While the Nissan Leaf is the top selling electric car worldwide, Nissan is hoping to strengthen that lead by spurring more sales with an incentive that offers new buyers two years of free public charging. While the deal is enticing, the overall value is not very great, partially because electricity rates are relatively low compared to gasoline, and because the program has limits.
"It limits Level 2 charging, which is the most common type, to an hour of free energy per use, which is about 75 cents worth at the current national average for electricity," says John O'Dell, senior analyst at Edmunds.com. "The greater value is in the rapid charging, where the 30 minutes of free power being offered in the program can be worth up to $10."
New Nissan Leaf buyers in the "No Charge to Charge" program get free access to charging at over 2,600 public stations and more than 200 quick chargers in 10 cities: San Francisco, Sacramento, California; San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Oregon; Nashville, Tennessee; Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and Washington, D.C.
Nissan said it has plans to expand the program to at least 15 additional U.S. markets within the next year.
While the program may not have a huge monetary value, O'Dell says that it's a good example of the way manufacturers are providing incentives to increase consumers' comfort levels about driving electric cars.
"It really gives prospective new Leaf owners more confidence they can find charging stations," he says.
Unsure whether an EV is right for you? Read the pros and cons of electric cars.
Tara Baukus Mello writes the cars blog as well as the weekly Driving for Dollars column, providing both practical financial advice for consumers as well as insight into the latest developments in the automotive world. Follow her on Facebook here or on Twitter @SheDrives.