Japan's Vending Machines Dispense Drinks for People, Juice for Cars

Parched on the pavement, you pull over for a pit stop – a precious pause to replenish your perspiration at one of Japan's over 2 million outdoor beverage vending machines. Wouldn't it be nice if you could juice up your electric vehicle at the same time? It would, and soon you can: over the next year up to 10,000 electric vehicle chargers will be installed at existing locations of outdoor beverage vending machines.

The plan is being put into action by a consortium of 10 Japanese companies that includes charging unit manufacturer Panasonic and Forking Co., who own approximately 1.2 million vending machines. Reiko Kobayashi, a spokesperson for Forking, indicated that future generations of vending machines could incorporate beverages and charging units in the same machine.

Automakers including Nissan, who introduced the all-electric Leaf in 2010, are finding that potential customers have concerns about the availability of charging stations when away from their homes and/or workplaces. By instituting a wide-ranging network of electric vehicle charging stations at existing highway rest stops where beverage vending machines have already been installed, a major roadblock to electric vehicle sales may perhaps be removed or at least significantly reduced. (via Smartplanet and AFP, Hello Kitty vending machine image via Sosonko)

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Steve Levenstein