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You'll Never Guess Where You Can Now Charge Your Electric Car

Source:  NCDOTcommunications.

All electric vehicles are being offered by an increasing number of automakers. The technology is amazing, but it suffers from a key limitation -- batteries. You can fill a gasoline car in a few minutes, but what do you do when your electric dies?

In the right areas of the country, that could turn car-charging into a key amenity for another player: Real estate investment trusts and the malls they operate.

Coast to coast
Tesla Motors (NASDAQ: TSLA  ) is working hard to change the roads, trying to replace gasoline powered cars with electrics. Although the company isn't the only one selling electric cars, it is the one most associated with the vehicles. But founder Elon Musk, who some view as a visionary, realized more was needed than just a pretty car if customers were going to take his company seriously.

One of the biggest issues is range. An electric can go a couple hundred miles, but it's virtually useless for longer trips. That's why Tesla announced plans to build a nationwide network of charging stations, so "...owners of the Model S sedan can drive to New York from Los Angeles," according to Musk.

Since most customers are unlikely to drive across the country, that plan is likely a publicity stunt more than anything else. Still, it will help assuage the concerns of potential customers and support continued sales of Tesla's cars. In reality, the bigger issue is likely to be recharging around town. That's where most drivers spend their time.

Increasing demand
Interestingly, car charging companies are expanding into new areas. One such comapny is expanding its presence at Federal Realty Investment Trust's (NYSE: FRT  ) Santana Row, an upscale mall in California. The tiny company says there's been enough demand at this property to support additional charging stations.

Federal Realty's Santana Row is almost a perfect location for charging stations. The facility offers 70 shops, 20 restaurants, a hotel, movie theater, over 600 apartments, and 65,000 square feet of Class A office space in environmentally conscious California. And hosting car charging companies is not only a revenue enhancer, it also burnishes Federal Realty's image. The company has charging stations at other properties, too, like Bethesda Row and Pentagon Row on the East Coast.

Another big-name REIT customer is Simon Property Group (NYSE: SPG  ) . For example, the company offers electric vehicle charging stations in its King of Prussia mall in Pennsylvania. It only has two stations, near high-end retailer Nordstrom, but that just goes to show that the real value may be more about appearance than usefulness, at least for now. And, like Federal Realty, Simon has the stations at other malls and discount outlets, too.

Not just REITs
REITs are really a tailor-made group for offering such electric car services. That's true for everything from office buildings to malls to apartments. However, examples of companies getting in on the act go beyond REITs -- Walgreens (NASDAQ: WBA  ) is trying to get in the game of hosting charging stations.

Source: Felix Kramer.

But it's a little hard to see the benefit for Walgreens. The company's stores are often stand-alone, and most people don't spend great lengths of time in a pharmacy. Sure, the charging stations allow Walgreens to talk up its environmental image, but they could wind up costing the charging companies more to maintain than they make.

That's why Simon's malls and Federal Realty's mixed-use properties are likely better fits. While hosting a car charging station shouldn't be a make-or-break issue for investors, it is an interesting tangent to watch. For REITs that serve high-end customers with destination properties, it could be a nice additional amenity. For other companies, like retailer Walgreens, or perhaps a local strip mall REIT, it could just mean fewer parking spaces in the lot.  

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Read/Post Comments (10) | Recommend This Article (5)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 5:15 PM, TslaRcr wrote:

    Tesla publicity stunt ? Are you kidding ? You should do your homework.

    The Tesla network of superchargers is already operational and the most advanced anywhere in the world. You can recharge the car in half an hour. It's comparable to refilling a gas tank, and it's free. I have personally used it to drive from San Diego to Phoenix.

    Other people are driving across the country already. So Tesla cars can be used for long distance trips just as effectively as gasoline cars.

    Gasoline cars are going to be in museums a decade or two from now.

  • Report this Comment On January 25, 2014, at 11:47 PM, mikeflores2000 wrote:

    In California, $2k to $10k is the installation fee for a second electric meter at your home providing

    cheap electricity at 11 cents per kwHr.

    Otherwise exceeding baselines on primary could cost up to 50 cents per kwHr.

    A 500 kwHr monthly use runs about $250

    assuming your house exceeds baseline 1000 kwHr:

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:03 PM, kca124cain wrote:

    Tslarcr, I often drive louisville to Denver. About 1100 miles.

    In my car, I have to stop 2 times for gas. The trip takes 16.5 hours and I dont exceed the speed limit by more than 5 mph.

    In a Tesla, I would have to change my route, adding 400 miles, and stop 7 times for 1/2 hr each time. This would make the entire trip about 26 hours. More like traveling in the 1950's.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:14 PM, kca124cain wrote:

    The Supercharging stations are not equipped to charge the Roadster. I wonder how those owners feel about being obsoleted.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 12:41 PM, JUAN wrote:


  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 1:20 PM, MarkHBABR wrote:

    It is early days for electric cars, which is why I got an EREV instead. My Volt doesn't need electricity, but I do like to keep my gasoline use down so I do take advantage of free chargers in my neighborhood. They are a pretty good deal for both the business owners and for me.

    I usually plug in for an hour or two, have a coffee, grab lunch at a cafe and maybe grab some groceries. The electricity costs the mall owner 18 cents an hour of my being plugged in. I like the fact that he wants my business and I am a pretty loyal shopper now.

    But what is really interesting about all this is just how fast electric cars are improving. My Volt has seen its MSRP drop 14% in 3 years and its range increase 8%. Batteries are the big issue right now, and they are getting cheaper, lighter and smaller every year.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 6:29 PM, DrG wrote:

    How about at a restaurant. You get your car some charging while you get dinner! I understand that charging fully can take hours so this would have to be a boost. Yea, call it a boost station.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 9:57 PM, JPWhiteHome wrote:

    Taking a shot at Walgreens is rather unfair. They have made an attempt to place Quick charge equipment at their locations where possible. They are one of the few retailers that actually get it. If you are going to take shots, take shots at McDonalds, now there is a useless location for 240v EVSE's.

  • Report this Comment On January 26, 2014, at 11:27 PM, jeffhre wrote:

    mikeflores2000, do people often need 500kWh a month for a car? I'm usually below 500kWh a month with house AND car.

    I drove about 12,300 miles on EV last year, in Southern California, and saved about $100 a month over the gas I burned when I drove my Civic. I didn't install a second meter since I have often driven about 60 miles around town and I can easily refill when the car is parked at home for more miles each day. And 40 miles a day is 14,600 miles a year, so a second meter serves no purpose for my driving style.

  • Report this Comment On January 28, 2014, at 1:13 PM, pokerbrokerOH wrote:

    Wow, the opening statement here is just flat wrong... charging infrastructure "around town" is significantly LESS important than infrastructure between metropolitan areas... when driving "around town", EV owners have the luxury of charging in their own garage 98% of the time. As car companies focus on longer and longer range vehicles a metropolitan charging infrastructure will become obsolete.

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Reuben Gregg Brewer believes dividends are a window into a company's soul. He tries to invest in good souls.

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