After I wrote an article about spending $0 charging a couple of electric cars over nearly 3 years in Florida, some commenters chimed in with “friendly” (or not so friendly) criticism that I shouldn’t be grubbing off of the rest of society and not paying to charge my electric car, and also that I and other electric car drivers should have to pay extra taxes/fees to cover the costs of building and maintaining roads. I’ll address the second point in another article or two, but let’s start with the first one.
It seems some people didn’t get the point as to why there is 100% free charging in my area, and that’s fine — it gives me more to write about in order to highlight this nice feature of EV life and also explain the context behind it.
There are two core reasons why there’s free charging in many of the places I go, and isn’t any paid charging anywhere I go — or anywhere in the two counties where I spend almost all of my time.
First of all, several shops and shopping centers have decided to install charging stations in order to entice electric vehicle drivers into their stores. They also decided the best way to do that was to offer the charging for free. They have smart charging stations from ChargePoint that would allow them to start charging drivers at any time, but they’ve chosen till now to just keep it free (aka complimentary).
And — I’m sure it works! Having the chargers brings EV drivers to their stores or shopping centers, people who might (or definitely would) go somewhere else otherwise. Also, and this is important, EV drivers will often stay longer while charging — and thus buy more — if they are eager to have their cars charge up for a while on the complimentary charging.
Who pays for the measly amount of electricity a store or shopping center provides the EV drivers? Presumably, the extra profit the company makes from the EV-driving shoppers is more than enough to cover the extra electricity cost. (Otherwise, they wouldn’t offer it for free.) So, the drivers are essentially paying for the extra costs? Well, if they would have just bought the same things at a different store anyway, they (we) also aren’t really paying anything extra, and you could say they/we are not footing the bill in any real tangible way. If you follow that trail one step further, though, then I think you have to contend that the shop’s competitors pay, because they are the ones losing out on revenue/profits.
So, who am I harming by enjoying free charging at a store, shopping center, or mall? The competitors of the host store, shopping center, or mall. Great! I’d like to support proactive companies leading us into a cleaner future, and I’d like to see laggards losing more and more market share. It’s a win-win-win — a win for the company that had the foresight to install the chargers for zero-emissions electric car drivers and now gets more business; a win for the EV drivers who get free charging; and a win for society since it increases electric car adoption and cuts pollution. Who pays? The laggards that compete with the forward-thinking shops, shopping centers, and malls and lose business as a result.
What about the second core source of free EV charging (aside from Tesla, which is another story that doesn’t need to be explained here), city facilities? Again, it’s the city’s decision whether to charge for charging or not. There are plenty of reasons to want more electric cars in your city. Fossil-fuel-powered vehicles are often the largest or second largest source of pollution in a city. I’d say they must be the largest source in the city where I drive and charge. That pollution results in massive health costs and also contributes to disruptive global heating and climate change. If the city can cut pollution significantly by providing free electricity to EV drivers, so be it! Why not do so? Again, what it comes down to is net costs, and if there’s a net benefit for a jurisdiction and its residents rather than a net cost, why not pursue it further? And should I and other EV drivers avoid the free chargers in order to … well … send a message that we don’t want free charging stations? That just doesn’t make any sense. Rather, we should use those complimentary chargers in order to encourage the city and in order to indicate that we’d like to see more EV charging stations around the city. More EV charging stations would entice more drivers, which would help everyone.
Different entities have different reasons for installing free charging stations. But they all make sense. And for someone without home charging, whatever these reasons are, they enable an EV life that probably wouldn’t be practical without that effort. It’s only logical in my eyes.