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How to Charge an Electric Vehicle For Free

EV plugged in by a regular car
Smile Fight/Shutterstock.com

Drivers making the switch to an electric vehicle have all sorts of questions, and most of those revolve around charging times and cost. But did you know there are ways you can charge an electric vehicle for free?

When you get an EV, you’ll love being able to charge your car at home and skip paying high gas prices. And while you’ll see an increase in your home energy bill, when you’re out and about driving, you can find ways to top off the battery for free. These include manufacturer promotions or free charging stations at several destinations. Here’s what you need to know.

EV Charging Apps

plugshare logo

Before we begin, it’s important to remember that these options aren’t something you should expect every time you leave the house. Obviously, you’ll still need to charge an EV at home or at charging stations most of the time. However, in a pinch, there are countless ways to get free battery juice.

One of the top ways to find free or discounted EV charging is by taking advantage of dedicated charging apps. Two of the most popular apps are PlugShare and ChargeHub.

These map apps will help you locate all the major EV charging networks in your area, give you tips and tricks, and PlugShare even has a filter that’ll only show free charging destinations. According to the Plugshare app, there are nearly 250 free charging stations throughout the United States. Give one a try on your next trip.

Adopt a Charger & Volta

Volta charger in public

Adopt a Charger is a non-profit organization that uses sponsors to help offer free level 2 charging at select locations. The main goal is to help promote the adoption of electric vehicles. Plus, the organization recently partnered with Rivian to offer chargers at its Waypoint stations in National Parks, which are free.

Unfortunately, Adopt a Charger isn’t available in very many states yet, but it’s expanding as quickly as possible. According to the site, you can find free charging in around 10+ U.S. states, with more on the way.

Another option is Volta, a company trying its best to build a network of high-speed Supercharging stations that are entirely free. However, you’ll only be able to plug in for around 30 minutes, then take off, or it’ll cost you to keep charging. You’ll be able to find Volta chargers at upscale locations, like fancy restaurants and outdoor shopping malls, or in busy metro areas.

For now, Volta mostly has L2 charging stations, but it’s currently working on more locations, faster charging, and additional sponsors (ads are shown on the charging station) to help the expansion. But hey, 30 minutes on the charger is more than enough for most, especially if it’s free.

Manufacturer Incentives

Ford EV charging plug

Depending on what EV you drive or the EV you want to buy, some come with a manufacturer incentive and free charging perks. These dealer incentives come with caveats, but free is free.

For example, all new Ford F-150 Lightning electric truck owners can get their first few charges (up to 250 kWh) completely free thanks to a partnership with Electrify America. And while that’s not a lot, it’ll help if you’re in a pinch.

The Nissan Ariya EV comes with two years of free EV charging, with limitations, and the KIA EV6 has a similar three-year promotion for charging electric cars. These are just a few manufacturer incentives going around, and they won’t be the last ones. Expect several car brands to offer discounts, free charging, or promotions in 2023 as the EV race continues to heat up.

For example, Kia and Electrify America will give EV6 buyers 1,000kWh of free charging at participating EA charging stations in the United States for the next three years. Depending on the model, that comes out to around 11-13 full recharge cycles, or roughly 3,700 miles. If you charge your car at home and only use the promotion occasionally, that’ll last you plenty long whenever you need a charge while out and about or on a road trip.

Audi’s e-tron GT and RS e-tron GT have a similar three-year promotion with Electrify America, and Porsche partnered with the company also. However, with Porsche, you’ll get 30 minutes of free fast charging and 60 minutes of regular charging for three years. Several other brands have similar incentives for EV owners to take advantage of.

Free Charging at Select Destinations

Tesla car and EV charger in public

You may have noticed we mentioned a few specific locations like National parks or upscale shopping centers earlier, and that’s because you can absolutely find free chargers at those locations.

National Park visitor centers often have free EV chargers, as do the parks. There are several free EV chargers throughout popular spots like Zion National Park at the lodge, in front of businesses, and at parks around the United States. The NPS even partnered with BMW to build more chargers, but keep in mind that not all of them will be free.

Countless destination chargers are completely free at all types of places you’ll likely frequent. We’re talking about Mariott and Hilton hotels (as long as you’re a hotel guest), supermarkets, shopping malls and centers, your college campus, and much more.

For example, the University of Florida offers free charging to all students and staff members, but there is a four-hour limit on each stall, ensuring that anyone who needs a charge has the opportunity. ChargePoint works with Universities to offer free EV charging. You can find dozens of stalls at locations, including the University of California at Davis, MIT, the University of Florida, Northwestern, Washington State, and several others.

ChargePoint has a map where you can filter it to only show free EV charging locations and display more than just schools. Give it a try.

Think about it. Business or restaurant owners can offer EV drivers free charging while they dine in as an incentive to patronize their establishment instead of elsewhere down the street. Hotels are notorious for attracting travelers to stay at their hotel, where you can recharge your EV and yourself overnight.

The only problem with this idea is that your mileage will vary. Not all hotels offer EV charging, and not all with chargers will share it for free. The same goes for restaurants, shopping centers, hospitals, schools, government buildings, and more.

Additionally, we’ve seen Electrify America offer free or heavily discounted charging during holidays like Labor Day and others. Tesla recently gave owners free charging during non-peak hours over the long 4th of July weekend. Those are just two examples, but they’re not the only ones.

If you look closely and do some research, free electric vehicle chargers are located all over the United States. And while this might not help you daily, it’s a great way to keep costs down on a road trip or when you genuinely need it.

Cory Gunther Cory Gunther
Cory Gunther has been writing about phones, Android, cars, and technology in general for over a decade. He's a staff writer for Review Geek covering roundups, EVs, and news. He's previously written for GottaBeMobile, SlashGear, AndroidCentral, and InputMag, and he's written over 9,000 articles. Read Full Bio »