03/08/2011 08:40 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Japanese Vending Machines Connect With Electric Car Chargers

Vending machines in Japan will now offer not just candy bars, chips, and soda, but also electric car chargers.

According to an AFP report, ten Japanese companies recently announced plans to install 10,000 electric vehicle chargers at vending machine sites in the first year of their project.

One of the companies is Forking Co., a large vending machine operator tied to companies that own half of the nation’s vending machines -- 1.2 million machines. According to The Nikkei, Forking Co. will offer free lease of a charging station for every two vending machines. They will be installed for free and serviced by the involved companies.

SoftBank Telecom and SoftBank Mobile will provide communications services for the charging systems.

Electric car skeptics often argue that cars will run out of juice before reaching another charging site. The rollout of new charging locations is a proactive way for electric carmakers to address this concern. Unique charging ideas are now popping up around the U.S. as well.

Cracker Barrel, a restaurant and store chain proud of its old-fashioned style, has recently launched a pilot project to install electric vehicle chargers at 24 Tennessee restaurants. McDonalds unveiled one of their first restaurants with a car charging station back in 2009. Half-Price Books installed Dallas-Forth Worth’s first station last year, and encouraged drivers to shop while waiting for the charger. Starwood Hotels offers charging stations at some of their Element hotel sites.

Many environmentalists are heralding the vending machine/charging station as a positive step for the green movement. But it is worth considering whether it is appropriate to pair a green technology with devices that are known to dispense plastic-wrapped processed food and contribute to the 50 billion plastic bottles wasted in the U.S. alone per year. What do you think -- is this pairing innovative or contradictory?