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How-to charge your EV for free

Few things in life are free, but EV charging can be one of them. While still considerably less expensive than operating a gas-powered car, there are fees that come into play – unless you find free public charging. With a little legwork, you can utilize no-cost public charging stations to help offset (or completely eliminate) the cost to power your EV. We’ll show you how.

Where to start – PlugShare

PlugShare website. Screenshot: PlugShare.com

In-car infotainment systems can display nearby public charging stations, but we prefer the user-driven website and smartphone app, Plugshare (available on iOS and Android). The app allows you to search all public charging stations and filter based on your specific plug-type, charging network, power level and cost.

Filtering the results

PlugShare filters by connector. Screenshot: PlugShare.com

In almost all instances, free charging is going to come in the form of Level 2 charging (J-1772 type plugs). Tesla’s Destination Chargers (Level 2) offer free charging too, but for this “how-to” we’ll focus on the more common J-1772 connections.

Select the J-1772 plug type then scroll down and be sure to unselect the “payment required locations.” These two actions will display the map of nearby free public charging stations in your area.

Finding reliable free charging near you  

PlugShare has photos of charging locations. Screenshot: PlugShare.com

Once you’ve narrowed down the possibilities near you, click the station to see its details – these stations will often be found at hotels, municipal parking lots, shopping malls and grocery stores. Most locations have a rating of 1-10 based on user experience. This involves things like convenience, cleanliness and most importantly, charging success. After visiting a location, be sure to leave a review to help future visitors.

We highly recommend looking at a location’s rating before heading there to charge. Look at recent reviews to help you narrow down a location. On some occasions the charging station may be down for a variety of reasons, so you’ll never want to head to a station while on the last few miles of range.

Take a look at the user-provided photos of the location before heading there too. This will help you find the hard-to-find stations quickly.

Never pay for a charge, but respect your fellow EV drivers

Filter by payment. Screenshot: PlugShare.com

Many EV owners are able to successfully utilize free public charging, never paying for the energy they use to drive. While not for everyone, this is an incredible perk of EV ownership. Based on the results of the Plugshare search in your area and your routine, this may work for you too.

When charging at free public charging stations, we recommend that you consider other EV drivers. After your battery is charged topped off, be sure to move your car to so others can use this perk too.

What other tips do you have for free public charging? Let us know in the comments below.

Written by Samanthan Rutherford