Save (Even More) Money: How to Find Free Electric Car Charging Stations

With US gas prices topping $5 per gallon, the option to charge up for free is a satisfying perk of owning an electric vehicle. And drivers are taking note; electric vehicle sales in the US rose 60% in 2022(Opens in a new window)in part due to an exciting range of new models.

EV charging is not free; topping up at home means increased electricity costs, and many charging stations impose a fee for juicing up on the go. But there are a number of free charging programs if you know where to look.

Filter for Free Stations on PlugShare

Across the country, private companies(Opens in a new window)nonprofit programs(Opens in a new window)and local governments(Opens in a new window) are offering free EV charging options. The easiest way to find them is on the PlugShare(Opens in a new window) app, which includes a filter for free chargers. Much of the app’s content is crowdsourced by real drivers, who “check in” at each station and upload the latest information about it, including if it’s still free, how many minutes of charging you get, and at what level/speed.

Under Map Filterstoggle off Show Locations That Require Payment. Then, when you click on a station on the map, you’ll see something like “no fee” written in the description. Note: The Electrify America app, another popular option, doesn’t have a filter for free stations.

Charge at Your Workplace

EV charger at Facebook HQ in menlo park

EV charger at Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park (Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

Workplace charging is an appealing way for EV owners to maintain a full charge without making a separate trip to power up. It’s like someone taking your car to the gas station as you work.

Some companies have started offering free charging as an affordable perk; During testing for our Best Mobile Networks 2022 story, we charged at a gratis ChargePoint location at Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park. For deep-pocketed firms, the cost is minimal. “Offering workplace charging to employees can be as little as $1.50 per day with Level 2 charging and as little as $0.60 a day with Level 1 charging—which is less than a cup of coffee,” Plug In America(Opens in a new window) explains.

Check the options in your employer’s parking lot, but don’t assume you can use another company’s chargers as they may require validation. If your workplace does not have free chargers, make the case to add them. The Department of Energy has a guide(Opens in a new window) for implementing workplace charging, and some states(Opens in a new window) Offer reimbursement for installing level 2 chargers.

Electrify America's vision of the future of EV charging stations.

Electrify America’s vision of the future of EV charging stations (Photo: Electrify America)

Many new EVs come with some amount of free charging, often at stations in the Electrify America network(Opens in a new window). They are essentially charging credits that you can cash in. If you haven’t yet, check out your car’s free charging options and start charging before the offer expires. Edmunds has a full list(Opens in a new window) of all EV models that come with free charging. A few examples:

For Teslas, early adopters snagged free Supercharger for life, which means speedy level 3 charging at the company’s network of Supercharger stations. That offer ended in 2017 for new Tesla buyers, though the company says(Opens in a new window) Its fees are four times less than buying gas. It also runs promotions, such as free Supercharging around the holidays.

Recommended by Our Editors

tesla supercharging

$9.48 to get a Tesla Model 3 to 80% at a California Supercharger (Photo: Angela Moscaritolo)

Earn a Free Charge With Rewards Programs

evgo charger

EVgo charging stations (Photo: EVgo)

You know the feeling of finally cashing in a coffee shop punch card for a free drink? You can do that with your EV too, thanks to rewards programs such as SmartCharge Rewards(Opens in a new window) and Dominion Energy Rewards(Opens in a new window). The latter is local to Virginia residents, but check options in your area; Both offer for charging during off-peak incentive times to reduce stress on the energy grid.

Others, like EVgo Rewards(Opens in a new window), are customer loyalty programs. In this case, the more you charge at EVgo stations, the more rewards you earn (2,000 points gets you a $10 charging credit). Plus, EVgo primarily makes level 3 fast chargers. Free fast charging can be hard to come by, so if you’re going to charge anyway, you may as well be working toward some free credits.

DIY Solar Charging

solar panel charging

Portable solar panels come in all sizes. (Photo: Xiaoke Chen / Getty Images)

This option comes with some upfront costs but offers unique benefits. (If you’ve tried it, let us know in the comments.) Using portable solar panels and a generator, you can turn energy from the sun into power that can charge your vehicle. Once you pay for the supplies and set it up, the charge will be “free.” Plus, it’s 100% clean energy, whereas electricity in charging stations or your home can still come from coal or other dirty sources.

All you need to do is put out the panels and connect them to the generator to charge it up. This essentially turns the generator into a big battery that’s holding power. Then, plug your level one charger (included with your vehicle purchase) into a standard home outlet on the side of the generator, change any settings on your vehicle as needed, and voila—you have a trickle charge. It will be slow, but that’s expected for level 1 charging. The video above shows how one Tesla owner did it using Jackery(Opens in a new window) products; GoalZero(Opens in a new window) sells similar systems.

Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.”,”first_published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:24.000000Z”,”published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:24.000000Z”,”last_published_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:13.000000Z”,”created_at”:null,”updated_at”:”2021-09-30T21:23:24.000000Z”})” x-show=”showEmailSignUp()” class=”rounded bg-gray-lightest text-center md:px-32 md:py-8 p-4 mt-8 container-xs”>

Like What You’re Reading?

Sign up for Tips & Tricks newsletter for expert advice to get the most out of your technology.

This newsletter may contain advertising, deals, or affiliate links. Subscribing to a newsletter indicates your consent to our terms of Use and Privacy Policy. You may unsubscribe from the newsletters at any time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.