Over 63% Of Public Charging Stations In U.S. Are Free


When PlugShare Quarterly launched, we learned that more than half of the public chargers in the U.S. are still free to use.

Surprised by the figure?  We certainly are.

Imagine for a moment if 63% of the gas stations in the U.S. didn’t charge a fee to dispense fuel.  That would be insane, right?

Yet here we are, getting our free electricity from 8,856 charging stations throughout the U.S.  Just one of the joys of driving electric.

Categories: Charging


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28 Comments on "Over 63% Of Public Charging Stations In U.S. Are Free"

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Yeah, I’m surprised. I suspect they are largely free chargers at government buildings scattered all over the country. But most chargers I use are paid chargers.


Not all governments are offering free chargers. Here in Sacramento, the employee garages for the State of California set a price of $1.15/hr for state employees to charge their EVs and PHEVs.

On the flip side, the City of Sacramento does not set a charging fee on any of it’s chargers and two out of the 5 garages with chargers have free parking (the remaining used to be free but are now 50% of what the average monthly rate is).


$1.15 is more expensive than gas for my slow charging Ford Energi… 🙁

Also in Austin, TX with our 220 charger aren’t free, but for $25/6 month unlimited charging, I wind up paying <.01 a KWh.

David Murray

Comparing to free gas is not really a fair comparison. Mostly because the cost difference between electricity and gas, as well as how many people can actually use it throughout the day. A better comparison would be like companies that give free wi-fi.


I agree completely. There are public services that use electricity and you don’t pay for them. Street lighting comes to mind. Not sure if that is a true apples to apples comparison, but I agree with ChargePoint’s CEO who felt that public charging should be considered a public amenity, like parks and street lights (both of which are a public amenity).

Mister G

Nothing is free…all public services cost money and have to be paid for. I suggest you look up your counties line item budget or your cities budget…nothing is free and that is a good thing.


This response is a bit late but…

Who said anything about free? A more accurate term would be “free at the point of use” which is basically how public amenities work. But my point was that chargers should be public amenities. This would make them not necessarily “free” in the strictest sense of the word, which you seem so adamant in pointing out, but free at the point of use.


You mean because gas is roughly half the cost of electricity? I don’t see your point.


WiFi can be offered for free in part because, for the most part, ISPs still charge a flat rate, instead of by the byte — so, once the network is running, it makes little difference whether it’s being used lightly or heavily. This is not generally true of electricity, for which most customers pay by the kWh.


sadly that figure is the other way around in Texas.
I don’t see why free gas isn’t a fair comparison.
The free charging is to encourage visitors or customers to drive to a particular location. So its like a free miles on your car and it emphasizes how inexpensive it is to move around using electricity.

John in AA

Does “free” also include chargers that have no separate fee, but are located somewhere you have to pay to park, such as a parking meter or parking deck? Most of the public chargers I use are of that nature. Those are more like a rebate than truly “free”.


For the record ( IMO ) charging should not be free as it is then not a self sustaining service. To maintain quality and reliability of a charging service the funds should be directly linked to the charging service; not to some supporting business service with an inconsistent funding source.
Just my 2¢ (cents).

John in AA

The state religion tells us that if the free market values the quality and reliability you say will be provided by a for-fee charging service, then that service will thrive, even in the face of competition from free (or “free”) charging.

I for one would not rush to invest in such an enterprise, but I’ve made foolish investing decisions before.


Most public services are not self-sustaining services. Nor should they be. Public services are just that, a service to the public. They are not meant to be profitable or self-sustaining.

As I mentioned above, I agree with ChargePoint’s CEO who said that charging should be a public amenity, i.e. a public service. Electricity is far cheaper than gasoline/petrol and likely will always be so. I doubt that municipalities would need to stretch their budgets much to include charging as a public amenity.

Paul Stoller
Do you also believe that we should convert all public roadways to toll roads? Not just highways either, all surface streets. After all our roadways are in no way self-funding. I hate this argument that we shouldn’t invest in things that aren’t “self-funding”. There are economic benefits that can be derived from public goods, as our interstate highway system demonstrates. If we put the same sort of investment into our railways we could reap huge economic benefits by modernizing our passenger and freight systems. The trains are already diesel electric it seems insane to me that we are not electrifying all of our railways. But everytime we try to push for railway modernization someone says, “Well look at amtrack, they aren’t self funding, that’s stupid, blah blah blah” If we funded the rail system in the same manner we fund our highways services like passenger rail would be much more economical overall as Amtrack would not have to pay private freight companies for access to the rails. This is the way infrastructure should work, the physical systems should be built and owned by the public and private enterprise can provide the services that would work over the infrastructure. Otherwise you… Read more »

Well there is a problem with free. It invites abuse. People that don’t really need a charge will hog chargers.

It is often best to have a small charge instead of free to make sure you don’t have the free = infinite demand problem.


Are all 63% charging locations truly free? eg: many paid parking locations offer free charging, and many businesses offer free charging … but not all are are freely available for general public use.

What’s the % of free, not-free broken down by:
• L1: 110V outlet charging post
• L2: 220V outlet charging post
• L3: DC quick charger station

MTN Ranger

I’m not surprised. In my area, almost all charging stations are free.


I look forward to the day of non-free public charging. Too many people tying up chargers all day just because it’s free, instead of using on an as-needed basis. The 4-city-block-range Prius Plug Ins seem to be the worst offenders. Even a small fee would discourage such activity and allow me to travel further from home knowing the chances of evse availability is higher.

Mister G

LOL.. 4 city block range Prius..it’s a shame that Toyota didn’t support BEVs.


How about a fee that STARTS once the car has a full charge…

Jeff Songster

Some are virtually free in only charging by the kW like Greenlots’ Sacramento Muni Utils District HQ does. Or like Target San Rafael that gives you the first 2 hours free on their 18 ChargePoint units. I think the Plugshare folks said that they count these as pay stations even though they are virtually free to usually free in reality.


Free market has already spoken and free charging is a really cheap way to attract a specific segment of the population.
For Target to offer free charging costs it practically nothing compared to the regular advertising budget.
This type of charging rate is exactly the same as Google offering “free” services. The specific service you are using is no direct monetary cost to you – but Google monetize it easily.
These free chargers are just monetizing it by getting you into the store and buying stuff


So, what about those stations that are free for 2 hours and then charges fees after that?

Is that considered as “free” station or paid stations?

There are few of those in my area…

But one thing I can say that more and more free stations are gettting converted to “fee based” stations.

Personally, I think that is a good thing if we want those types of services to sustain itself…

Rex Wilson

So there are 14,000 Public Charging Stations as per this stats. This is second only to the Gasoline & Diesel.
Good to hear that charging stations have increased so rapidly.

But the government stats shows only 11,507 public + private charging stations. I know that government may not have the latest stats.
Note: To include private stations, check on the box.


I live across the street from a shopping center in N. Texas that has one charger. The shopping center charges an amount equivalent to about $10.00 a gallon for gasoline to use it. It has been there about three years, and I have seen it being used only once. The shopping center could create some good will by making it free, but management doesn’t seem bright enough to realize that.


There might also be a happy medium somewhere between “free” and “$10 a gallon (equiv.)”. 😉

Mister G

You’re in Texas…the state that is owned by the oil and gas industry. C’MON MAN