Nissan Proves That Free EV Charging Helps Sell Cars

By · March 06, 2014

Niissan LEAF at eVgo Station

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.

Comments

· · 20 weeks ago

"The EV is officially rated by the EPA to provide 73 miles per charge."

Time to update your information. The 2011/2012 Leaf was rated at 73 miles. The 2013 Leaf was rated at 75, and the 2014 Leaf is rated at 84 miles! Oh, but don't worry, for the most part those aren't real gains, they're just different ways of measuring (until 2014, it was an average of 80% / 100% charge).

Also, I don't think it's fair to say that Nissan is pioneering this idea - Tesla has been doing it for a while now with their own supercharger network!

I really dislike the subscription model, and hope it goes away in the long run. I do understand how it can be appealing now, though, with limited EVs and limited networks. To stay in business, eVgo needs some sort of consistent revenue. In the future, I hope to see 3-4 major networks, each with competitive pay-per-use rates, like the gasoline "networks" (e.g. Mobil, Sunoco, Valero, Hess...)

· · 20 weeks ago

@Brian - Thanks. We updated the article to indicate 84 miles of range on the 2014 model--although I agree that it's mostly a shift in measurement and real-world range has always been in the 75 - 85 neighborhood (during mild weather).

While Tesla pioneered free charging, I see a fundamental distinction between free charging for the occasional road trip (in the Tesla approach), and free access to all public charging, local and distant.

Maybe automakers could take it a step further, and offer free home charging as well. Electricity is cheap.

· · 20 weeks ago

I certainly see how it will get people's attention. This is probably a good way to cross the chasm to the uninitiated. Those of use who know and love EVs already know how cheap electricity is.

I also appreciate that Nissan is proactively helping to build out the infrastructure. Tesla decided to roll their own protocol, and therefore they have to build their own network. By using CHAdeMO, Nissan can partner with other companies - such as eVgo - to help build out networks. I really wish there was something going on in this neck of the woods, but we have zero quick chargers of any kind within 200 miles. Makes it very hard / impossible to have a Leaf as one's only car. Whenever chatting with someone about the Leaf, the question always comes up "what about road trips?". I invariably have to say "well, then we take my wife's car...".

· · 19 weeks ago

Could free access to a 240-volt and DC fast charging network persuade consumers to buy ? ABSOLUTELY! The only thing holding me back from buying a leaf is that there is very little charging support where I live.

· · 19 weeks ago

Those of use who know and love EVs already know how cheap electricity is.

There's also a bizarre quirk in human behavior, where "free" is completely different from "so cheap it's essentially free".

Even if you charge people enough up front for some auxiliary item (such as the electric energy to run an EV), and then claim they get the item "free" (which is not really true, they still have to put time and effort into going to the place at which the "free" item is available), they behave quite differently from when you charge them less up front, and then charge them for the item—even if the total cost is obviously the same in the end.

There's just something hugely attractive to humans about "free".

· · 19 weeks ago

In addition to more fast DC charging stations, it would be key to have a reliable way to find them, maybe built into the car and/or a smaht phone app. To even just *know* those stations are there (with or without a fee) makes it more likely for people to buy EV's.

· · 19 weeks ago

Nissan has bee making better cars and I recommend it as it lasts long. The new free EV charging really helps sell cars. Nice update

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