NRG offers free charging for some electric cars

HOUSTON — Buyers of some electric cars will have an added incentive starting this year: Free charging for a year.

NRG Energy, the parent company of Reliant Energy, announced the offer at the Houston Auto Show this week.

The company will offer all buyers of Nissan Leaf vehicles in the Houston or Dallas areas 12 months of free charging at eVgo stations, which are located at grocery stores, pharmacies and other locations.

It is offering similar deals for buyers of the Chevrolet Volt at AutoNation Chevrolet dealerships and buyers of Ford electric vehicles from the Planet Ford dealership in Spring.

NRG has 17 eVgo stations in the Houston area.

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In one hour, the stations can fill the batteries of most electric cars with enough juice to travel 150 miles, according to the company.

Since most electric car drivers slow-charge their vehicles at home on a nightly basis, the stations offer increased flexibility in the case of a long day out.

Electric cars have varying driving ranges, with the Ford Focus Electric able to move 76 miles on a full battery and the Tesla Model S capable of traveling up to 265 miles on a full charge, according to ratings from the U.S. Department of Energy’s fueleconomy.gov website. The Leaf’s range is rated at 84 miles, according to fueleconomy.gov.

The goal of the free charging offer is to make electric cars an easy option for consumers, said Jack Cannata, director of marketing for NRG’s eVgo business.

“We’re just trying to get consumers to buy these things,” Cannata said.

Electric cars represent a potential new market for electric companies and NRG has attempted to become a leader in providing charging solutions for consumers. The company has committed $135 million to building a network of at least 280 stations nationwide, Cannata said.

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NRG’s 17 stations in the Houston area extend from Katy to Baytown, he said.

The free charging offer will let new car buyers use NRG’s charging stations on either the slow charging setting that adds between 12 and 24 miles of driving range to a battery per hour, or on the fast charging setting that can deliver 150 miles of range in one hour.

Since NRG typically charges more for fast charging, the offer could give customers a savings of up to $506 per month, according to eVgo marketing materials.


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