Finding reliable free EV chargers is one of the greatest joys of owning an electric car. While powering an electric vehicle is significantly cheaper than buying gas, especially with prices on the rise, things are always better when they’re free — or heavily discounted.
But finding a free charging point isn’t quite as simple as figuring out how to find cheap gas. Especially not when some idiotic lawmakers are trying to ban free chargers outright.
It’s not like there are giant signs on the street advertising prices to everyone that drives by. Thankfully it’s not that difficult to figure out where they are, and even if they’re currently in use. Read on for tips on how to find 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’d find any other public charging point. In the words of Jobs-era Apple, there’s an app for that.
There are countless apps out there designed to get you to and from EV charging stations. The trick is to find the ones that let you filter by price, and have free or $0 as some sort of option.
Our favorite, and possibly the simplest option, is Plugshare. Apparently 7 in 10 EV owners have this app downloaded, and it’s one of the best ways to hunt down EV chargers across North America. Not only does it have a filter letting you remove all chargers that require payment, there’s a map dedicated to finding free EV charging stations (opens in new tab).
Plugshare has a heavy focus on crowdsourcing information too, letting EV owners edit station information or report any out of date information. So you can be sure that any stations that aren’t actually free will be clamped down on pretty quickly.
Green locations are AC chargers, either using a J-1772 or Tesla plug, and are designed to recharge your car over a few hours. Orange locations are rapid chargers, which can top you up in less than an hour. Rapid chargers are usually more expensive, so if you come across any free ones you should take full advantage while you can.
If Plugshare isn’t to your taste, ChargePoint and Chargehub both let you filter by price and hunt down free chargers.
Recharge at Volta’s free EV chargers
If you’ve ever seen an EV charger in a supermarket or mall parking lot, there’s a very good chance it was a Volta. Volta is a “commerce-centric” charging network that installs chargers for businesses, so that their customers can plug in and regain some miles.
The real benefit here is that Volta’s chargers are free to use. Because each charging point is also a mini billboard, complete with ads, the company can offer 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 need to skedaddle.
But free is free, and you can hunt down your nearest Volta charger using Volta’s charger map (opens in new tab) or by downloading the official mobile app (available on iOS (opens in new tab) and Android (opens in new tab)).
And if free charging wasn’t enough, Volta doesn’t ask you to sign up for an account or membership to recharge. Some DC rapid chargers may require you to check-in on the app, but otherwise you can simply park up and plug in.
Buy a car with free EV charging perks
Spending tens of thousands of dollars on a brand new EV is not the best way to save money in the short term. But if you had your heart set on buying an EV in the near future, just remember that some of the best electric cars do come bundled with free charging perks.
For instance, the Genesis GV60, which just went on sale in the U.S., comes with free charging on the Electrify America network. That means you get 30-minute charging sessions, absolutely free, for three years. The ultra-premium Lucid Air 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 EVs that come with free charging, and see if your dream car is on the list.
Get discounted EV charging with a subscription
If getting a free charger isn’t possible, or too inconvenient to make it worth your while, there are ways to save money on your car charging bills. Much like how there you can take out subscriptions to get discounts on gasoline, there are services that offer discounted EV charging in exchange for a single monthly fee.
Electrify America’s Pass Plus (opens in new tab) subscription costs $4 a month, and promises to save you around 25% on your charging costs. Electrify America’s example claims that while everyone else has to pay $0.43 per kWh, Pass Plus members pay just $0.31 kWh.
12 cents may not sound like a lot, but it adds up — and you make your $4 back after reclaiming just 34 kWh of power. For reference, the cheapest Nissan Leaf has a 40 kWh battery, which means the subscription would pay for itself in as little 1-2 charges.
EVgo employs a similar system (opens in new tab), though it has two membership tiers that can save you money. The first is the basic EVgo membership, which is technically free, but requires you to load $5 credit onto your account every month. That credit can be spent, but will expire at the end of each month. Which is worth bearing in mind.
Still EVgo members do get some benefits. They don’t have to pay for session fees or charger reservations, something that costs non-members a respective $0.99 and $3 a go. They also save money, though how much depends on the location. In most of California EVgo charges $0.39 per kWh of electricity to non-members. Meanwhile EVgo members get it for $0.35 per kWh.
However the biggest savings come from the EVgo Plus tier. There are no session or reservation fees to be seen here, and you save even more money on your charging. It’s $0.30 per kWh in California, 5 cents less than being a non-member. There’s also no pre-paid credit shenanigans, though you will have to part with $7 a month to get these savings.
EVCS’ unlimited subscription (opens in new tab) is another option, but it’s only available to people along the West coast states, primarily Oregon and Washington, though there are a handful of chargers in California and even more “coming soon.” EVCS charges $50 a month, but in exchange for such a hefty fee you get unlimited charging each month — with a one month free trial.
Blink also offers a free membership (opens in new tab), which promises a saving of at least 20% on charging at any Blink location across the United States. Anyone can use a Blink charger, membership or not, but without signing up you will miss on those savings. Membership also lets you track charging progress, and real-time charger status information.