Buying an electric car opens up a whole new world of driving, like never having to pay for a single drop of gas. However, just because you’ve bought an electric car or truck doesn’t mean you should waste time and money when it comes time to charge it up.
Recharging an electric vehicle (EV) battery costs less than filling a tank of gas. But when you do a little research and planning, you can find a number of free charging stations for electric vehicles.
According to the US Department of Energy, 80% of electric car charging is done at home. But what about those times when you need a charge during a road trip or if you didn’t access a charging station before getting behind the wheel?
Use the tools and advice of our experts to get you and your electric car charged for free in a wide variety of driving scenarios.
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Where can I charge my electric car for free?
The good news is that there are several convenient ways to recharge without spending money, and an important first step is to use the power of your smartphone. The PlugShare app allows EV drivers to filter through all kinds of charging stations, including those that are completely free.
Available on Apple and Android smartphones, PlugShare encourages users to provide real-time information on the location and status of charging stations. After all, a free charger is useless if all the places are full or if it is out of order when you stop with low battery.
ChargePoint is another great resource to help find a free charging station. Regardless, it’s a good tip to download multiple apps for the chargers you use regularly. Also, you may simply prefer the UI of one over the other.
Charging station providers like Electrify America and EVgo will also show you information about station locations. Sometimes they offer promotions involving free top-ups at convenient locations for you at special times of the year. They can also offer rewards that provide benefits to subscribers, such as free upload after earning enough points.
EVgo Rewards, for example, gives subscribers $10 free load once they accumulate 2,000 points. With this program, one dollar of charge equals five points earned.
Your city or town utility company may also provide free public chargers or programs. You can find such free chargers in shopping malls and other mall parking lots, hotels and casinos, and even in recreational areas managed by the National Park Service. Some car dealers may also provide some form of free electric vehicle charging.
What You Should Know About Free Electric Vehicle Chargers
The best things in life can be free, even if they are not always the most convenient. A free EV charger will most likely offer a slower level 2 charging rate. Generally speaking, this provides around 20 miles of range when an EV is plugged in for about an hour. DC fast charging, or level 3 chargers, are much faster and 30 minutes might be enough for a full charge. Although finding a free one might require a little more searching.
Lines for free charging stations can also be long, or there may be no empty chargers when you arrive at a destination and need to connect. If you’re going to be driving in an unfamiliar area and you know you’ll be close to your EV’s maximum range, make sure you have a backup plan in case the intended free EV charger isn’t available.
Tips for Finding Free Chargers in Public
As already mentioned, free chargers are often placed in high-traffic areas such as shopping malls, airports, or popular fast-food chains and supermarkets. Your town or city can operate free charging stations to promote clean energy and encourage drivers to visit your hubs or other shopping malls. Using an app to find these charging stations is an invaluable tool for any EV owner.
Even if a charger isn’t free, keep in mind that the EV you purchased might come with some kind of charging incentive. Tesla owners who purchased their vehicle before 2017 have free, perpetual access to the automaker’s network of Supercharger stations.
Electrify America, one of the largest providers of charging stations, has partnered with several automakers to offer free charging for a specified period of time or a certain number of kilowatt hours of charging. The Ford F-150 Lightning Electric Pickup and Hyundai Kona Electric SUV each come with 250kWh of free charging through Electrify America, which equates to roughly 1,000 miles of free charging. So if you’re shopping for an EV, remember to ask if the make and model that catches your eye comes with an added benefit, like free charging.