Nissan Proves That Free EV Charging Helps Sell Cars
Could free access to a 240-volt and DC fast charging network persuade consumers to buy a battery-electric vehicle?
Nissan has been seeking the answer to that question through a program in Texas that offers free charging to buyers of the Nissan LEAF. At the same time, through the trial program, charging station provider NRG gets to test another business model for making public charging profitable.
The “No Charge to Charge” program—which launched October 1, 2013 and runs through March 31, 2014—gives those who buy or lease a LEAF in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston metro areas free access to NRG’s eVgo network of stations in those areas for 12 months.
“We think (the program) holds promise to bring new LEAF buyers into the fold,” Brendan Jones, director of EV infrastructure strategy and deployment at Nissan USA told PluginCars.com. “Public charging at workplaces or other key locations in the community act as the ultimate range extender and encourage more people to consider, and purchase, an electric car.”
One Nissan dealer in the Houston area says the free charging deal has tripled his LEAF sales. “Our floor traffic and Internet leads have picked up significantly,” added Christopher Goodwin, general manager of Baker Nissan North.
Trying Different Business Models
Pushing the limits of driving range by offering abundant free charging could be an important perk for consumers considering buying or leasing a LEAF. The 2014 LEAF is officially rated by the EPA to provide 84 miles per charge.
Nissan and NRG say they developed the program “cooperatively.” For NRG, which is building the eVgo network of Freedom Station charge points in select states, the program is a way to test yet another business model for public charging: getting the automaker to foot the bill.
Nissan pays a fee to NRG eVgo for its customers to have access to the charging network, according to Jack Cannata, NRG eVgo director of marketing. “eVgo is delivering a variety of plans to different markets to offer consumers choice and learn more about consumer’s desires,” he told PluginCars.com.
Houston-based NRG eVgo already has a fairly extensive charging network in the Dallas-Ft. Worth and Houston area. Houston has 17 Freedom Stations, each of which has a DC fast-charger and a Level 2 charging post. The Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex has 23 stations. They are located at select Walgreen’s drug stores, Cracker Barrel restaurants, Shell and Exxon gas stations, H.E.B. grocery stores, and several other locations.
Outside the free charging program, eVgo payment plans in Texas include: 12 months of unlimited one-hour Level 2 charging sessions for $59.95 (for the entire year); and 12 months of unlimited Level 2 or DC fast charging for $39.95 every month. Both plans have an early termination fee.
Replicating the Success?
eVgo is also building out the Freedom Station networks in California’s San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco Bay areas and in Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia, and Maryland, according to Cannata.
However, don’t hold off on buying or leasing your LEAF until a free charging program comes to your area. “No specific plans have been developed at this time” to extend the No Charge to Charge program to other markets, said Cannata.
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