ElectraGirl: What if there wasn’t a Handbook for Electric Car Charging?

Saturday 13th June 2015

We have grown up with Electric Vehicles from their early days. We’ve grown up in a tight knit community of enthusiasts that have helped shape the cars we drive and the way that we use them. But, has any one written down the part about how we use them and put that in every new owners hands?

Edison Garage Charging Station

Edison Garage Charging Station

When we first started driving Electric Vehicles almost 6 years ago, there wasn’t that many on the road. The Electric Vehicle owners were all really nice to each other and very excited to have someone to talk with about their Electric Car. Everything was all very exciting and new. There wasn’t much, if any, public charging so most people charged at home and everyone was happy. With the lack of charging infrastructure back then, people stayed within range of their house, relying on 120v charging if they got caught short. While the infrastructure for charging away from home, is increasing, slowly but surely, it hasn’t met the demand – yet. We are now seeing people turning up to a charging location only to find them fully occupied by other Electric Vehicles charging. While this is a good thing as it means that there are more EV’s on the road, it does put EV drivers in a dilemma. The choice is that you can wait for a spot to open up, but as charging an EV can take a few hours, it could be a long wait. Or you could find another charging station or maybe you might chance the drive home and hope for the best.

We spend a lot of time promoting Electric Vehicles, taking them to events and sharing all the fun things about them with non EV people. However, we forget that there is also a need to educate new EV people about their Electric Vehicle. This may sound slightly obnoxious but it isn’t really. We have to remember that, when an EV rolls out of the dealership our work might only be half complete and the one area that seems to stick out the most is that of charging etiquette charging equality.

The old days

The old days!

Remember back when you had a petrol car, how annoying it was when you had to wait to refuel behind a line of other drivers? Well, magnify that by having much slower refueling, by having to refuel more often and by taking away all but a few filling stations and you get the picture! So, we need to educate EV owners on the correct way to behave surrounding charging and we also need to educate non EV owners about the same.

The first thing we need to address is something that I hear about all the time; Electric Vehicle drivers being inconsiderate of others, particularly when it comes to charging, which is such a shame. Now, even though this is only a very small minority, and I mean really, really small, it does touch upon and affect the whole EV community. The examples I see revolve around the debate about who should charge, who get’s priority.

Who gets priority? Answer: Everyone with a plug gets equal priority!

It doesn’t matter if you have a LEAF, a Tesla or a plug in Prius, if you plug in, you save us all from petrol pollution. If that means that an i3 owner has to wait behind a Plug in Prius, that’s okay, they got there first and they won’t be there for long.

How much charge do you get? Answer: Only enough for your needs!

If you’re a Plug in Prius with a tiny battery, don’t hog the charger for the whole day, and that goes for the i3 owner or the Tesla driver – if we only take what we need, we’ll cut petrol usage and make sure the precious charging equipment is free for the next person.

But what if you have a plug in hybrid, surely you have less need than others? Answer: No.

Every car that gets home on electrons instead of petrol is just as valuable as any other.

What if I need a charge to get home and there’s a plug in hybrid using the charger?

Well, that’s good news because that hybrid is going to cut pollution on the way home tonight and, as it only has a small ‘tank’, it won’t be long. It’s at times like this that we need more charging units to be available – That would be the problem, not who’s charging.

All of this boils down to one key rule:

Never block valuable charging equipment if you don’t need it.

It really is as simple as that — Feel free to pick up a free charge in your Electric Car anytime you can, even if you don’t need it but, be ready to move the instant someone else appears, even if that’s just a plug in Prius with a flat battery! Much better for all of us that we all get home on electricity instead of petrol.

Our next big challenge is to convey that message to our new EV friends.

Next week, we’ll talk about the ways to communicate with fellow drivers to ensure that we’re making best use of these scarce resources.

Do you agree?


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  • vdiv

    No, I think that font should be bigger and bolder 😉

    The reason why you have probably written this is because not everyone agrees with the made assertions for various reasons and context. The “needs” assumption that someone is charging in order to get home for example and should only occupy the station until they have enough is often precarious.

    What if they are not going home and are on the road?
    What if they can’t charge at home?
    What if they need to make a detour before they go home?

    Just like you claim that there are no classes of plugins and all them get the same priority, then so are the “needs” of those driving them. Let’s call that “charging neutrality” and stop talking about an “etiquette”, no such thing exists.

    • Electra Girl

      Ah, I get what you’re saying; etiquette dictates that you’ve a prescription for who gets to charge at what time. You’re right, perhaps we should be promoting Charging Equality for all, as long as you’re charging and not hogging access to vital resources.

      • vdiv

        Ostensibly the station owners/managers set the rules and their enforcement. Turns out that even if state or municipal laws are passed they are not necessarily enforceable on private property. There will always be those willing to circumvent the rules so without their enforcement they are just a mere suggestion. Often the station owners do not want to deal with enforcement for various reasons:

        — no rules, ordinances, or laws to aid the enforcement
        — fear of alienating customers
        — flawed attempts of regulation such as inadequate signage or traffic cones that never get put back
        — do not want to bother

        We all have stories, here is one. Four stations were installed on the ground level of a free parking garage in a busy “fake downtown”. The location was chosen so that the stations can be easily installed, easily found, and to promote the environmental aspects. The management company set up a clever pricing scheme where the first four hours of charging is free and then there is a charge of $5 for every additional hour. This was intended to discourage employees and resident to leave their plugins for a whole day/night. Management also splurged in poison-green paint splattered everywhere with “Electric Vehicle Parking Only” stenciled onto the garage columns. The result? Quite a few plugin owners who would park in those spots and not plug in, or plug in but would not authenticate/activate the stations. This is not a matter of “etiquette”– they know better. This is a matter of them not being inconvenienced enough and not having to pay a price by being towed.

        • MEroller

          We recently had representatives of the local, main charging infrastructure operator (which also happens to be the big electrical utility around here – they only offer AC-charging) at our monthly EV-club meeting. They charge for time, not kWh, and suffer many reliability problems as well as ICE’d charging sites – the usual yet highly annoying byproducts of public charging. So you can imagine we were looking forward to this event with a mix of glee, dread of what we might do to them and some hidden admiration for their braveness for showing up without bodyguards 🙂

          The reliability issue was bugging them just as well, and they had no excuses or explanations for that, only the solemn vow that they would continuously work on improving that.

          About charging for time and not the kWh used (probably the biggest niggle we had) they had a rather simple and plausible explanation: providing the infrastructure (while keeping it in working condition) and the charging location as such is by FAR the highest cost of the whole operation, while the electrical energy usage was only a minor trickle in the equation. They conceded that they would be changing their fee structure slightly by introducing a kWh factor to cater somewhat for the different battery sizes charged there, but insisted on keeping the main focus on charging time.
          This is to keep parking space hoggers unhappy with parking for extended periods of time at charging locations and thus keeping the infrastructure open to more actual charge customers instead. What was clear to them is that vehicles with high power on-board charging capabilities like the original installment of Renault Zoé’s Chameleon Charger would be greatly favoured by this billing structure, and that vehicles with lower-powered on-board charging would be charged at a far higher rate than a Zoé for the same amount of electrical energy. But I think they are right in rating according how long a vehicle is parked there, as most of those charging locations are in the inner city where parking fees apply everywhere anyway… And it does somewhat provide the “charging equality” postulated in this article.

          As for enforcement of “electrical vehicle charging only” they sort of washed their hands in innocence because this enforcement can only be done by the entity responsible for the location, which would usually be the city or county. The laws here in Germany in this respect are still somewhat ambiguous, by letting the cities decide for themselves how to handle the situation. Among the attendees it was quite an unanimous experience that in cities with negative red-rimmed signs saying things like “parking prohibited” with a small white sign below exempting electric vehicles while charging ICE-ing and charge hogging was not so much of a problem as with the positive blue signs in the Stuttgart region which simply state this an electric vehicle charging site.
          What all participants agreed on was that if local authorities do NOT properly enforce those signs, no matter if positive or negative wording is used, ICE-ing and hogging of charging locations would be impossible to prevent.