Cadillac announced Monday it will offer a free 240-volt charger — otherwise called Level 2 charging — on the new 2014 ELR, a pricey two-door coupe based on the Chevrolet Volt from parent automaker GM. The company says that depending on outside temperature, the ELR can get a full Level 2 charge in just 4.5 hours. That should enable 35 miles of all-electric range before a gasoline engine generator kicks in for another 300 or so miles.
The ELR starts at $75,995 including the destination charge but before any tax credits. That's more than double the Volt's price of entry ($34,995, same conditions), on which the Level 2 charger is optional. (A household-outlet charger, called Level 1, comes standard.) How much does GM's charging freebie close the gap? It's hard to say. GM's supplier, Bosch, offers wired 240-volt (Level 2) charging stations from $490 to $1,195 plus installation — which can add hundreds or even thousands more, depending on complexity — but the federal Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit refunds a chunk of that in tax credits. The AFITC for electric vehicle stations expired on Dec. 31, 2013, but additional incentives exist in certain states.
The upshot? Compared to what it would cost to set up Level 2 home charging for an ELR, GM threw in anything from several hundred to several thousand dollars in real-world savings. Whether that's enough to make people buy a plug-in gas-electric coupe that's considerably pricier even than a CTS-V coupe is anyone's guess. The ELR is on sale now.