Free Charging: Exploratory Study of Its Impact on Electric Vehicle Sales and Energy

Maness, M; Lin, ZH

Lin, ZH (reprint author), Oak Ridge Natl Lab, Natl Transportat Res Ctr, Knoxville, TN 37932 USA.



This paper explores the feasibility of further research into providing free public charging services. Charging behavior research has noted some increased usage of free charging facilities, but inferential analysis has not studied whether this increased usage is a result of decreased price solely or free is a special price. Recent research in other fields, such as behavioral economics and marketing, has analyzed whether people's decision process varies between when a product's price is "free" and when it has a positive price. Laboratory and field experiments have found that people treat zero as a special price and obtain additional benefit from purchasing a free product or obtaining a free product in a bundle. Because of a lack of data and study in the electric vehicle area, evaluating the effectiveness of free charging programs is currently difficult. This paper explores potential impacts of free charging on plug-in electric vehicle adoption by integrating empirical findings in marketing research with consumer choice modeling. A behavioral framework is proposed to represent the perceived benefit from free charging events. The Market Acceptance of Advanced Automotive Technologies (MA3T) model was modified to incorporate a value of free from free charging events. Results show that a short-term free public charging program could possibly increase plug-in electric vehicle sales, decrease oil consumption, and decrease greenhouse gas emissions at an efficient cost-benefit rate. This exploratory work motivates further study and the paper concludes with a discussion of research programs that could be used to determine a valuation for free charging.

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