Nissan Leaf Charging: It's Free!

Jim Motavalli

Jim Motavalli | Jul 11, 2014

They say information wants to be free, how about public electric vehicle charging? Nissan is giving that away in the first 10 of 25 markets starting this week. Anyone who bought a Leaf electric car on April 1 or later gets 24 months of no-cost charging. Count yourself lucky if you live in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego Seattle, Portland (Oregon), Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Houston or Washington. DC.

It’s called “No Charge to Charge,” and it goes along with a new EZ-Charge card that Leaf owners will have that creates one-swipe access to chargers operated by AeroVironment, Car Charging Group (the Blink Network), ChargePoint and NRG eVgo. At all but ChargePoint, it will be free. ChargePoint isn't part of No Charge to Charge, because it's operators can set their own rates, but the company tells me that 60 percent of its stations are free to use anyway. ChargePoint added, somewhat mysteriously, that it "has a few ways to offering free charging across our entire network so you can expect announcements in the near future."

No more sneaking into your neighbor's yard at night to get a free charge. (Flickr/Kārlis Dambrāns)The no-cost charging will undoubtedly spur greater use of the public networks, but Brendan Perry, Nissan’s director of electric vehicle sales and infrastructure, says that was happening already. “It’s shifted over time,” he said. “Early in the process, more than 75 percent of charging was home-based, but it’s drifted forward. We’re closer to 50-50 now, with half of all charging being work and community-based.”

Wow, that’s a big change. All along, the prediction has been that most charging would be at home, but that was in part due to the assumption that plugging in elsewhere would be expensive. Some of it is—at Car Charging Group stations, for instance—but a lot of public chargers are owned by local or state governments and remain free. Plenty of chargers in shopping centers, movie complexes and other locations are no-cost also, in part because businesses don’t want to be bothered with setting up a pay system.

Perry said that by June 30 of next year another 15 cities (identities uncertain) will be part of the “No Charge” network. “It will be the places that have available fast-charging,” he said. That means big 480-volt DC chargers that can fill a car up with electrons in less than half an hour. More than 90 percent of Leafs can be fast-charged.
The 2014 Leaf is eligible for free public charging, and owners are taking advantage of it. (Nissan photo)Stuff like this—and new incentives, such as the $3,000 cash back now available to Maryland residents—has spurred Leaf sales. June set a new sales record, 2,347 cars. It was the 16th straight month of sales growth, and a 5.5 percent increase over last year. There are now 55,000 Nissan Leafs on American roads.

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