With now almost 50,000 Leafs sold in the U.S., Nissan is working to accelerate sales with a free 2-year charging program in its 10 top markets with at least 15 more to follow next year.

The program for 2014 Leaf buyers is an expansion of Nissan’s “No Charge to Charge” pilot program started last summer in Houston and Dallas. The expanded plan offers an RFID-equipped EZ-Charge card that will be usable across four public networks operated by ChargePoint, Blink Network from Car Charging Group, AeroVironment and NRG eVgo.

“‘No Charge to Charge’ and EZ-Charge are a winning combination, making public charging free and easy for new Leaf buyers,” said Fred Diaz, senior vice president, Nissan Sales & Marketing, Aftersales. “Public charging is an important way to provide added range confidence to EV buyers and persuade more shoppers to join the more than 110,000 Leaf drivers around the world.”

“No Charge to Charge” will launch using the EZ-Charge card on July 1, 2014, in 10 of the top markets for Nissan Leaf sales, including San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Seattle, Portland, Ore., Nashville, Phoenix, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston and Washington, DC. The “No Charge to Charge” offer and EZ-Charge card will be provided retroactively to buyers in these markets who purchased their Leaf on or after April 1, 2014.

By next summer, Nissan will announce the remaining 15-plus markets to receive the program, he said. Details on these locations will be announced closer to their introduction.

NRG eVgo is managing the EZ-Charge access card with support by ChargePoint, CarCharging and AeroVironment.

“Nissan’s commitment to mass-market electric cars is matched by our commitment to increase charging infrastructure for Leaf owners,” said Brendan Jones, director, Nissan EV Infrastructure and Strategy. “EZ-Charge is a natural progression of our multi-pronged commitment to developing EV charging at workplace campuses, at Nissan Leaf dealerships and in the communities where Leaf drivers live and work.”

Growing the Market

Owners of previous model year Leafs may apply for the EZ-Charge card also, but the free part is limited to new owners.

In response to a question why Nissan isn’t making the free juice retroactive to all Leaf owners, Diaz said the program is along the lines of any limited-offer new car sales incentive.

The 25-plus markets are of course the key markets responsible for Leaf sales – over 80 percent of them.

Diaz said he thinks Leaf customers will like the effect of getting free charging from a broad network.

Infrastructure has been a big part of overcoming the chicken-and-egg dilemma of introducing electric cars in America.

To date, Nissan has introduced 610 level three (480-volt) CHAdeMO quick chargers, including 160 at its dealerships.

There are over 17,000 level 2 chargers in the network, and the No Charge to Charge plan with EZ-Charge card is usable at all these, and new ones as they are added.

The program will be tied to the cars’ VIN numbers and this is to safeguard against anyone attempting to game the system, such also using the EZ-Charge card for multiple vehicles, or loaning it to a friend.

Opening the discussion, Diaz reiterated Nissan’s bullish-from-the-top stance by attributing the plan’s push to CEO Carlos Ghosn.

“Mr. Ghosn has made to very very clear to us that this is a strategy that is going to propel us into the future as we pursue our Power 80-8 program of 80 percent worldwide market share, and 8 percent operating profit,” said Diaz.

Last year Nissan saw 130 percent sales growth over 2012, and this year it is hovering around 47 percent through March.

Last month, the Leaf was the top selling plug-in car, seeing its second-best month since its December 2010 launch. Nissan sold 2,507 cars in March, compared to an estimated 1,300 Tesla Model S sales, and 1,478 Chevy Volts.