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7 Free and Easy Ways You Can Charge Your EV

 7 Free and Easy Ways You Can Charge Your EV


EV charging costs less than filling a gas tank. And with the right planning you could charge for free.

Public EV charging stations are finally growing. The number of electric vehicle charging stations across the US has nearly doubled — from 87,352 to 161,562 over the last three years and experts believe this growth trend will continue. According to the The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, at least 140,000 of these charging stations are available to the public — versus private access like a workplace. 

Public charging stations usually charge by the kilowatt hour or for the amount of time you’re plugged in. But there are ways you can fuel up your EV at no cost, from manufacturer incentives to ad-driven hookups. However, these no-fee charging options are likely to shrink over time. 

“As more and more people are adopting electric vehicles, free charging perks will slowly subside, and it will be a charge for charge,” says Grant Gold, director of real estate solutions at EV Connect.

Until then, find out how savvy motorists are getting a free charge.

A chart showing the upward growth of public and private charging ports since 2019 A chart showing the upward growth of public and private charging ports since 2019

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, public charging has experienced tremendous growth since 2019 and accounting for about 88% of all charging ports. Public charging infrastructure is an important part of EV adoption as it supports long-distance travel those without access to home charging.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory

1. Charge for free while you shop

Some larger chain businesses offer free charging as a customer perk (and to keep you in the store longer). There are no-fee stations at dozens of Macy’s department stores and Cinemark movie theaters, for example.

Kohl’s also offers free charging at select locations, as do supermarkets like Fred Meyer, Stop & Shop, Harris Teeter, Kroger, Safeway and Whole Foods.

2. Charge for free while checked in at a hotel

A number of hotels and inns offer free EV charging for guests, including select Marriott and Hilton locations. Tesla and owners of other EVs can also charge their vehicles for free when they stay or eat at Radisson hotels.

The software of the charging station “allows the site host to control the pricing,” Gold says. “The hotel will have the option to use it as an incentive to attract guests or they can charge what they want on an individual basis.”

Check ahead before making a reservation, or visit charging map services such as PlugShare, ChargeFinder or ChargeHub to view the status of area stations.

3. Charge for free while attending school

Many colleges have EV charging on campus. Some make it free for students, professors and staff and, on some campuses, even visitors.

Santa Clara University, the University of Florida and the University of Buffalo, for example, all provide free charging in partnership with ChargePoint.

Typically, there are restrictions: The University of Florida, for example, enforces a four-hour time limit, and you must have a university parking sticker if you’re charging before 4:30 p.m. 

4. Charge for free while visiting a national park

There are more than 140 chargers available across 23 parks and campgrounds nationwide, according to Kampgrounds of America. Some are free, including six Level 2 charging stations at the Oasis at Death Valley in California, which are powered by the resort’s onsite solar field.

Rivian sponsors dozens of Waypoint chargers at California’s Yosemite National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area. In a partnership with Adopt a Charger, the EV automaker is set to fund 10 years of operation and maintenance costs for both.

In January 2022, Rivian announced plans to install 10,000 more Waypoint chargers across the US and Canada by the end of 2023, including in the majority of Tennessee and Colorado state parks.

You can find a map of EV charging stations in the National Park System.

5. Charge for free while watching a commercial

There are more than 3,600 Volta charging stalls across 35 US states and territories, mostly in shopping malls, stadiums, amusement parks and hospitals in major cities. 

Volta was acquired by Shell in 2023 and uses an ad-supported model, meaning you’ll be exposed to a host of ads at the charging station. But, Volta offers EV drivers access to Level 2 charging for 30 minutes for free — which equals about 35 miles of range. You can download the Volta Charging app to find a station nearest you.

An ad-sponsored volta charging station An ad-sponsored volta charging station

Volta

6. Get in on manufacturer incentives

Many automakers offer free charging packages to attract new customers. Tesla no longer provides unlimited free Supercharging with new models, but it often offers complimentary charging promotions to boost sales, like at the end of a quarter.

EV manufacturer incentives

Model Offer Network
Audi e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT Free unlimited DC charging for three years Electrify America
Audi e-tron and Q4 e-tron 250 kWh of free charging for two years Electrify America
BMW i4 and iX Free unlimited DC charging for the first 30 minutes for two years Electrify America
BMW i7 Free unlimited DC charging for three years Electrify America
Cadillac Lyriq Free charging for two years if buyer doesn’t choose a home installation credit EVgo
Chevrolet Bolt and Bolt EUV $500 credit to use at any EVgo charging station if buyer doesn’t choose a home installation credit EVgo
Ford F-150 Lightning 250 kWh of free charging Electrify America
Ford Mustang Mach-E 250 kWh of free charging Electrify America
Genesis Electrified G80, GV70 and GV60 Free unlimited DC charging for the first 30 minutes or Level 2 charging for the first 60 minutes for three years. Electrify America
Honda Prologue Up to $750 EVgo credit if buyer doesn’t choose installation credit, plus 60 kWh Electrify America charge allowance EVgo, Electrify America
Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Ioniq 6 Free unlimited DC charging for the first 30 minutes for two years. Electrify America
Hyundai Kona Electric 250 kWh of free charging Electrify America
Kia EV6 and EV9 1,000 kWh of free charging for three years Electrify America
Kia Niro EV 500 kWh of free charging for three years Electrify America
Mercedes-Benz EQB, EQE, EQE SUV, EQS and EQS SUV Free unlimited DC charging for the first 30 minutes for two years. Electrify America
Nissan Ariya Free unlimited DC charging for one year EVgo
Nissan Leaf $100 credit to use at any EVgo station EVgo
Polestar 2 $2,500 charging credit for three years Evie
Porsche Taycan Free unlimited DC charging for the first 30 minutes, or 60 minutes for regular charging, for three years. Electrify America
Subaru Solterra $400 credit to use at any EVgo charging station if buyer doesn’t choose installation credit EVgo
Toyota bZ4X Free unlimited DC charging for one year at any EVgo station EVgo
Volkswagen ID.4 Free unlimited DC charging for the first 30 minutes for three years. Electrify America
Volvo C40 Recharge and XC40 Recharge 250 kWh of free charging for three years, plus a 12-month Electrify America Pass+ membership Electrify America

7. Search for free charging on a charging map 

In addition to the options cited above, there are hundreds of libraries, museums, government offices, nonprofits and private businesses that offer free EV charging. 

Charging map services such as PlugShare, ChargeFinder or ChargeHub show stations across the country, with a setting for free chargers. Just go to the filters and find the option for free charging.

You can also get information on how many minutes you can charge, at what level, the status of the station and more.

Since much of this info is primarily crowdsourced, you may want to double-check its accuracy. 

PlugShare map of EV charging stations in the US PlugShare map of EV charging stations in the US

PlugShare

Read on: 12 Places That Offer EV Charging While You Shop



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