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Summary
  • You can find free EV charging stations outside department stores, hotels, colleges, etc.
  • Mobile apps like PlugShare and the Volta Charging App can help you locate nearby charging stations that offer free charging.
  • Some automakers like BMW, Kia, Ford, and Hyundai offer free charging packages to entice buyers to purchase an EV.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are a modern-day marvel. They run on electricity instead of fuel, helping us preserve our natural resources. EVs are a testament to the advancement of technology, and it’s only a matter of time until we get more of them on the road.

As there are still fewer charging stations compared to gas pumps, it can be nerve-wracking when your EV appears low on battery. Luckily, there are public charging stations where you can charge your EV for free.

How to Find Free EV Chargers

There are apps, such as the Volta Charging app and PlugShare, which pinpoint the locations of nearby charging stations. Some apps like PlugShare even allow you to filter and limit the results to stations where you can charge your EV for free.

ev charging at mall
Generally, you can find free chargers in high-traffic areas, such as shopping malls, airports, fast-food chains, and grocery stores.

Generally, you can find free chargers in high-traffic areas, such as shopping malls, airports, fast-food chains, and grocery stores. This encourages drivers to visit downtown and use commercial hubs.

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Manufacturer Incentives

Some manufacturers offer charging packages and incentives to entice new customers. For example, BMW offers free unlimited DC charging for three years for i7 drivers.

Tesla owners who bought their vehicles before 2017 also have free access to the automaker’s network of Supercharger stations.

Kia also offers 1,000 kWh of free charging for three years for EV6 owners.

Companies like Electrify America, a prominent charging station provider, have partnerships with various automakers. For example, the Ford F-150 Lightning and the electric Hyundai Kona each come with 250 kWh or approximately 1,000 miles of free charging.

Check your vehicle manufacturer’s website to see if there are similar offers that apply to your EV.

Where to Charge Your EV for Free

Charging your EV for free is easier than it sounds. Establishments like department stores, hotels, and colleges may have free charging stations to power up your EV.

Department Stores and Supermarkets

Some department stores and supermarkets have EV charging stations outside to incentivize shoppers to stay inside longer. Select Macy’s department stores, Kroger, Safeway, and Whole Foods offer free EV charging for customers.

Movie Theaters

Similarly, some movie theaters like Cinemark are also equipped with free charging stations. You should grab some popcorn and watch the latest box office hit while getting your EV charged up.

Hotels

Some hotels, such as Marriott and Hilton, offer free charging stations to their guests. This can relieve some range anxiety for travelers who might worry about finding charging stations in the town or city they’re visiting.

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Before booking a room, it would be a good idea to call and check if EV charging is available at the specific hotel you’re considering.

Colleges

Some colleges offer free EV charging stations for students, professors, staff, and even visitors. Santa Clara University, the University of Florida, and the University of Oklahoma all have partnerships with ChargePoint, one of the largest networks of charging stations in North America and Europe.

University of Southern California (USC) and the University of California (UCLA) also offer free EV charging.

However, not all of these universities allow outsiders to use their stations. Some places require drivers to secure a permit or parking sticker before charging their vehicles.

There may also be limits to how long you can charge your EV for free. For example, The University of Florida enforces a four-hour charging limit, while USC requires vehicle owners to move their vehicles within 90 minutes after charging to avoid fees.

National Parks

Due to their remote locations and limited options for public transportation, most people would need to bring a vehicle to enjoy their visit to a national park.

Apart from concerns regarding range limits, EV owners may worry about rough driving conditions which can deplete their vehicle’s battery faster than expected. Building charging stations in and around these areas can encourage these drivers to visit these parks.

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Some recreational areas run by the National Park Service offer free chargers. As of this writing, 27 national parks are equipped with a total of 100 public EV charging stations. Most of these are Level 2 chargers, which can give a full charge in four to 10 hours.

Rivian, in partnership with Adopt a Charger, has helped the National Park Service build 20 chargers as of 2023. The automaker has also committed to funding 10 years of operation and maintenance costs for dozens of chargers at California’s Yosemite National Park and Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Volta Chargers

Volta, an American electric vehicle infrastructure company, has over 3,000 charging stations across 31 states. You can find them at shopping malls, stadiums, amusement parks, and hospitals.

The company is sponsored by major franchises, such as Whole Foods and the Oakland Athletics, which allows them to offer free EV charging.

About The Author
Written By Automotive and Tech Writers

The CarParts.com Research Team is composed of experienced automotive and tech writers working with (ASE)-certified automobile technicians and automotive journalists to bring up-to-date, helpful information to car owners in the US. Guided by CarParts.com's thorough editorial process, our team strives to produce guides and resources DIYers and casual car owners can trust.

Any information provided on this Website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a professional mechanic. The accuracy and timeliness of the information may change from the time of publication.

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