Free fuel: over 63% of public PEV charging stations in the US are free to use

Eaton Charging Station

We hear a lot of discussion in the EV industry about all the possible business models for public charging. Will paid public charging ever be a profitable business in its own right? Will plug-in vehicle drivers pay a premium to charge away from home? Or, will it make more sense for businesses to offer charging as a free perk to attract customers (often referred to as the Wi-Fi Model)?

New data from PlugShare’s quarterly report shows that the free model is leading the way. Nearly 2 out of 3 public charging station locations in the US are free to use, that includes stations of all charging levels in locations where anyone with a compatible vehicle can charge.

 Free vs Paid EV Charging Stations 660
Figure is free to share (CC BY-SA 2.0) with proper attribution: PlugShare via

For restricted-access public stations, the free-to-charge ratio increases to about 3 out of 4. Examples of restricted access include workplaces with employee-only charging, stations located behind gates, and dealerships with charging for existing customers only.

Full access to PlugShare Quarterly 2015 Q1 – US Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Exhibits can be purchased here.


  • jstack6

    In the greater Phoenix are it’s more like 18% are free. A few even add free parking. HOV lanes with just 1 person is ok too. Low registration fees and no one can steal your catalytic converter since you don’t have one. LOL

    • Bill Williams

      That’s because you are in “Blink World” and they were given away with tax payer dollars and the idiotic business plan of recovering costs and profit by now charging $.49 kWh! Bad locations and charging more than smart ev drivers are willing to pay will bring about another “eco-fatality”. Simple cheap non networked charging is best at home and work. It’s that simple. “Level Free” Charging. Benifits are best for businesses to advertise an support clean air.

      • Michael Walsh



        I agree Bill. “Level Free” is the best. I speak to business owners that have free ev charging and they say their businesses have seen an increase in sales. Of course, it’s important that the business has a good product or service to offer. The free ev charging is just icing on the cake. -Ollie

  • Richard Sachen

    It would be interesting to see how the ratio of free-to-pay charging is changing over time. Have pay for charge sites moved to a free model? Are free sites starting to charge after an initial grace period? I don’t see how the free model is sustainable over the long run. Businesses need to pay for the electricity and maintenance/repair expenses somehow and if EV chargers cause them to incur demand charges or they for their electricity on a time-of-use model, the added revenue may not cover the added expense.

    • Rick Zambrana

      Are fed. Government incentives given to those with free charging stations?

  • Richard Sachen

    “they for their electricity” should be “they pay for their electricity” in the last sentence.

  • Craig iGuy Rusin

    I would say having free charging at a location (like our BMW center) attracts a different demographic or new people than you might normally have at your site. Offering free charging supports the cause AND its a bit like offering lights in your parking lot…not always required, but it is hospitable and welcoming! Who doesn’t like that?!?

    There is a need for pioneers and the unity of the manufactures providing an easy and enjoyable user experience is also a bit like offering free coffee or pastries (which we do as well). BMW really stuck their necks out to make a fully production car unlike any other-born electric with the spirited BMW DNA. Like the i3 it or not, understand at least this small bit- its helping advance the industry as a whole.

    As the charging model sits, I have heard of locations charging for the ‘space’ the car occupies and others charge for the use of the charging system…its equivalent to a vending machine-the owner makes the rules…however, shopping complexes, restaurants, condo/apartment owners are slowly realizing that proving these EXTRAS give then an advantage/opportunity that may be measurable. Possibly financial gains longer term, but its for the good of the people first. Isn’t that how it should be?

  • Rickkop

    Most charging stations are free? Not here in New Yotk State. I have never seen a free charging station.

  • Raymond Ramírez

    There is a free charging station (just need a ChargePoint Card to use) with three EVSE positions, using solar energy in Bayamon, Puerto Rico (called “Solar City”) but there are only one BEV that uses it: a red 2009 Tesla Motores Roadster. I have seen only one other BEV here (a BMW i3). Not enought BEVs here!