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Ecotality to Install 225 Electric-Car Chargers at Kroger Stores

Ecotality Inc., the operator of the second-largest U.S. network of public electric-car charging stations, plans to install about 225 chargers at Kroger Co. stores, mostly in California and Arizona.

Adding chargers in markets including Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles will bring the total number at the nation’s largest grocery chain to about 300, according to a statement today from the companies.

Ecotality, based in San Francisco, is focusing its expansion efforts in the West, where about 75 percent of electric cars are sold, said Chief Executive Officer Ravi Brar.

“We have an immense amount of information coming from that network that tells us the frequency of usage, duration of usage, reliability factors and all sorts of info that lets us hone in on a particular location and say, ‘That one needs an expansion,’” Brar said in an interview.

Each company is investing about $1.5 million in this expansion, Brar said. Kroger already has 60 charging station in Oregon and Washington state and 14 in Texas.

Ecotality has about 4,000 public chargers, a figure that may expand to 5,000 by the third quarter, Brar said. Drivers pay between $1 and $2 an hour to charge vehicles at its Blink stations.

Kroger uses data from the charging stations to study the shopping habits of electric-vehicle-driving customers, who typically spend 30 minutes longer in stores than owners of gas-powered vehicles, said Brian Koontz, Ecotality’s director of strategic corporate development. Kroger may eventually use the information to promote specific products to those drivers.

“Kroger really saw the value, early on, in having a consistent, interconnected network,” Koontz said. “It’s not just about putting charging stations out there -- it’s about having a smart network.”

Ecotality last month announced an agreement to link its network with the largest U.S. system, operated by Campbell, California-based ChargePoint Inc., giving drivers access to about 90 percent of the approximately 15,000 stations in the U.S.

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