Nissan’s free EV charging program aims to turn range anxiety into “range confidence”
Announced back in April, Nissan’s expansion of the “No Charge to Charge” program is officially underway. Available in ten major markets initially with fifteen more to come that will collectively represent 80% of current LEAF sales, the program offers new LEAF buyers free charging for two years at any participating public charging station in these markets.
An equally important initiative is the integration of four of the biggest charging providers into one EZ-Charge card. ChargePoint, CarCharging including their Blink Network, NRG eVgo, and Aerovironment stations may all be accessed with the same card. This provides the “interoperability” that greatly simplifies EV ownership for hesitant potential buyers. Nissan spearheaded the effort, but it will be made available to owners of other EVs in the future.
A slight catch
The electricity is only free for the first 30 minutes of a DC fast charge and the first hour of a Level II charge. Appropriate fees will be assessed if a vehicle is charging beyond these time limits.
Luckily 30 minutes is enough to charge a fully depleted LEAF battery to 80% capacity, so it shouldn’t be too much of an issue. A bigger problem might be the lack of DC fast charging stations relative to their slower Level II counterparts; in the initial ten markets (San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Forth Worth, Houston, and Washington, D.C.) there are about currently about 2,400 participating Level II stations but only 200 DC fast chargers. The fast charging infrastructure is expected to grow rapidly in the future, though.
Another downside, as reported by Inside EVs, is that ChargePoint will participate in the EZ-Charge promotion but will not offer free charging as part of the “No Charge to Charge” program. However, the company claims that 60% of its stations are already free anyway. And considering ChargePoint said it would drop out of the EZ-Charge promotion in May, the return of the nation’s largest charging service provider is a big boost.
Why ChargePoint’s participation is important: think McDonald’s and Starbucks
Even if not every ChargePoint station is free, their presence is crucial to the success of any program that seeks to provide convenient public charging. This is because ChargePoint has surpassed 18,000 charging stations in the United States. To put that in perspective, ChargePoint EV charging stations outnumber Starbucks, McDonalds, and Walmart in the U.S. Critically, these stations are fairly evenly distributed unlike some other networks that are highly concentrated in a few markets.
What simplified charging does for Nissan and the EV industry
Nissan is well aware that its best-selling LEAF is range-limited, and knows that alleviating range anxiety either real or perceived is key to attracting new customers.
“There is an expectation that we'll get a sales increase out of this,” Brendan Jones, director of Nissan EV Sales and Infrastructure, told AutoblogGreen. “All the dealer has to say is that we have one card that accesses all chargers and we have a promotion where you can get free charging. The more complexity we reduce, the more sales we get.”
As for the broader electric vehicle industry, Nissan believes its initiatives are the first step toward universal charging cooperation that will remove a major obstacle to EV adoption. "[Interoperability] is a necessity for the industry now,” said Jones. “We know the experience is great once they drive it. This just takes away a barrier, that confusion at the dealership."
Considering the effect of range anxiety on EV sales, Nissan’s leadership in charging convenience is critical until battery technology improves and Americans get comfortable with the idea of limited-range electric vehicles and the planning they require for longer trips.
To attract hesitant buyers after the initial wave of early adopters, having conveniently accessible public charging stations all over the country will help a great deal. ChargePoint is demonstrating that the number of charging stations will soon no longer be an issue, and Nissan is planning to remove the complication of multiple charging networks. The Nissan LEAF will be the first vehicle to benefit.