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Is Volta Fast Charging Free? The Ultimate 2023 Guide

Hey friend! With electric vehicle adoption growing, charging costs remain a big concern. But Volta offers a nice perk – free EV charging!

In this detailed guide, I’ll cover everything you need to know about Volta’s free charging program in 2023 and beyond. Let’s dive in!

Volta Used to Offer Free DC Fast Charging

When Volta launched in 2010, it made waves by offering free DC fast charging. This allowed EV drivers to juice up quickly at no cost.

However, in 2019 Volta discontinued their free DC fast charging program. They found the operating costs for ultra-fast charging stations too high to sustain for free.

But the good news is Volta continues to offer free Level 2 charging to this day. This provides slower yet sizable cost savings.

Volta Currently Offers Free Level 2 Charging

As of 2023, the majority of Volta’s 2,000+ charging stations across 23 U.S. states offer free Level 2 charging.

Level 2 charging uses 240V connections to deliver 7-10 kWh speeds. That adds about 25-35 miles of driving range per hour of charging.

While not as fast as DC charging, Level 2 is cheaper to install and operate. It works well for topping up during errands and short stops.

According to Volta, drivers can save over $1,000 per year using their free Level 2 charging stations versus paid networks. Those are big savings from just charging for free!

Charging Method Miles of Range Per Hour
Level 2 Charging 25-35 miles
DC Fast Charging 200+ miles

Volta’s Level 2 Charging Details:

  • Charging speed: 7-10 kWh
  • Adds 25-35 miles of range per hour
  • Up to 2 hours of free charging per session
  • Over 2,000 stations across 23 U.S. states
  • Convenient retail & venue locations in metro areas

This allows you to conveniently recharge while running errands around town. Volta’s level 2 chargers are located at shopping malls, grocery stores, pharmacies, gyms, hotels, concert venues, and other retail partners.

Simply plug in, charge up for free for up to 2 hours, and be on your way!

Volta Also Offers Limited DC Fast Charging

In addition to their widespread free Level 2 charging, Volta does operate some DC fast charging stations. However, these are more limited than their Level 2 presence.

Volta’s DC fast chargers provide output up to 50 kW. That pales in comparison to market leaders like Tesla Superchargers (250 kW) and Electrify America (350 kW).

Still, 50 kW allows you to add about 200 miles of range per hour. Not too shabby! Locations focus on highway routes and metro regions.

Volta’s DC Fast Charging Details:

  • Charging speed: Up to 50 kW
  • Adds 200+ miles of range per hour
  • Up to 30 minutes of free charging per session
  • Limited locations focused on highways & metro areas

The lower 50 kW power helps Volta reduce operating costs compared to ultra-fast 100-350 kW chargers. But the free 30 minutes of charging provides nice savings.

Volta Charging Network Focused on Convenience

Rather than raw speed, Volta aims to provide convenient, hassle-free charging through partnerships. They work with shopping centers, pharmacies, grocery stores, concert venues, sports stadiums, and other businesses.

This allows you to quickly get a free boost while running errands around town. It’s a handy way to extend your range at no cost!

Volta focuses their locations on major metro regions including:

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • New York City
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Washington D.C.

So if you’re in one of these areas, chances are you’ll have Volta charging stations nearby to juice up on the go.

How Does Volta Offer Free Charging?

You’re probably wondering – how can Volta offer unlimited free EV charging? The answer is advertising revenue.

Volta’s stations feature large digital displays for imagery, videos, and ads. Brands pay Volta to show ads targeted toward the EV drivers using their chargers.

According to Volta’s CEO Scott Mercer, free charging removes a major hurdle to mass EV adoption. By eliminating fees, Volta hoped to rapidly expand their stations while attracting EV drivers to view ads.

And their business model seems to be working! Volta has expanded to over 2,000 charging stations nationwide and continues growing.

Volta Charging Speed and Reliability

In a study comparing Level 2 charging networks, Volta ranked 2nd behind Tesla Destination Chargers with a score of 667 out of 1000.

Volta earned high marks for charging speed and convenience. Reliability was decent but lagged behind networks like ChargePoint.

For Volta’s DC fast charging, the study gave an overall score of 614 out of 1000. This placed Volta well behind Tesla Superchargers (739 points) which ranked highest for speed and reliability.

So while Volta isn’t the fastest or most reliable charging network, their stations offer very solid performance. And the free charging helps offset any weaknesses!

How Volta Compares to ChargePoint

Like Volta, ChargePoint is rapidly building out charging stations nationwide. But here are some key differences:

Volta ChargePoint
Free charging Pay per session fees
Lower power charging Offers wide range of charging speeds
Focused on retail/public locations Home, fleet, and public charging

For budget-minded EV drivers, Volta’s free charging delivers huge savings. But ChargePoint has faster overall charging speeds and options beyond public charging.

Volta Charging Session Duration

As mentioned earlier, Volta provides free charging for a limited time per session:

  • Level 2 Charging: Free for up to 2 hours
  • DC Fast Charging: Free for up to 30 minutes

Once you exceed the free window, you may incur per-minute/per-hour fees. The Volta app and screens notify when paid charging begins.

The Drawbacks of Fast Charging

While fast charging speeds up recharging, it also wears down EV batteries quicker. Ultra-fast charging heats up battery cells and accelerates degradation over time.

Experts suggest limiting use of DC fast charging when possible. Slow Level 2 charging overnight is best for long-term battery health. But occasional fast charging is needed for road trips. It’s about finding balance.

For example, Kia recommends minimizing use of DC fast charging in their EV manuals. Moderation is key for battery longevity.

Is Overnight Charging OK?

Is it alright to charge your EV battery overnight? Generally yes, as long as the temperature stays moderately cool.

Avoid charging overnight during extreme heat or cold. If possible, park in a garage to help maintain optimal temps for overnight charging.

The battery itself stops drawing current when fully charged. So leaving it plugged in all night won’t overcharge once it hits 100%. But temperature extremes can still degrade batteries over time.

What Vehicles Are Compatible With Volta Charging?

Volta’s Level 2 charging stations use the J1772 connector, the standard for Level 2 AC charging.

Tesla vehicles come with a J1772 adapter, so you can charge at Volta’s Level 2 stations using this adapter. Very handy!

For Volta’s DC fast chargers, these use the CCS connector. Some adapters are available, but with limitations. Your best bet is using a CCS-equipped vehicle like a Chevy Bolt or Kia EV6.

Always check your owner’s manual for charging compatibility specifics.

Volta Acquired by Shell

In major EV industry news, Shell announced in January 2023 it will acquire Volta in a $169 million all-cash deal.

For Shell, this provides a fast expansion of their charging network by leveraging Volta’s existing retail relationships and locations.

For Volta, the acquisition provides resources to grow further. But it’s uncertain if the free charging model will remain long-term after the deal finalizes. We’ll have to wait and see!

Top EV Charging Brands

While Volta made a name with free fueling, who leads the EV charging market overall right now?

According to 2020-2021 retail sales value, Anker is the #1 mobile charging brand globally.

For public fast charging, ABB recently unveiled the Terra 360. It‘s currently the world‘s fastest EV charger, capable of adding 100 miles in just 3 minutes!

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, Volta delivers an awesome perk for EV drivers: free fueling.

While Volta lags behind some rival networks in raw charging power, their free Level 2 charging provides gigantic savings. For road trips, their limited DC fast charging offers a nice backup.

Volta’s retail partnerships also make charging super convenient across metro regions. With Shell‘s acquisition looming, the future looks bright yet uncertain.

But for now, Volta remains a go-to choice to charge up for zero cost. Just be aware of the free session time limits.

Let me know if you have any other questions! I’m happy to chat more about Volta charging and how it can save you money. Charging ahead!