How to charge your electric car for free: the complete guide

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What if charging an electric car was even cheaper than we imagined? Free charges still exist as of early 2023, but are becoming more rare. Let’s take stock together of these rare pearls that allow you to travel without paying.

Source: Ulrich Rozier for Frandroid

Electric cars are significantly cheaper on a daily basis than their thermal counterparts. In fact, with a cost per kilowatt hour at home of around 0.174 euros, 100 kilometers of electric car usually cost less than three euros. For a gasoline vehicle to compete, it must consume less than two liters per 100 kilometerswhich is a waste of time.

On long trips, as we regularly highlight, the bill can add up a lot due to fast charging prices that are much higher, up to four times more expensive than at home. What if we told you that there are ways to drive an electric vehicle for less or even for free? Let’s see together what it is.

Fast charging is very expensive

Crossing France by electric car is not very cheap nowadays. Indeed, considering an average highway consumption of 20 kWh per 100 kilometres, the price of 100 kilometers varies between 12 and 15 euros depending on the charging networks used. We also have a file that summarizes the main networks and their specificities.

One of the leaders in the sector, Ionity, for example, now offers charging at 0.69 euros per kilowatt hour. Filling a classic electric vehicle (Tesla Model Y Propulsion, Kia EV6 58 kWh or Renault Mégane e-tech) with 10 to 80%, it costs the client almost 30 euros. The same operation at home would only cost 7 euros, less than a quarter of the price.

The Tesla Model 3 Propulsion charging on an Ionity terminal // Source: Bob JOUY for Frandroid

This huge price difference depending on where you charge is very specific to electric mobility, and it is not found in comparable proportions in a thermal vehicle. Of course, some gas stations are more expensive than others, but in no case will gasoline be three or four times as expensive in certain places.

Fortunately, this high-cost fast charging is not inevitable, and above all, it is still very rare. The vast majority of electric car users do have an average cost per 100 kilometers of less than three euros, thanks to many recharges at home, at work or in other potentially less expensive places.

Getting paid for free, an advantage that tends to disappear

Are there only shops, car parks or other places that offer liters of gasoline to the vehicles that park there? However, this is the reality of electric mobility still in 2022, as many brands use free charging stations to encourage customers to come to them.

Of course, this is not systematic, but as an electric car owner, you have to admit that it is always interesting to be able to charge the battery for free. Some malls offer a few free charging stations, and while they aren’t fast, their appeal is very real.

In a small town in Brittany, Renault Zoé at the helm // Source: Bob Jouy for Frandroid

Most are alternating current charging stations, with a power of 7, 11 or 22 kW. Specifically, this means thatin an hour of charging you recover enough to travel between 50 and 150 kilometers. For shopping centers where you can easily spend several hours, it is very likely that you will completely fill your battery.

An electromobilist who travels 1,000 kilometers a month, and who charges even twice a month at a free charging station, would cut his cost by 100 kilometers in half! In fact, with a consumption of 20 kWh per 100 kilometres, 200 kWh are needed to travel 1,000 kilometres. Two free recharges of 50 kWh (that is, 100 kWh) effectively represent a saving of 50%, reducing the cost from 3.4 euros to 1.7 euros per 100 kilometres.

The main problem is therefore the following: How to identify and use these free charging stations wisely and where to find them?

Exceptions that still exist

Spread the word: Don’t imagine traveling on the highway and arriving at a terminal that charges you for free. This scenario is practically non-existent, although in a few exceptions, it happens that a station’s Ionity terminal is occasionally free. When this is the case, it is only because the latter is faulty and charges slowly. It is also reported as such in the Ionity app.

What is much more common are the free charging points in shopping center car parks. The rules are not always the same, but it is not uncommon to be able to plug in “by eye” for several hours. Among the terminals that allow it, we find chargers for Tesla, which are located right next to certain Superchargers, as is the case near Troyes, Tours or Sallanches.

In addition to Tesla’s multiple fast chargers, up to three slow charging stations (the famous Tesla Wall Connector) with the cable connected, so you don’t need your cable to enjoy it. They are compatible with all electric vehicles with Type 2 socket, and are currently not collectible. This is what the Dacia Spring does, for example, in the photo of one of the articles.

Other terminal operators use a different strategy, such as Driveco, which sometimes leaves the first 30 minutes free in certain places. After this grace period, those responsible start paying, but there is a trick some people use to avoid having to pay. It is possible to disconnect after 29 minutes of charging and calmly restart a chargebut that means returning to your vehicle frequently, which is restrictive and contrary to the spirit of these free charges.

Free charging stations are available in the Chargemap app

One of the most effective ways to find free charging locations is to use the excellent Chargemap app, where you can filter which stations are free. so you will find supermarkets, shopping centers, urban car parks or even hotels that let you pass the time charging without spending a single penny. Do not hesitate to check in your usual parking spaces if there are terminals available free of charge, because It probably won’t last forever…

The future of freight will be more expensive overall

No one can miss the Energy crisis currently affecting Europe, where electricity prices are at all-time highs. Although in France there is a price shield intended to protect people, it is necessary to imagine that the future of electric mobility is paid, with some very rare exceptions.

Apart from the purely financial aspect linked to the current increase in energy prices, free collections increase the risk of multiplication of “opportunistic” collections, penalizing those who really need to collect. Indeed, Who would refuse to be offered a few tens of kilometers of additional autonomy, even without it being necessary? If it is enough to park in a place where a free terminal is available, many will benefit from it.

And this is a behavior we notice on a daily basis: when the terminals are paid there are very few abuses, while when the terminals are free, some do not hesitate to continue connected to them with more reason. Terminal operators have this in mind and know that those who need to recharge the most will be willing to pay. But for now, the few places that continue to offer free charging are a rare find for EV drivers.

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