When Tolland-based Juice Bar began readying their electric vehicle charging stations for the marketplace in 2010, there was not a single mass-produced plug-in electric vehicle yet on the market and only several hundred on the road.
But what a difference three years can make. Electric vehicle sales just recently crossed the 100,000 mark since mass produced plug-in cars appeared on the market in late 2010. And many parking lots and other facilities are looking for a way to woo electric car owners – many of whom have high incomes and favor parking at locations where they can plug in and top off their cars.
Juice Bar began as a spinoff of ProPark, a Hartford-based parking management company that has locations in 12 states plus the District of Columbia. The company found that after working on a green parking facility for the Denver International Airport, existing vehicle charging stations did not help promote a green facility’s brand. The chargers on the market were not very attractive and often hard to find within a parking garage.
Juice Bar managing partner David Schmid said they needed a “green garage oasis” and that meant developing an attractive product that was more than just an electrical appliance.
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With that idea in mind, the company approached BMW Designworks, an industrial design consultancy owned by the automaker of the same name. Each of the large units comes with the ability to charge four vehicles simultaneously and has an attractive design with back-lit signage that just happens to be the same color as electricity.
Schmid said the company also sought the help of CTNext – a network of entrepreneurs who provide consultation and other support services to growing companies. Schmid said the CTNext involvement was helpful in narrowing their focus during product development.
“We maybe had too many ideas for the marketplace,” Schmid said, “They helped us lens in and focus in on the 3 or 4 or 5 areas that we needed to really understand.”
Juice Bars are typically installed at the entrances of facilities to catch attention, and have additional lighting and interior design enhancements. A Juice Bar location at the New Haven Omni Hotel has bright white race deck flooring and LED accent lighting to enhance its appeal.
Schmid is finding that once installed, electric vehicle owners tend to show up in droves. When the company finished its first installation at their 777 Main Street facility in Hartford, five vehicles showed up within days to charge. They are now adding additional charging infrastructure as demand grows.
“We like to call our juice bars hummingbird feeders,” Schmid said.