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Utility bill have you feeling EV regret? SF has hundreds of free public chargers

A man stands by two EVs charging at EVgo stations, with "CHARGING ONLY" painted on the ground.
Alan Neves, right, visits the EVgo electric vehicle charging station in the Mission District in San Francisco. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

After state regulators granted Pacific Gas and Electric Co. another rate hike Thursday, electric vehicle charging at home is about to get even more expensive. 

The high cost is even causing consumers to question buying an electric car. And PG&E may have another rate hike this year.

Charging EVs need not be done at home. EV drivers in San Francisco have cash-saving options. There are hundreds of free charging stations scattered throughout the city—usually subsidized by digital advertisements on the chargers.

The San Francisco ordinance requires public commercial parking garages and lots with more than 100 spaces to install charging stations at 10% of the spaces. It’s a measure aimed at helping the city reach its ambitious goal of using 100% greenhouse gas-free transportation by 2040.

Data kept by ChargeHub, a service for helping drivers keep their batteries plugged in, shows over 1,200 publicly accessible charging stations in parking garages and lots—and a third are free or complimentary.

San Francisco has 464 free-to-use charging stations, ChargeHub data shows. The vast majority are Level 2 stations offering 240-volt charging, similar to at-home chargers. About 13% are Level 3 fast-charging systems. The leading charging providers are ChargePoint, Blink and Tesla.

An electric car is plugged into a charging station.
Electric vehicles charge at the Volta De Haro headquarters in Potrero Hill. | Source: Morgan Ellis/The Standard

Most charging stations are scattered across the northeastern neighborhoods, but there are outliers on the west side and even Treasure Island. And down the Peninsula, San Francisco International Airport boasts over 150 stations—all free for those who paid for parking. (SFO spokesperson Doug Yakel said the airport is seeing the usual strong demand but no uptick in usage yet.)

Here are some of the free chargers around the city:

Trader Joe’s
3251 20th Avenue
Two Level 2 Ports

Golden Gate Park Music Concourse Garage
1 Music Concourse Drive, San Francisco, CA, 94118
Nine Level 1 and 2 Level 2 ports

UCSF Parnassus Campus
500 Parnassus Ave.
Six Level 2 Ports

San Francisco Zoo
Sloat Boulevard & Great Highway
10 Level 2 and Tesla Ports

St. Mary’s Medical Center
450 Stanyan St.
Six Level 2 Ports

San Francisco International Airport
150+ ports of various levels

Volta De Haro HQ
155 De Haro
Three Level 2 ports

Chase Center
1725 Third St.
Seven Level 2 ports

Pacific Place Garage
22 Fourth St.
One Level 2 port