Skip to main content

A Good EV Charger Map App and Free Charging

Do you know what's the best app to find charging stations for electric cars? PlugShare seems to be the app by which all others are compared to, if you want to find free EV charging stations near you.
Posted: August 22, 2018 - 6:54AM
Author: Al Castro

Plugshare has the largest comprehensive map of chargers across the US, it gives you what level or wattage they are, reviews of the location with customers’ experience, and real time data on the availability of all the chargers at the particular station. It has all major charging station networks including Tesla Charging Stations which makes this a great backup app to Tesla’s. The app is free.

Consider charging your EV in the state of California. Since CA is green friendly I am sure it’s a great tool for any part of the state. I don’t drive often into the Central Valley or along the coast on Pacific Coast Highway, or from LA through Death Valley or on the way to Barstow, however, but those are the only three or so areas I can think of where you might want to exercise a little more care between chargings to keep an eye on your fuel gauge and this map app. If not mistaken I recently a remember one of my readers telling me I believe on about EV driving through Death Valley can be a bit challenging but not impossible. So whether around town or through Death Valley always beware of range.

Now warning: before you folks blow up my Page, I’ve researched the app, I took a look at it on IOS App Store, but I haven’t used it yet. But from what I read, if I had to put a charging app on my phone other than a house branded charging network like Tesla if I owned a Tesla, this probably would be the one for at least a backup that I like to do with all my apps.

So I haven’t reviewed PlugShare as an experience, but I looked into it see if I could get a sense of it. Okay?

But I do know that my colleagues over at Engadget, Clean Technica, and Green Car Reports all have nice things to say about it and with that it gets my vote. I hope this answers the question!

Another issue someone else asked me and let me make this clear it wasn’t Patrick: If there is such a thing. and if so, where can you get free EV charging?

In my journey with electric cars I have yet to hear of a place where EV charging was unconditionally free. Nothing in life is free, and if there is you have to look real hard to find it, and expect it to not last long. Readers chime in if you know otherwise but that might be about killing a tree that no one will be able to get fruit from it ever again:

By asking about free charging, at least for me, that’s the equivalent of asking for free gas, stuff like this doesn’t come free! Juice might be cheaper than gas but giving it for free restricts access to those who are willing to pay and need it. Now the closest thing to free that you might have with EV charging is hooking your car up to a destination charger at a hotel as a guest. Some hospitality places may make that a free amenity, others may charge a guest for use of it.

Let me address the issue of “free” charging on networks like ChargePoint and Volta. Yes technically that’s free charging but not necessarily at the same place at the same time always. These networks give these chargers to the property owners to determine the prices. Sometimes they’re not free all, the time. You need to use their app to find the locations where most of those stations are free and at the right times. Usually but not always, publlic charging stations run by a government entity are free. This is what I mean by you have to sometimes look hard to find something for free and it’s not always guaranteed. Sometimes the locations are so limited it entails leaving your home state to go elsewhere to charge. If something were free all the time then pepople would expect it to be free all the time, as if it were an entitlement. Keep that in mind.

I have heard rumors and again, these are rumors I heard by sources close to the car rental/sharing industry, and one of the things those folks seem to be knocking around is the idea of free charging for anyone at airport car rental locations during the day hours. With a coffee lounge, snack bar etc., you can come in and charge your car free while you wait for a friend or relative to clear customs, you charge your car while you pay and drink coffee or snack, recharge your cell phone, or go to the customer service desk and ask about car services available. This is something similar to the Starbucks and Amazon Bookstore brick and mortar business models. It seems the rental and sharing businesses are looking for a business model where they can make use of the chargers at non-peak times to make money elsewhere. But this is all in speculation idea phase. Again, nothing confirmed or written. And I wouldn’t consider this unconditionally free. The problem and point I’m about to make is that others would.

This reminds me of the peculiar things I’ve seen at Starbucks over the years. I remember one time sitting and drinking coffee when someone came in with a steroided e-bike, and this thing looked like it almost could be either a scooter or motorcycle. The rider actually pulled out an extension cord and began charging! I know that won’t fly at other locations and it wouldn’t surprise me if this rider with a straight face would tell the next Starbucks manager that the last place let him do it!

My point is there’s a difference between an establishment letting you do such a thing, and getting away with it for them to turn a blind eye once. It’s a fine line between amenities and abuse. Please don’t try to push envelopes. That’s being selfish and ruining it for others.

My expertise is in the area of electric and autonomous cars. If you folks have any questions for me about any kind of car, insuring, buying, or financing cars, or the things that can happen while driving in them like when you get ticketed or towed or booted or arrested or broken down come ask me!

Anyone want to chime in about your favorite charging app or PlugShare? Please let us know.

Al Castro reports EV News for Torque News. Please follow all on Twitter at @SgtAlCastro, Facebook and Linkedin and send him tips for new stories.


DeanMcManis (not verified)    August 22, 2018 - 4:58PM

Thanks Al. I downloaded the app. 98% of the time I just charge overnight at home. One advantage of a PHEV is that you have gas as a backup after you have used up your electricity. I have not seen free charging (unless you count plugging in at your family or good friend's house), but many bigger cities provide close parking at public parking garages with EV chargers. And it is often worth a few bucks to get a good parking spot and charge up at the same time. But if there is already someone charging there that spoils the benefit. With these EV apps it shows how many charging stations are nearby, and their current status of use. The only problems are if someone plugs in, and then just leaves their car there all night for the parking space, or worse if a non-EV car just parks in a charging space. But for most garages they will get towed for doing that. I installed the app and it shows chargers available at several wineries near my house which I never knew about. I'm not sure how good of an idea that charging your car at a winery is, seeing that by the time you got all charged up, you would likely be in no condition to drive.

jim stack (not verified)    August 25, 2018 - 10:24AM

I use PlugShare everyday. It has every charger of all types. You can filter for thype of charge port and if it's free or pay.
The best part is users like me update each when we use the port so you know the date and any notes like watch for big dog or eat at so and so while you charge.

Al Castro    September 6, 2018 - 2:13AM

Dean and everybody else thanks for your heads up, Eric especially you I smiled when I read that. When someone asked me the question that started this news story using the word “free,” I take it free in every sense that each and every time you go back there’s no expectation that you should ever one day pay. As free as some networks might make their’s free at times, they’re never free all the time! That’s what I wanted to convey. Thanks for reading my stories. I love you all!

Bartek (not verified)    September 10, 2018 - 5:20PM

What is the cost of charging the car in NYC?
Do you guys Think its better save money and charge in public station instead use home own station?

Al Castro    September 11, 2018 - 12:46PM

In reply to by Bartek (not verified)

Like with just about everything else in life it depends. When you have to pay for the juice whether at home or away, the cheapest rate is probably at home at night. If you find a charging station that’s willing to supply you free at the moment, then of course that station is your best course. The cost of charging regardless of locale, depends on the network, location, time of day, and availability. A phone charger network app is best to help you with this.

Al Castro    December 22, 2018 - 10:34AM

In reply to by Bartek (not verified)

Always use a home charger. There’s never a line to use it unless a family of driving teenagers, and its probably the cheapest you can find without finding any. I come from NYC and I know Con Ed charges an arm for its juice. Do it at home whenever you can.

Sam Anderson (not verified)    December 6, 2018 - 6:28PM

GoogleMaps is starting to show charging stations. Search "Electric" and you'll see the results

Al Castro    December 22, 2018 - 10:40AM

In reply to by Sam Anderson (not verified)

Yes, I addressed this in an October 2018 update to this article giving my EV readers some updates on what’s going on with charging options, and Google Maps app is in play as a charging station map app, you just have to give it time to collect the data so it becomes more comprehensive and detailed. So copy and paste:

James Wendte (not verified)    April 30, 2019 - 12:22PM

I have a Volta Charging Station about 5 miles from my apartment. It is always crowed with people charging for longer than allowed. But it is free.