Posted by Dale Buss on May 10, 2011 02:00 PM
Popularizing electric vehicles is requiring a lot of out-of-the-box thinking, because American consumers still aren’t quite sure about tiny cars that only operate on batteries and run out of juice after just 50 or 75 miles — no matter where you are.
Increasingly, more of that fresh thinking is coming from outside the auto industry. Electric utilities, real estate developers and others are experimenting, for instance, with how to dot enough charging stations around a metro area to create electricity availability that would make EV purchasers comfortable about “range anxiety.”
Now, Best Buy is contemplating selling EVs at its 1,100 stores across the US. It's not a huge stretch for the Minneapolis-based consumer-electronics retailer, as it already sells electric motorcycles.
In another tie-in for the retailer, Best Buy already has signed on to become a main point of customer contact for 240-volt home chargers for upcoming EVs including the 2012 Ford Focus electric vehicle. The home chargers will allow EV owners to juice up their vehicles in as little as a few hours, about half the time required by typical 110-volt household outlets.
Best Buy executives believe that it makes sense for their brand to emerge as a retail node for EVs, although automakers’ powerful traditional dealers will have a lot to say about that. Certainly the idea is something automakers could consider as they continue to add to the industry’s so-far-tiny EV fleet.
Tapping into Best Buy as a distribution partner also could be a way for a savvy EV startup to leapfrog the usual barriers to entry and quickly gain visibility and market access in a segment whose ultimate winners are far from clear at this point. Certainly, an EV gambit could help Best Buy as it battles the long-term challenge of serving only as a bricks-and-mortar showroom for an increasing number of consumers who end up purchasing wares online, instead of at the store.
Today’s automobiles – even the gas-powered kind – are increasingly sophisticated electronic appliances anyway. So how much of a leap is it to think of shopping for your first EV one aisle over from the washing machines at Best Buy, the first left after the digital-camera aisle?