Is Costco really removing plug-in vehicle charging stations?

Recently, dissent has been bubbling up on plug-in vehicle discussion forums recently about Costco's anti-electric vehicle nerve. Specifically, the shopping center giant has reportedly been removing a bunch of already-installed plug-in vehicle chargers at some California store locations. Plug In America responded with an action alert that saw hundreds of plug-in supporters contact Costco's CEO to ask that his company replace the old units instead.

Wait, what's that about old units? Ah, yes. See, the chargers that are going away were the old-style paddle/AVCON chargers, which are not compatible with the new generation of plug-in vehicles. Plug In America's press release on the matter says that, old-school EV drivers are still using Costco's "60 charging stations around California. However, at least a dozen of these Costco charging stations have been removed or are scheduled to be removed."

There's really no reason Costco shouldn't perform the upgrades, since it won't cost the company any money. The California Energy Commission has something called the "ReConnect California" program, a partnership with ClipperCreek, that lets owners of the old AVCON charging equipment upgrade them to to J1772 units at no cost. Why this isn't happening is confusing, so we contacted Costco for some sort of explanation but have not yet heard back. We'll let you know when we do.
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Retail Chain Has Declined to Upgrade the Chargers for Free Through California State Grant Program

SAN FRANCISCO, CA; AUG. 15, 2011--After a Plug In America action alert, 735 electric vehicle (EV) drivers and supporters nationwide have sent emails since Sunday morning (8/14) to James Sinegal, CEO of Costco, urging the company to stop removing EV charger stations in California and instead upgrade them for free through a state grant program.

"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. "As we live high up in the San Bernardino Mountains, having the ability to charge our car at Costco down in the valley would make the round trip to two of your stores convenient for us. Stores that support our desire to reduce our dependence on petroleum are much more likely to get our business."

Costco has been a pioneer along with those who purchased EVs in the 1990s and early 2000s. Hundreds of these vehicles, saved by the EV advocates who founded Plug In America, are still being driven by their owners, many of whom are still utilizing Costco's 60 charging stations around California. However, at least a dozen of these Costco charging stations have been removed or are scheduled to be removed.

Furthermore, even while several large retail chains--Best Buy, Ikea and Walgreens among them--have announced ambitious plans to install EV chargers, and thousands of new EVs are hitting the road, Costco has declined to participate in a California Energy Commission (CEC) grant program that pays all expenses to upgrade legacy charging equipment to new stations that are compatible with the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt and many others soon to follow.

"Costco corporate officials have told Plug In America that the company has decided not to participate in the California Energy Commission grant program," said Plug In America co-founder Marc Geller.

"Plug In America urges Costco to rethink their decision," Geller said, "maintain their existing infrastructure, take advantage of the state grant, and start planning for expansion of their charging network."

About Plug In America: Plug In America is leading the nation's plug-in vehicle movement. The nonprofit organization works to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment.

Plug In America Action Alert

Now that thousands of new plug-in cars are being delivered, why is Costco ripping out many of their charging stations, such as the one in Rohnert Park pictured here? Why won't Costco take advantage of a California state grant to upgrade charging stations to the new standard used by the Chevy Volt, Nissan LEAF, and every plug-in car coming to showrooms in the coming years?

We drivers of electric cars will always be grateful to Costco. Costco deserves praise for its early support for electric cars. Hundreds of thousands of miles of petroleum-free, emission-free driving (and thousands of hours of Costco shopping) have been enabled by the existence of the electric vehicle charge stations hosted by Costco. The charging stations installed over ten years ago have survived thanks to Costco's leadership and the volunteer efforts of the drivers of electric vehicles, along with Plug In America and the Electric Auto Association.

The time has come to let Costco know loud and clear of our support for their electric car charging stations. The best way for members to communicate with Costco is through their in-store suggestion boxes.

Visit your local Costco and drop a note in the box. You can download Costco's member feedback form here.

If your Costco has charge stations, thank them and ask them to keep them. And ask them to upgrade the old stations to J1772 while maintaining the stations used by RAV4 EVs. If they've yanked them out already, let them know of your disappointment.

In addition, send Costco CEO Jim Sinegal an email. Just click and send, or better yet, personalize your letter with your experience and hopes for Costco charging, along with your Costco Membership #.

If you can make a donation to Plug In America, now is a great time. Campaigns like this take time and resources.

Thank you

Dan Davids
President, Plug in America

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