Can free charging boost Nissan Leaf sales?

Buy a Nissan Leaf, get free charging. Sound familiar?

At the beginning of last year, Nissan slashed the price of its Leaf electric car. By the end of the year it saw a 130 percent jump in sales. The Leaf now has more than 110,000 total sales worldwide. 

This year the carmaker is hoping that free charging can boost the car's sales even higher. 

Nissan announced that it's launching a "No Charge to Charge" program in 25 markets in the United States. Those markets account for more than 80 percent of Leaf sales, Nissan says.

For two years, Leaf customers in these markets will receive "EZ-Charge" cards that will enable them to charge their car for free at public charging points run by ChargePoint, Blink Network from Car Charging Group, AeroVironment and NRG eVgo.

Will this strategy boost sales this year? There is some reason to be optimistic, though from a small sample size. Nissan's initial version of the "No Charge to Charge" program in Dallas and Houston launched last year. And at least one dealer in the Houston area claimed that the free charging program helped to triple Leaf sales at his dealership.

The first 10 markets will begin the program on July 1. Those markets: San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and Washington, D.C. The program will rollout in 15 more markets next year.

Of course Nissan isn't the first EV maker to give away free charging to entice buyers. Tesla has been rapidly expanding its Supercharger stations around the world. And it's lead to some epic, record-breaking roadtrips

The key differences between the programs: Leaf owners get free charging for a limited time while Tesla owners have no limit (Telsa owners also pay more for their car). The other main difference is that Tesla owners can only use Tesla chargers for free charging. Leaf owners will have access to charging stations from multiple companies. 

According to the New York Times, there are 600 public 480-volt DC fast chargers and "thousands more" of the slower-charging 240-volt stations.

Photo: NRG eVgo

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