Executive Director, Downtown Westfield Corporation
October 8, 2021
Are you looking for a new way to spark up your downtown district? Could your downtown use a recharge? If the answer to these questions is yes, then you should consider adding new electric vehicle charging stations to your business district!
You’ve all undoubtedly been reading about the electric vehicle (EV) revolution that is currently taking place across the country (and around the world). According to Edmunds, one of the nation’s leading authorities on the automotive industry, 2021 will be a pivotal year for electric vehicles, with sales rising from 1.9 to 2.5 percent of the market and a slew of new models of electric vehicles arriving in car showrooms. In fact, Edmunds anticipates that 30 EVs from 21 brands in all three major vehicle categories (cars, SUVs, and trucks) will become available for sale this year, compared to only 17 vehicles from 12 brands in 2020.
Clearly, it’s not just Tesla’s world any longer.
Last year, the town council in Westfield unanimously approved a contract with Volta, a national company that manufactures and installs public electric vehicle charging stations, to mount six EV stations in 3 separate locations downtown at no cost to the municipality. Volta is able to offer this service free of charge because they make their money on advertising, as their charging stations come with extra-large screens perfectly suitable for display ads.
In my role as Executive Director of the Downtown Westfield Corporation, I worked with the Town of Westfield and Volta to promote the new charging stations as soon as they came online earlier this year. The result? They’re a huge success! In fact, the charging stations in our municipal parking lot adjacent to our local Trader Joe’s are the most used stations in the tri-state area, and the third most used in the entire country.
The benefits to Volta, or its competitors such as EVgo, Chargepoint, and Blink, are obvious, as they are all for-profit companies. But what about the benefits for our downtowns? Let’s examine why it makes sense for New Jersey downtowns to explore adding EV charging stations as part of their parking matrix.
First, EV charging stations offer those who already drive electric vehicles a safe and secure means of charging their vehicles while also conducting commerce. A cursory review of shopping malls near Westfield shows that all of them employ EV charging stations in their parking lots. If our downtowns want to compete with malls and shopping centers, they will also need to step up and offer this service to attract customers.
Second, and tangential to the first point, is that with the amount of EV vehicles increasing each year, it won’t be long before EV charging stations will be essential in our downtowns if we still want people to shop and dine downtown. President Biden has set a national goal of 50% of all car sales in the U.S. being electric vehicles by 2030. What downtown wouldn’t want to prepare for the inevitability of electric vehicles becoming the new kings of the road?
Another benefit to downtown EV charging stations is that many of them (such as those produced by Volta) will give your local businesses an additional option to promote themselves locally through advertising. In fact, it may not be just your downtown businesses that can use these stations for promotion. Westfield’s agreement with Volta gives Downtown Westfield an opportunity to advertise our special events and programs completely free of charge.
Lastly, EV charging stations will give your downtown a dazzling new asset as you seek to attract more shoppers and diners to your downtown. These stations will provide a rapidly growing subset of our consumers, those who drive electric vehicles, with a reason to visit downtown. While their credits cards are being charged at great stores, service businesses and restaurants, their cars are charging outside, which gives all of us who manage downtowns a reason to get charged up!
The Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC) is the management entity of the Special Improvement District. Began as Main Street Westfield in 1993, the organization is run by a staff of three, a volunteer board of directors, and various committees. Westfield is a nationally designated Main Street Community. Check them out on the web westfieldtoday.com, or follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Pinterest.