Sounds too good to be true, right? Nobody would provide free EV charging. That would be ridiculous. That would be like if they just gave away gas! Inconceivable! Nevertheless, it happens every day and it will likely happen even more in the future.
I am not just talking about the free Supercharging that Tesla Model X or S owners get when they purchase a new car. That is free for life, mind you. Those lucky car owners will never pay for fuel while they own their car to use supercharging. Think about that. I am not even referring to the bonus free miles you get when someone uses your Tesla referral code when buying a new Tesla. It just shows that it does not take much work to get free charging for Tesla’s, which is cool when you own a Tesla. Take us, we took a 4600-mile road trip in our Tesla and paid exactly $0 dollars for fuel on the entire trip. ZERO. Four weeks of long-distance driving. Free charging can be, and is, being done by some Tesla owners for sure. We are not unique.
All well and good, but what I want to talk about is how many people and businesses will let you charge your car for free. I mean it. Free. Free EV charging will be like the WiFi of the future. We used to get charged for WiFi remember? Sure, you do! You had to buy time and access if you wanted to use it if it existed at all. Good times, but it was not that long ago. Now, it is ubiquitous and expected everywhere we go. Some businesses are BUILT around free WiFi (looking at you Starbucks). Why don’t we get charged now? Because it just makes good business sense to make your business that little bit more of a bargain or a bit more user-friendly than your competitor. This just underscores how cheap and easy it is to fuel an electric car that this is even considered an option.
Why Free EV Charging?
It sounds so counterintuitive. It just does not seem to make sense. I get that! But that is because most people equate the act of EV charging with filling up with gas. They are not remotely the same other than they both provide energy to move your vehicle. That sounds the same, but they are not. The purpose is the same, but the use cycle and psychology are completely different.
You cannot build a gas station at your home, business, parking lot, or venue. But you can charge at any of those places and the opposite is true in that you would never want to charge an EV at a ‘gas station’ as they are defined today. I will explain why later. This does not mean that any of that charging is free, just understand that the behavior to implement the act of fueling is different for EV drivers.
Electric driving does not work that way.
When you drive an electric vehicle, you always start with a full charge (or what you set it to. It is different for everyone). Whenever you stop, you plug in. You never ‘go’ anywhere for fuel. You only stop driving for a charge when your driving distance exceeds your range to your next stop (where you will charge). With today’s EV’s that is a really long way (300+ miles). How convenient is that! A gas station stop as a normal life pattern behavior never happens to an EV driver.
That means for EV drivers it is psychologically important that anywhere they STOP, no matter where, when, or how long, they wish to plug in. Not because they have to, necessarily, but because it is best practice to do so for their new lifestyle. Doing so makes their lifestyle better. They will always choose any STOP that has a charge point over one that does not. It does not matter how fast a charger it is at that stop. That is not important at all. I don’t care that your restaurant has slow Wifi, just that it has free Wifi.
Free EV Charging in Parking Lots
If you own a parking lot, and want to be different from all the other lots, you are probably thinking of adding some charge points in your lot to entice EV owners to use your lot. You make money when they pay to park, so you want them to park in your lot. In addition to that, EV drivers will self-advertise that you exist on charging websites used by other EV owners. Free marketing! Most lot owners will want to charge for this service, but the competition from all the other lots doing the same thing, will drive the cost to zero. Hotels used to charge for WiFi and business travelers would suck it up and pay for it. But if the hotel across the street offered it for free, then that businessman would be staying across the street on his next trip. Now today (just a few short years later), would you even consider paying for WiFi? Nope. Not in a Hotel, Restaurant, Airport, Work, or Shopping Center. I would dare say nobody charges for it ANYWHERE anymore. The same will become true with EV charging in parking lots. Trust me on this.
Charging while you park will be the new ‘normal’
Free EV Charging for Advertising
This company called Volta is in startup mode and will be putting in charge points that can be used for free. They have raised about $150 Million dollars so far and are already located in 9 major US cities. They will not be the only ones who will do this to be sure. It is not like they can patent it. Once they own a spot, their competitors can’t because the real estate has been taken. Gentlemen start your engines.
I would think the business plan is that the advertising income more than pays for the installation and ongoing electricity charges. If it does, scaling up would be easy, cheap and fast.
Volta, which launched in 2010, partners with businesses and real estate owners to install EV chargers in high-traffic areas such as grocery stores, entertainment venues and shopping centers. Instead of charging EV owners, the power is provided for free. Volta makes money on the outdoor advertising that is a centerpiece of the charger design.
More than 45 million free electric miles have been given to EV drivers to date, the company said.
Free EV Charging at Destination Chargers
Tesla and other charge point vendors provide something called a ‘Destination’ charger. These are always free, because if they were not, they would simply be a commercial charging station. Their purpose is to entice an EV driver to visit the venue that hosts one or more chargers when the EV driver may not otherwise do so.
Here we are using a free destination charger while traveling in the Upper Left USA. This is at the Tillamook dairy and they are open daily to tourists. This is a good example. We also have them in the local shopping centers here in Australia. You get to park right in front while shopping. Premium spot for just you and free juice to boot.
Read Rocks Amphitheater
These types of chargers are put into Hotels, Shopping Centers, Restaurants, Bed and Breakfasts, and Tourist sites. Anywhere really that relies on getting butts in seats. There are literally thousands of these around already. There will be millions soon. And each and every one of them will be free to use. Because you can’t compete with free.
Free EV Charging at Work
Providing free charge ports to your employees is a no brainer type of perk. Many businesses already do this if you live in California. If it makes hiring and keeping employees easier, then they will do it. The cost is miniscule next to the benefit provided to the employer to keep a happy employee.
Those employees with long commutes into work will choose one employer over another if for no other reason than this. And even better, you might even make money for doing it!
Getting free juice while you work
When you arrive at work you plug into what is in essence a microgrid run by your employer, but that is also connected to the regional power grid. When you plug the two-way charger into your EV, which is known as Vehicle to Grid or V2G, an app on your smartphone provides a forecast of how much electricity the local utility would like to store on your EV that day and and at what rate they want to pay you. You accept (or deny) the request and then go about your day at work.
Free EV Charging at the Airport
This is a no brainer! Anyone who needs to leave a car in long term parking while away on a trip will need to have their car plugged in. Airports like DIA provide this for free now (and you get a preferred parking spot). You can also use off-site airport parking and any EV owner will ONLY use one that provides a plug. We use Fine Airport parking for our Tesla Model 3 (T3PO) when we are in Australia.
JAA Tesla Model 3 – #1
Free EV Charging from your Utility Provider
Again, sheer nonsense. Do you think that the company that is selling you the juice to run your car will pay you to do it? You bet they will, and they already do in many places. It is called V2G (vehicle to grid).
Nissan version of V2G
A study recently published by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) shows that the electric vehicles (EVs) expected in California in 2025 could be used to meet the majority of the Golden State’s energy storage mandate that calls for 1.3 gigawatts (GW) of battery capacity by 2024. In fact, EVs can accomplish this both reliably and at about one-tenth the cost of stationary energy storage approaches. This level of storage could power nearly one million average homes
EV car batteries are HUGE when it comes to storing energy. Multiply that by a few million or so and it is an enormous amount of electricity storage and transfer (think about is as a wire with wheels).
What gives EV battery storage increased value over a stationary storage battery is its mobility, its ability to tap into excess clean energy closer to the source (workplace, schools, malls, etc) where the infrastructure can be put in place to capture a huge supply of electricity and then transfer that excess power to a parking lot full of EVs. Those EVs can then individually transfer that stored power to other locations, primarily the owner’s home and distribute it back to the grid locally – when and where it is needed during peak demand.
Some utilities will pay you to let them control when energy is going into or out of your battery while it is on a charger. You pay for the juice that goes in; they pay you for the juice that comes out. This allows them to have Grid Level battery storage with little or no capital expense. All you have to do is plug in your car, which as we have said, you will do anyway. It also means that all the energy they produce can be re-sold at some time. Currently about 80% of all the electricity produced (by fossil fuel turbines) goes nowhere, to no one, for no money. They will put up free chargers everywhere that EV’s STOP to get at those batteries. A Utility can decrease waste by 80% and turn all of that to profit with virtually zero expense. Any businesses would take that bet.
Take the school bus example and apply that to millions of cars.
Watch how we will use Electric school buses to power houses.
Free EV Charging for Rideshare Drivers
This is also no brainer! What! No WAY you say! Hear me out. At some point Uber and Lyft are going to need to entice their drivers to start using electric cars. It is inevitable because customers will soon demand it. You heard me, demand it. Once you go EV you never go back. It then becomes a competitive advantage to have EV’s in your fleet when the other guy does not. Soon, they both will end up with lots of EV’s. The next step in this evolution is to reward these drivers with a free charge system. This would be similar to how they give discounts on fuel to drivers now based on their driver level. If you can get a loyal EV driver to stick to your platform (by driving a minim number of trips), then you can reward that driver with free juice. Win-Win for both parties. It is going to happen. If you drive rideshare and are looking into or thinking about your next ride: Make it electric. You will not be sorry.
Non-Free EV Charging
This is where everyone ‘who knows’, you know the experts, thinks this is ‘going’. That Gas Stations will convert to Charge Stations. A few will sure, but most will not. They are not where people ‘stop’ and in the EV world that is what matters most. Gas stations that are located between two remote spots will be prime to convert, that is for sure. Those will soon be charging stations, we get that. But when every hotel/motel/restaurant in every major or minor city, backwoods town, and village offers charging where you STOP and its for FREE, that will be a tough, tough business to be in when you are asking people to drive over to where you are and then ask them to pay for the privilege.
A rare beast! Superchargers in a Gas Station in no-whereville Oregon.
Tesla Superchargers are located right where they are needed to be to facilitate long distance EV driving. For that reason, there needs to be a lot of them, but not even a tiny fraction of the number of gas stations. You do have to pay for their use, but more because of the convenience of fast charging, not just the act of charging in general. And mostly, they are located in nice places to stop.
Commercial charging networks exists and are growing. That does not mean that they will succeed. My bet is that they won’t succeed, or if they do, only a few will and only those that adapt their business models to the reality of EV driving. As longer-range EV models are introduced, the less need there is for them. A vicious cycle. Again, it is all about where people STOP. As a Tesla owner, I do not expect that I will ever use a commercial charger in my entire life. Ever. I do not expect that any of our renters will either, and so far that has been true. For some background, Tesla’s make up over 80% of all EV cars in the US and are likely 100% of the cars that do any long distance travel. Extrapolate our collective experience out to the market in general, and well, it does not look good for commercial pay for use chargers as a business. Especially if that business looks like a gas station.
Commercial Pay Charging
What would you say if you could just go into McDonalds and get a charge while you order a burger and use some WiFi? Sound daffy? Think again.
Pumping gas is so passé. Gas stations, from BP to Shell, are introducing electric vehicle chargers. Chains including Wawa, Hy-Vee and Sheetz have partnered with Tesla on chargers. Even hotels are getting in on the action. So have restaurants like Sonic and Ruby Tuesday, but now McDonald’s is looking to bring electric vehicle charging to its iconic fast-food chain.
the mega-chain now [has] 55 charging stations around the Scandinavian country. The expansion of charging stations continues as McDonald’s aims to include charging stations at all its drive-thru restaurants
I will give a real-life example:
One of our Turo renters drove T3PO from Denver to Telluride. Just about the longest distance you can drive from Denver and still remain in the state of Colorado. 363 miles or about 7 hours of driving non-stop. Our car has a 325-mile range. He stopped once for supercharging (about 40 minutes) while eating lunch on the way down. That was free (the juice not the meal). The hotel he was staying at in Telluride had a destination charger. He drove all weekend and charged at night by just plugging in while parked. That was free. The car was fully charged when he left without ever ‘going’ anywhere for fuel before heading back. He drove back to Denver, stopping once for supercharging (free and again about 40 minutes) before dropping the car off at the airport where it of course charges for free. About 750 miles of driving: Zero cost for fuel. That works out to be about $0.00/gallon if you want to compare to gas.
That is not an unusual example for EV owners that have cars with long range capability. This is not true for city cars, but the local stops and Free EV Charging examples apply.
Now do not get me wrong. You will be paying for your electricity when you charge at home which will be about 80-90% of the time. What I am saying is that Free EV Charging is here, available, you will get access to it, and it will be a future reality that no one is currently talking about!