03/26/2012 | by
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As electric cars quickly gain traction among drivers, those consumers will be looking for convenient places to "charge up." Regency Centers Corp. (NYSE: REG) announced on March 22 that it has installed electric vehicle (EV) charging stations at 19 of its community shopping centers across the country.

The retail REIT partnered with ECOtality, Inc., a company the develops clean energy and electric transportation technologies, to pilot the installation of the charging stations at select grocery-anchored and community shopping centers in Arizona, California, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C.

"From a sustainability standpoint, we're always looking to where the trends are, and this is an area we're looking at that will be in demand from customers and tenants alike," said Scott Prigge, Regency's senior vice president for national property operations.

Prigge said that based on the results of its initial rollout, Regency plans to deploy EV chargers at additional properties.

"We've heard from some of our properties that they've seen people using the charging stations. It's slowly starting to catch on," Prigge said. "Right now we are monitoring it to just try and get a better understanding of who's using the vehicles. We're hearing that more places want to test it. They look at it more as shopper convenience."

Colin Read, vice president of corporate development at ECOtality, said that the company's goal has been to deploy a network of chargers that are conveniently placed for consumers. "Aligning ourselves with major property owners is a key part of achieving that goal," Read explained.

Prigge added that one of the goals of installing the charging stations at retail centers is to "enhance the customer experience and hopefully their shopping times." Fully charging a vehicle can take as long as two hours.

There will be a cost to access the EV chargers to cover operational costs, including electricity. Prigge said that the fee ranges from $1.25 to $2.00 per hour based upon membership type and region of the country.

As consumers seek more cost-effective and energy-efficient commuting options, auto industry analysts expect the numbers of EV drivers to increase. In President Obama's 2011 State of the Union address, he said that his goal is to have more than 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Regency joins regional mall REIT Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG) among the commercial real estate property owners that are installing charging stations. Simon Property unveiled its first EV charging station in Orlando in April 2011. Since that time, Simon has installed more than a dozen charging stations at its properties.