In the latest sign that corporate giants are supporting the shift to electric vehicles, Walmart announced Thursday that it will install fast-charging stations in thousands of locations across the country. The rollout would quadruple the company’s network of charging stations, currently available at more than 280 Walmart and Sam’s Club stores.
Walmart’s move could help ease a common concern about buying an electric car – range anxiety, the fear of being stranded with a dead battery and no charger in sight. “We have a Walmart or Sam’s Club store within 10 miles of 90% of the population of this country,” said Vishal Kapadia, the company’s senior vice president of energy transformation. told the Washington Post. “We know we can solve range anxiety in ways no one else can.”
Considered a pipe dream not so long ago, the switch to electric vehicles is finally becoming a concrete reality. This year, the United States passed the milestone of 3 million electric vehicles on the road. That’s only about 1% of U.S. vehicles, but sales are growing fast, with electric vehicles making up 7% of new vehicle registrations in January, almost double the previous year.
New laws and recent business pivots are pushing electric vehicles further into the mainstream. President Joe Biden plans to build a nationwide network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030, with the government recently allocating $7.5 billion to this effort. California has banned the sale of gas-powered cars by 2035, with at least half a dozen other states follow along. On the business side, automakers are embracing the trend – albeit in the American tradition of oversized trucks and SUVs. With Walmart adding nationwide chargers, the nation’s largest retailer is now also on board. After a century, the centuries-old hold of the internal combustion engine on the country is beginning to look fragile.
The adoption of electric vehicles has long been plagued by fears that they will not be able to meet people’s daily driving needs. A study last spring, for example, found that people underestimated by up to 30% the number of daily tasks electric vehicles could perform. Perhaps in response to these concerns, automakers produced cars with longer spans. Ram recently announced that its next electric pickup, the Ram 1500 REV, will feature a battery option of up to 500 miles on a single charge – about enough for an eight-hour road trip.
The sticker shock of buying an electric car was also a drag on sales. But Tesla, which controls about two-thirds of the electric vehicle market in the United States, lowered its prices in January, pressuring rivals to follow suit. The Model Y, for example, went from $65,990 to $52,990, a 20% dropand the company announced that it would prioritize affordability in its next generation of vehicles. Consumer electric vehicles could become as cheap as gas-powered cars this year, according to the New York Times. That’s in part thanks to grants and tax credits from the Curbing Inflation Act, the landmark climate legislation Biden signed last year. For people who buy new electric vehicles, the IRA offers up to $7,500 in tax credit; this week, Ford announced that its entire line of electric vehicles is eligible for half or all of this credit.
One indicator that Americans are becoming familiar with electric cars is that they are becoming less polarizing. In the first decade of the 2000s, the hybrid Toyota Prius became a cultural flashpoint, having been associated with a moralizing brand of environmentalism. Fast forward to last spring, and America’s longtime best-selling vehicle and a Republican favorite – the Ford F-150 pickup truck – has gone all-electric, with a three-year waiting list when it’s released. The IRA can also help change the political calculus by sending billions of dollars are flowing to electric vehicle and battery factories in red states such as South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Georgia.
Admittedly, some Republicans are still squarely against electric cars. But faced with Walmart, Ford and billions in green investments, it’s hard to imagine they could stop the growing momentum behind electric vehicles.