Free Charging Coming to 900 Skylark Restaurants in Japan

Posted by Stephen On Thursday, May 24th, 2012

Yes, you read that right: The Skylark restaurant group in Japan is going to be offering free EV recharging at their 900 locations around Japan.

What’s more, the free recharges aren’t just for customers! There’s not even an obligation to buy.

If you are familiar with the concept of a “loss leader” you will see what they’re doing here: Tempt you into their parking lot with a free battery top up and not only will you feel psychological pressure to reciprocate by making a purchase, but they are obviously hoping that you will bring your spouse and kids in for a full meal — starter, main course, drinks dessert and all.

Skylark Gusto restaurant offers free EV recharging in Japan

As someone who knows Japan, something else I find striking is that handing out freebies for using your lot as a parking space really goes against the retail culture. You see, this is a country where malls in particular will often charge you a parking fee unless you can prove you have made a minimum purchase of several thousand Yen.

Initially, the chargers will be standard “slow” chargers, but if you combine a meal with a bit of shopping, you could end up with a quarter to a third of a “tank” for free. Skylark will be gradually supplementing these with fast chargers as well, so customers will be able to get a full charge while they eat.

Theoretically you could tour the entire country paying nothing for your travel and eating cheap at Skylark’s restaurants. Of course, all this is in the future, as they are currently working on 9 “Gusto” restaurants — one each in Kanagawa, Saitama, Kyoto, Nara and Shiga, but this will increase to a third of their locations in the next five years.

It’s all going to cost Skylark several million dollars to complete each project, but they expect the typical recharge will only set them back a few tens of Yen. (This is assuming that there is any electricity left to be handed out for free in a country that’s going cold turkey turning off nuclear power generation.)

Of course, these will all be in addition to the charging points springing up around Japan in car dealerships (right now 25% of Mitsubishi dealers — about 180 dealerships — have chargers up and running), convenience stores (the big players like Lawson, Family Mart and Circle K together have 51 installations) and other locations.

But you can’t argue with free. And the sheer scale of Skylark’s plans is impressive, even when compared with the automakers’ own.

Source: Nikkei (Japanese-language)

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