The EVSE market is booming, but the economics of charging for charging still represent a major question mark. Conventional wisdom is that drivers will pay for DC fast charging, but network operator Volta just rebooted the conversation by launching a free, public-access DC fast charging network.
Volta, which has provided free Level 2 charging stations since 2010, has opened the first of the free fast chargers at a retail center in Norwalk, Connecticut. It plans to open 150 more over the next 12 months at locations around the country, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Washington DC.
Volta’s new fast charge stations will use the CCS standard, and will offer power levels from 50 kW to 100 kW, enabling them to add up to 350 miles of range per hour. Users will pay nothing for their first 30 minutes of charging, after which a fee will be charged.
Volta will place the fast chargers alongside Level 2 stations at places like grocery stores and coffee shops. The company will use a combination of data modeling and customer information to determine the optimal ratio of Level 2 and DC chargers at each location.
Volta’s move threatens to disrupt the developing fast charging market. As Electrek’s Charles Benoit points out, with the exception of Tesla’s Supercharger network, current DC fast charging options are expensive: “You’ll pay more to drive your Leaf or Bolt on a road trip than you would a Chevy Suburban,” writes Benoit. The New York Times made a similar point in a recent article. However, most of Volta’s charging stations are located not along highways, but in shopping areas, which may make them even more visible.
“Volta’s free DC fast charging program represents a shift in the industry that no other publicly available charging brand can match,” said Scott Mercer, Volta’s founder and CEO. “For the first time, electric car drivers will be able to experience the satisfaction of quick and free charging at places where they already spend their time. Imagine getting the equivalent of seven gallons of gas free every time you visit your local shopping center.”