Finding reliable, free EV chargers is one of the greatest joys of owning an electric car. While fueling an electric vehicle is significantly cheaper than buying gasoline, especially with rising prices, things are always better when they’re free or at a discount.
But finding a free charging station is not as easy as discovering how to find cheap gasoline. It’s not like there are giant signs in the street announcing the prices to everyone who passes by. Luckily, it’s not that hard to find out where they are, and even if they’re currently in use.
Read on for tips on finding free EV chargers near you.
Use Plugshare to find free EV chargers
The best and easiest way to find a free EV charger is the same way you would find any other public charging point. In the words of Jobs-era Apple, there’s an app for that.
There are countless apps designed to get you to and from EV charging stations. The trick is to find the ones that allow you to filter by price and have a free or $0 option.
Our favorite option, and perhaps the easiest, is Plugshare. Apparently 7 out of 10 EV owners have downloaded this app, and it’s one of the best ways to track down EV chargers in North America. Not only does it have a filter allowing you to remove all chargers that require payment, but there is also a map dedicated to finding free charging stations for EVs (opens in a new tab).
Plugshare also emphasizes information crowdsourcing, allowing EV owners to edit station information or report any outdated information. So you can be sure that all stations that are not actually free will be blocked pretty quickly.
Green slots are AC chargers, using either a J-1772 or Tesla socket, and are designed to charge your car in hours. Orange slots are fast chargers, which can charge you in less than an hour. Fast chargers are generally more expensive, so if you come across free ones, you should take full advantage of them while you can.
If Plugshare isn’t to your liking, ChargePoint and Chargehub allow you to filter by price and search for free chargers.
Recharge at Volta’s free charging stations
If you’ve ever seen an EV charger in a supermarket or mall parking lot, chances are it’s a Volta. Volta is a “commerce-centric” charging network that installs chargers for businesses, so their customers can plug in and get a few miles back.
The real benefit here is that Volta’s chargers are free to use. Since each charging point is also a mini billboard, with advertisements, the company can offer you EV charging at no cost to you. The only catch is that most Volta chargers have a time limit – often around two hours – after which you’ll have to skedaddle.
But free is free, and you can track down your nearest Volta charger using Volta chargers map (opens in a new tab) or by downloading the official mobile application (available on iOS (opens in a new tab) and android (opens in a new tab)).
And if the free top up wasn’t enough, Volta doesn’t require you to create an account or subscription to top up. Some DC fast chargers may require you to register on the app, but if not, you can just park and plug in.
Buy a car with free EV charging benefits
Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a brand new electric vehicle is not the best way to save money in the short term. But if you had your heart set on buying an electric vehicle in the near future, remember that some of the best electric cars come with free charging benefits.
For example, the Genesis GV60, which just went on sale in the US, comes with free charging on the Electrify America network. That means you get absolutely free 30-minute charging sessions for three years. The ultra-premium lucid look comes with unlimited Electrify America charging for three years, while the Cadillac Lyriq will come with two years of unlimited charging with EVgo.
Be sure to check out our list of Electric vehicles with free chargingand see if your dream car is on the list.
Get discounted EV charging with a subscription
If it’s not possible to get a free charger or it’s too inconvenient to be worth it, there are ways to save money on your car charging bills. Much like how you can purchase subscriptions to get gas discounts, there are services that offer discounted EV charging in exchange for a one-time monthly subscription.
Electrifying America Pass Plus (opens in a new tab) the subscription costs $4 per month and promises to save you around 25% on your charging costs. The Electrify America example says that while everyone has to pay $0.43 per kWh, Pass Plus members only pay $0.31 kWh.
12 cents might not seem like a lot, but it adds up – and you’re back $4 after recovering just 34 kWh of energy. As an indication, the cheapest Nissan Leaf has a 40 kWh battery, which means the subscription would pay for itself in just 1-2 charges.
EVgo employs a similar system (opens in a new tab), although it does have two membership tiers that can save you some cash. The first is the basic EVgo subscription, which is technically free, but requires you to load $5 credit into your account each month. This credit can be spent, but will expire at the end of each month. What is worth bearing in mind.
However, EVgo members benefit from certain advantages. They don’t have to pay session fees or charger reservations, which cost non-members $0.99 and $3 each way, respectively. They also save money, but how much depends on the location. In most of California, EVgo charges $0.39 per kWh of electricity to nonmembers. Meanwhile, EVgo members get it for $0.35 per kWh.
However, the biggest savings come from the EVgo Plus level. There are no session or reservation fees to be seen here, and you save even more money on your top-up. That’s $0.30 per kWh in California, 5 cents less than being a nonmember. There are no prepaid credit shenanigans either, although you have to part with $7 a month to get those savings.
EVCS‘ unlimited subscription (opens in a new tab) is another option, but it’s only available to residents of West Coast states, primarily Oregon and Washington, although there are a handful of chargers in California and more “coming soon”. EVCS charges $50 per month, but in exchange for such high fees, you get unlimited charging each month – with a one-month free trial.
Blink also offers a free membership (opens in a new tab), which promises a saving of at least 20% on charging at any Blink location in the United States. Anyone can use a Blink charger, member or not, but without signing up you’ll miss out on those savings. Membership also allows you to track charging progress and real-time charger status information.