Diversified Restaurant Group, a franchisee operating more than 300 Taco Bell and Arby’s locations, to install chargers at Taco Bell stores in California.
“It’s all about offering convenience and making ultra-fast charging available to everyone everywhere,” Wolkoff says. “More than 84 million people eat at quick-serve restaurants every day in the U.S. We want to go where the people are. Both quick-serve restaurant patrons and EV drivers appreciate convenience, quality, and value. With this partnership, we each provide that to our customers.”
Diversified Restaurant Group unveiled its first “electrified” Taco Bell store in South San Francisco last fall, and it’s working with ChargeNet Stations to install chargers at more than 100 additional restaurants throughout the Golden State. The sites pair ChargeNet’s software with fast-charging hardware from Tritium, an Australian EV charger manufacturer, which recently opened a factory in Tennessee that is capable of producing up to 30,000 Buy-America charger units annually.
“The technology is compatible with all EV connector types and offers, on average, a 100-mile charge in 15 minutes or fewer, for around $10,” Wolkoff says.
ChargeNet Stations is working with Diversified Restaurant Group to ensure a sizable portion of the charging stations are located “in and around underserved communities,” she says. That’s important for expanding access to charging where it is most needed in anticipation of cheaper and more widespread EV use in the future.
“We know there will be many people who don’t have access to convenient at-home charging, especially ultra-fast charging,” Wolkoff says.
Starbucks also is bringing much-needed infrastructure to underserved communities with its nascent charging network. The coffee giant last year teamed up with Volvo and the EV infrastructure company ChargePoint to install charging stations at its parking lots along a 1,350-mile route from Denver to Seattle. The thoroughfare passes through five states and several federal economic opportunity zones that are lacking in accessible public chargers.
The pilot program encompasses 60 DC fast chargers at 15 locations and is expected to be completed this summer. Starbucks will evaluate usage rates to decide if it wants to expand the service nationally as part of its broader goal to bolster renewable energy initiatives and cut its carbon footprint in half by 2030.
Like Subway and Diversified Restaurant Group, Starbucks is working with its partners to install direct current (DC) fast chargers. Those types of chargers are capable of charging an EV to 80 percent in well under an hour. They’re significantly quicker than Level 2 alternating current (AC) chargers, the other option that is commonly used in commercial applications, which take several hours to deliver a charge and is better suited for locations where drivers will remain parked for longer periods, like office buildings and hotels.