Where to Find Free EV Charging Stations
Avoiding costly gasoline is one of the biggest perks of driving an electric vehicle. And while many public charging stations charge a fee for powering up your EV, there are numerous free EV charging stations across the United States.
As EVs become more and more common on American roads, free EV charging stations are expected to become more commonplace both near highways and public places like shopping centers. Groups like the EV Charging Initiative are eager to make the growth of free charging stations one of the main motivators to get people to switch to electric vehicles.
Whether you’re planning a road trip around charging locations or exploring low-cost charging options in your area, this article will help explain the types of free EV charging stations you can expect to find.
Public EV Charging Stations: The Basics
Whether your next charging session comes with a small fee, or is cost free, it’s best to know what to expect when you arrive at a public electric car charging spot. As of 2022, all public charging stations currently offered in the United States are either Level 2 EV chargers or Level 3 DC fast chargers. The difference between these two charging ports is outlined below.
Level 2 EV Chargers
Level 2 chargers are the most common equipment used for charging both all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids. Level 2 chargers utilize high voltage AC (alternating current) power — around 240 volts, similar to the amount of power used by large appliances like clothes dryers and dishwashers. Many EV drivers choose to use Level 2 equipment for home charging purposes.
Level 2 chargers can provide approximately 14-35 miles of range for every hour of charging, depending on the battery type. This means they can completely fill a typical EV battery overnight.
Level 2 chargers are commonplace at businesses, supermarkets, parking lots, and other public spaces across the United States.
Level 3/DC Fast Chargers
Level 3 EV chargers, also known as DC fast chargers, use a 480-volt or higher direct current (DC). As of this writing, Level 3 chargers are the most powerful and fastest EV chargers available for use.
The increased power of Level 3 chargers means a faster charge — about 100 miles of charge per hour.
A Level 3 DC fast charging station can cost thousands of dollars to install, so you’ll mostly find them at municipally-run charging stations. Some EV batteries can acquire a full charge with just half an hour of DC charging. Not all EV models can utilize Level 3 chargers.
Where to Find Free Electric Vehicle Charging Stations
Finding free EV charging stations can be easy if you do a little sleuthing. Here we’ll outline some common places where you may be able to give your electric vehicle a charge free of any cost.
Many automakers offer free EV charging stations either at their dealerships or at affiliate charging networks across the United States. They often offer free charging to those who have purchased an EV from their particular brand. Various Chevrolet, Nissan, and Volkswagen dealerships across the country offer free EV charging to their customers. However, such offers vary from region to region.
Between 2016 and 2019, the National Park Service (NPS) installed nearly 100 EV charging installations within national parks across the country in partnership with automaker BMW. Many of these stations are free EV charging stations that are available for complimentary use.
Also, EV automaker Rivian announced a partnership with NPS in 2022 to provide free Waypoint chargers to the public in Yosemite National Park and the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
Supermarkets and Shopping Malls
Many supermarkets across the United States have free EV charging stations for shoppers. Major northeastern U.S. supermarket chain Stop & Shop had 50 stations from EV charging manufacturer Volta Industries installed at various store locations throughout 2021. Other supermarket retailers like Giant, Safeway, and Vons also offer free EV charging to shoppers.
Volta has also partnered with several shopping malls throughout the U.S. to offer visitors access to free EV charging.
Electrify America is a private EV charging company that, as of this writing, boasts the largest public fast charging network in the United States. As of March 2022, new Hyundai IONIQ Electric and Hyundai KONA Electric owners are eligible for free charging at Electrify America charging stations nationwide.
Are Tesla Supercharger Stations Free?
Contrary to popular belief, the use of Tesla’s Supercharger network —the world’s largest network of Level 3 DC fast chargers — are not free EV charging stations, not even to Tesla drivers. As of this writing, Tesla’s Supercharger network is available to only drivers of Tesla electric vehicles, such as the Tesla Model 3, Tesla Model X, and Tesla Model Y, among others. This is because the charging connectors in the Supercharger network are currently only compatible with Tesla vehicles.
Tesla charging may be eligible for free supercharging during limited promotional periods after first purchasing the vehicle.
Tesla owners are charged for each use of the Tesla Supercharger network through an account they set up upon purchase of their vehicle.
Tesla has begun pilot programs in Europe that have opened its charging stations to drivers of non-Tesla electric vehicles made by other automakers. And while it’s believed similar programs will soon open up in the United States, nothing has been formally announced.
In an effort to reduce wait times, the automaker encourages drivers of Tesla vehicles to utilize their Supercharger network on long road trips and not to rely on the network’s Level 3 chargers for everyday use.
Tools to Find Free EV Charging Stations
Whether you’re searching for a free EV charging station or willing to pay a fee, there are several smartphone apps that carefully indicate where charging stations are located nationwide. These apps can be helpful whether you’re visiting a new region for the first time, and if you’re on an extensive road trip. Popular EV charging apps compatible with both iOS and Android phones and tablets include:
- ChargePoint: EV drivers can utilize the ChargePoint app to find charging stations both in and out of the ChargePoint network. Users can pay for charging with a tap of their phone and receive information about their vehicle’s charging status. The app is also functional with ChargePoint‘s available home charging systems. When used in concert with their ChargePoint home charger, users can align their charge times with optimal electricity rates and archive their EV’s charging history.
- ChargeHub: Also available on web browsers, the ChargeHub app locates all nearby EV charging stations and can also be used to plan trips according to EV charger locations. Over 100,000 users leave comments, rate EV charging stations, and upload photos of stations so that other users can have detailed info on each, including rates.
- EVgo: The EVgo app connects EV drivers to the nationwide charging system of the same name. The EVgo network offers drivers access to Level 3 DC fast chargers. While not every EV is compatible with DC fast chargers, they do offer a significantly faster charge. The EVgo network is based on sustainability: Each of its 800+ charging stations is powered by renewable energy sources.
- EVHotels: The EVHotels app provides users with the location of lodging facilities with EV charging stations. Since many hoteliers offer free EV charging with stays, it’s great for business travelers and for those on vacation. The company has partnered with over 170 hotel brands across the globe, including lodging facilities that are within walking distance of EV charging stations.
- PlugShare: PlugShare is a free membership app with over 4,200,00 station reviews, making it one of the most popular EV charging apps on the market today. The PlugShare database offers location, price, and charging information on over 200,000 EV charging stations in both the United States and Canada.
Fuel Your EV Knowledge With Compare.com
Whether you’re far away from your home charger or traveling for business or pleasure, there are a variety of free EV charging stations nationwide that EV drivers can take advantage of to “refuel” their car for free.
As the proliferation of electric cars and trucks becomes more prolific on roadways in the United States, retailers, hotels, stadiums, and other businesses are expected to harness free EV charging stations as a way to promote sustainability and draw customers to their location.
Compare.com’s vast library of reference articles has everything you need to know about driving, maintaining, insuring, and charging electric vehicles. Drivers looking for a pre-owned EV should check out our EV comparison tool to find a reasonably priced EV nearby.
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