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Are Public Charging Stations Free or Expensive Pitstops?

a silver car plugged into a public ev charging station

Are Public Charging Stations Free or Expensive Pitstops?

We Need Access to Affordable EV Charging

a silver car plugged into a public ev charging station

The rise of electric vehicles (EVs) has become one of the most transformative trends in the automotive industry in the 21st century. Globally, the adoption of EVs has grown exponentially, driven by technological advancements, environmental concerns, and supportive policies.

However, this evolution in transport systems necessitates a robust charging infrastructure to support the burgeoning EV market. The availability and cost of EV public charging stations have become critical factors in this ecosystem. This blog post delves into a burning question among potential EV owners and current users alike - are public charging stations free or pricey pitstops?

What Are Public Charging Stations?

Public EV charging stations are dedicated points where EVs can recharge their batteries. They are publicly accessible and can be found in various locations, such as parking lots, shopping centers, or even on-street locations. They are classified into three main categories: slow, fast, and rapid chargers.

  • Slow chargers typically offer a power output of up to 3kW, ideal for overnight charging.
  • Fast chargers have a power output ranging from 7kW to 22kW and can fully charge an EV in 3-4 hours.
  • Rapid chargers provide a power output of 43kW to 50kW or more, significantly reducing charging time to under an hour.

How do Public EV Charging Stations Work?

The principle behind EV charging stations is relatively simple: they draw electricity from the grid and convert it into a form that can be stored in an EV's battery pack, ready for use. How public EV charging stations work may seem complicated, but it's essentially just a transfer of energy from one storage system to another.

Are Public Charging Stations Free?

In short, some public EV charging stations are free, and some you have to pay for.

Public EV charging stations' costs vary greatly by location, power level, and operator. In some cities like Los Angeles, public charging stations are free, often as part of city initiatives to promote clean energy and reduce carbon emissions. Government or business subsidies often back these programs.

However, not all public EV charging stations are free. Some operate under various payment structures like pay-per-use, subscription models, or tiered pricing systems based on charging speed. The cost of public EV charging stations can sometimes be higher than home charging, especially for fast and rapid chargers due to higher electricity usage and infrastructure costs. However, when compared to traditional fueling costs at gas stations, EV charging, even at paid public stations, can often be cheaper.

The Economics of Charging Stations

 a close up of a man counting 20 dollar bills

Several factors influence the pricing of public charging stations. Key among these are the cost of electricity, infrastructure investment for installing the chargers, and ongoing operation and maintenance costs.

As for the business models, charging stations adopt various strategies. Some stations operate on a subscription basis, offering unlimited charging for a monthly fee. Others use a pay-per-use model, where users pay based on the amount of energy consumed. Some businesses offer free charging as a benefit to attract customers. Meanwhile, tiered pricing models charge users based on the charging speed.

Future trends in pricing are expected to reflect changes in energy prices, EV market growth, and evolving government policies. However, the overarching objective remains the same: make EV charging affordable and accessible to promote sustainable transportation.

The Impact of Charging Costs on EV Adoption

The cost of public charging plays a significant role in a potential buyer's decision to purchase an EV. For example, in cities where free public EV charging stations are common, the adoption of EVs is usually higher. Consumer perceptions of charging costs significantly influence their willingness to transition to electric mobility.

Research suggests that transparency in pricing and accessibility of affordable public EV charging stations can significantly accelerate EV adoption. For instance, a study by McKinsey discusses how

Expensive Pitstops or Cost-Saving?

Are public EV charging stations free or costly? Well, that depends on several factors such as the price per kWh, charging speed, and the vehicle energy efficiency.

Given the average cost per kWh and typical EV energy efficiency, public EV charging can often be cost-effective, especially when compared to the cost of gasoline. Furthermore, the convenience of charging locations and the speed of charging can offset the cost, making public charging stations a practical solution for EV drivers.

Public Charging

Home Charging


Cost per “Gallon”








Charging/Fuelling Time




However, to ensure cost efficiency, users must understand how to calculate and compare costs, factoring in variables like the electricity rate, charging time, and vehicle's energy efficiency.

Tips for EV Owners

To maximize cost savings, EV owners can follow these tips:

  • Use public charging stations when you need to charge quickly or while making long trips.
  • Leverage home charging for daily commuting needs.
  • Utilize apps like PlugShare to find cost-effective or free charging stations near you.
  • If possible, charge during off-peak hours when electricity rates are lower.
  • Take advantage of workplace charging if it's available, as it can be cheaper or even free.


In conclusion, public EV charging stations, while not always free, can be cost-effective solutions depending on various factors. The role of public charging infrastructure is undeniably crucial in promoting EV adoption and sustainable transportation. As more cities, companies, and societies pledge to lower their carbon footprints, the availability and affordability of public EV charging stations will continue to play a pivotal role.

Are you considering installing an EV charging point at home or business? Get in touch today to schedule a free consultation with one of our experts. We’ll help you choose the best system for your requirements, complete full installation, and provide ongoing support.