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The charging port of a CT&T City EV e-Zone electric vehicle displayed during the press preview for the world automotive media North American International Auto Show at the Cobo Center January 12, 2010 in Detroit, Mich. - 

Kai Ryssdal: No doubt you're used to a little routine a lot of us have where you go shopping and just charge it. That phrase may soon have a whole new meaning. Macy's announced this week it's going to start installing charging stations for customers who drive electric vehicles. It's part of a government-funded project to promote the newest generation of electric cars -- the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt being the two most talked-about examples.

Sarah Gardner reports from the Marketplace Sustainability Desk that retailers may end up leading the charge toward the EV transition.

Sarah Gardner: "Might" is the operative word here. Macy's told us today this is a pilot project. They're installing a dozen electric car chargers at San Diego stores. The federal government is footing most of the bill. Its goal is 15,000 charging stations in six states.

Macy's Jim Sluzewski says the idea is:

Jim Sluzewski: To put charging stations in places where people are normally in the routine of their lives.

And there's nothing more routine for Americans than shopping, say electric car experts. Retailers are interested because they stand to gain customer goodwill, and the distinct possibility that drivers of electric cars will shop more as they wait to juice up their vehicles.

But it's not clear if it'll be free. The company making and installing the Macy's chargers told us today they'll initially charge a small fee, yet to be determined. But ECOtality president Don Karner says that business model may change in the future.

Don Karner: Couponing, and free charging if you buy a certain amount within the store.

Best Buy and Cracker Barrel have also signed deals with Karner's company. The drugstore chain Walgreens will offer the same service starting in the Dallas area, but with a different company that's offering drivers unlimited charging for $79 a month.

But the vast majority of charging stations won't be found at fast food outlets or shopping malls, at least initially. They'll be at home -- in owners' driveways.

I'm Sarah Gardner for Marketplace.

Follow Sarah Gardner at @RadioGardner