AS any electric car driver will tell you, there’s nothing more frustrating than arriving at an electric car charging station to find it blocked by an internal combustion engined vehicle. The practice, known as ICEing among the electric car community, is particularly problematic in locations where parking is limited or perhaps located in a prime spot in the parking lot.
From our own encounters with those who ICE parking spots for electric cars, asking the offending driver to move illicit a number of responses, from a genuine apology of blissful ignorance over the purpose of the bay to indignation, to reticence towards ‘freeloading’ electric car drivers and one or twice, threats of extreme violence.
As a consequence, we know plenty of electric car drivers — women especially — who have become non-confrontational about ICEd electric car bays, frustrated that the law doesn’t appear to be on their side and any threats of fines from parking companies and rest stops seem to be little more than hollow promises.
But in the state of Illinois, a new law — HB0198 — is awaiting the signature of state Governor Bruce Rauner which would make it illegal for internal combustion engined vehicles to park in designated electric car charging spaces.
Enforceable by any parking attendant or police officer, the bill would fine offenders somewhere between $75 and $100 for the crime.
Under the law, municipalities would be required to put up warning signs next to the designated electric car charging bays to warn of the fines, although it would also give parking lot owners and municipalities the power to tow offending cars if they park in an electric car charging bay.
As anyone who has suffered the misfortune of an impounded car will tell you, that’s where the real fees lie, with storage costs for vehicles in some places quickly rising into triple-digit figures in very short time frames.
What’s more, unlike California’s controversial laws fining any vehicle parked in a charging space without being attached to the charging station — essentially making it impossible to share a charging station — the Illinois law would apply to both public and private parking lots and garages, provided they are open to the general public.
The bill is said to have come into existence after an Illinois resident, frustrated after getting ICEd by a local gas car driver, called the office of their local State Representative Robyn Gabel (D, Evanston). Agreeing that the behaviour wasn’t fair to plug-in drivers, Gabel drafted the bill and introduced it to the legislature after her initial investigations into parking-fine law discovered that the state had no way of preventing the misuse of public charging stations.
If signed by Governor Rauner — and there’s no reason to suggest it won’t be — the bill will come into force on 1 January 2016, putting an end to charging station misuse in Illinois or at least prompting non electric car owners to think twice before parking in an electric car charging bay.
We, like many around the world, will be watching to see just how effective such a measure is in preventing misuse of EV charging bays. If our personal experiences in the UK are anything to go by, it may take a lot more than being fined to dissuade the most determined of offenders.
The threat of a tow — and the associated costs that go with it — are what we hope will end the phenomenon for good.
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