Car- and ridesharing services, Airbnb, and other peer-to-peer rentals (even pet rentals) — often transacted through various apps — have helped bring about the rise of the sharing economy (or, as some prefer to call it, the access economy). You don't have to own something to have affordable, convenient access to it, and if you own something, you can put it to work for you while you're not using it.

With the rise of this sort of collaborative consumption coinciding with the growing popularity of electric vehicles, it makes sense that the sharing economy would eventually extend not just to the cars, but to private electric vehicle chargers as well.

With many gaps in the nascent web of charging infrastructure, Plugshare launched to help drivers locate available charging. In addition to chargers installed by governments or businesses, the site also maps residential chargers that owners are willing to share with other drivers. This has aided EV drivers in times of need, and has also enabled cross-country electric road trips. Similarly, Renault has launched Elbnb in Sweden, through which homeowners have shared their residential chargers (or their outlets for drivers to plug in their mobile chargers) with the public. Elbnb raised Sweden's number of available charging locations by four percent in a few weeks. It also helped bring attention to the shortfalls of EV infrastructure, according to Renault.

Especially as some owners await public charging infrastructure to catch up to them on the local level, being able to charge your car in another EV owner's nearby driveway is a sort of feel-good way to juice up. It helps reduce range anxiety, lessen congestion at public chargers, and, if the owner of the plug is charging for the fill-up, helps a fellow human being offset their own cost of EV (charger) ownership.

As more households turn to home solar systems for their energy needs, sharing their plugs gives other drivers a cleaner way to charge. (Plugshare recently teamed up with Sungevity to provide free residential chargers to solar customers.) It provides a possible monetary incentive — albeit a small one — for others to install solar, which is good for the planet, and helpful for grid stability if they make their extra electrons available for use during peak hours. Many solar users (and even traditional grid customers) offer their plugs for free. They're just happy to help out like-minded individuals or, as Palo Alto resident Sven Thesen tells Scientific American, "This is more of an educational tool to bust the myth of the price of electricity."

Hopefully soon, though, public infrastructure will catch up with demand, and more people will feel comfortable making the switch to electric driving. In the meantime, fellow owners have your back.

Related Video:

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