A project to install electric vehicle charging infrastructure at Japanese retail stores, such as supermarkets, is set to get underway.

In November, Tokyo-based VPP Japan, whose shareholders include general trader Itochu and Electric Power Development, the wholesale electric utility known as J-Power, will start installing charging systems equipped with solar panels at retail shops.

The shops will not have to pay for the equipment.

The systems boast about 20% lower costs thanks to the solar panels.

The presence of chargers at conspicuous retail locations is expected to expand the use of electric vehicles.

Japanese automakers including Nissan Motor and Toyota Motor are seeking to increase unit sales of electric vehicles. However, they face the issue of inadequate availability of chargers, as electric vehicles typically have a range of 200-300 km on a single charge, much less than with gasoline-powered cars.

There are some 38,000 electric vehicle chargers, including quick chargers, in operation across Japan. Among major retailers, supermarket operator Aeon and convenience store chain Lawson have set up chargers at their outlets. VPP Japan’s initiative is unique because it is not a retail company and will use space at third-party locations.

VPP Japan’s plan is to offer to install, at no cost, the partially solar-powered chargers at dozens of supermarkets and other retail facilities in the Kanto region around Tokyo and other locations across Japan by the end of next March. It plans to increase the number to 100 in the first two years.

VPP Japan will cover the cost of installing the solar panels and regular chargers, the latter of which cost over 100,000 yen ($920) apiece.

To pay for installing the equipment, the company plans to sell electricity generated by the solar panels to the host retailers and users of the EV chargers.

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