In many of the UK’s largest cities, as with large cities around the world, finding a convenient place to park can be a time-consuming and costly business. Aside from finding a parking garage with spaces near your destination, parking charges in large cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham can cost upwards of £50 per day.
That is, unless you happen to be an electric or plug-in hybrid car owner. While not all cities in the UK offer free parking and charging, many London boroughs and select cities offer limited free parking in streetside electric car charging bays, provided the car is plugged in and actively charging.
The Scottish city of Glasgow was, until recently, one of the cities offering such a perk. Yet as The Herald reports, the city council has just voted to end that perk, levying a £3 per hour parking fee on any electric car charging in the space.
The reason? Frequent and persistent abuse of the charging bays by a variety of different people.
Alongside the problem of ICEing — an term coined in the electric car world to describe the practice of an internal combustion engine (ICE) car parking in an electric car charging space — many local electric car owners claim that plug-in hybrid and hybrid owners are abusing the space. Additionally some sources suggest, electric car owners are parking in spaces when they don’t actually need a charge, specifically to avoid paying for parking.
Regardless of the reasons behind such actions, local advocates say the minority of owners are spoiling it for the majority.
Adrian Loening, former chairman and active member of the Electric Vehicle Association of Scotland, lays the blame at the foot of plug-in hybrid owners, such as those with the incredibly-popular Mitsubishi Outlander plug-in hybrid.
“The issue is that people have been abusing the free parking,” he told The Herald. “If you buy [a plug-in] hybrid you can drive into the city, plug it in, leave it in a car parking bay all day and drive away without paying a penny.” Unlike those with electric cars who may need the charge to get home, Loening points out that those with plug-in hybrids have no need to charge as they have a secondary power train in their vehicles.
Other owners in the area claim that the problem isn’t just related to plug-in hybrid owners. A few seem to be suggesting non plug-in hybrid vehicles are also abusing the space, claiming that their cars have “electric car” capabilities thanks to the limited EV-modes offered by most hybrids today. Sadly, we’ve been unable to corroborate that due to the conflation in local media of ‘hybrid’ and ‘plug-in hybrid’ in much of the coverage of this story, as well as conflation of the term among some plug-in owners.
At the moment, there are sixty-five charging stations in the city of Glasgow, with fourteen more planned in the near future. But at a recent city meeting, members of Glasgow City Council’s Sustainability and the Environmental Committee discussed the challenges facing the existing infrastructure. With electric, plug-in hybrid and hybrid vehicles now surging in popularity, the charging points are more in demand than ever before.
Charging a £3 parking fee per hour and limiting stays to just 2-hours per session was the only solution that made sense, argues the council. Barring plug-in hybrids from using the charging spaces would simply be too complex and costly, it said.
Yet that is exactly what some electric car owners are arguing for, saying that plug-in hybrid owners should be banned from using public charging altogether.
“I’m absolutely disgusted. They’re just going to discourage people from buying electric vehicles if they go down this line,” said local plug-in owner Karen Bain. “The way of resolving the problem in the city center is banning the [plug-in] hybrids from using the charging bays and setting a limit of four hours.”
This isn’t the first time we’ve come across such sentiment in the plug-in world. In fact, there have been few months lately where we haven’t heard some complaint from an electric car owner frustrated about the blocking of a charging space by a plug-in hybrid.
Toeing our editorial line, we believe that every vehicle, plug-in hybrid and electric, should have equal access to a public charging station. But we also believe that with electric car adoption now at their highest levels ever, owners should start to expect to pay for charging (within reason).
At the end of the day, driving a plug-in car should be a choice made for reasons other than free fuel and free parking. And while we think free charging and parking is a great perk to encourage people to jump into the driver’s seat of a new plug-in car, charging a small fee for using public charging should help discourage those who are, to put it bluntly, freeloading and spoiling it for the majority.
But should plug-in hybrid owners take the blame? Not at all. Spend any time at all on public electric car forums or social media sites like Facebook and it’s clear that for every different type of plug-in car out there there are examples of rude and inconsiderate owners. While plug-in hybrid owners should certainly be mindful of the charging stations they are using and the impact that has on pure electric car drivers, keeping their charging sessions limited and considerate, so too should those who plug-in with all-electric cars who don’t really need the extra power.
Our suggestion? Only plug-in when you really need the power, be mindful of the limited availability of charging in many areas, and ensure you move your car when it has the charge you need to make it to your next destination.
Moving forward, it’s only logical that electric car owners begin to pay to plug in. After all, when was the last time you heard of someone getting free gasoline?
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