Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette 101

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Drivers of EV’s everywhere are beginning to see issues crop up around public charging station etiquette.  This is happening for several reasons, some of which are listed below;

1. More people are buying EV’s or PHEV’s or EV REx ( for the remainder of this article collectively called EV’s) than ever before.  In many areas there is just not enough charging station infrastructure to cover all the EV’s that need to charge, especially on busy days.

2. Some uninformed or inconsiderate EV drivers are treating EV charging spaces as a right not a privilege.  They park in the space, plug in their car and walk off, sometimes leaving it there or many hours even after it is fully charged.  It is as if they believe that they are entitled to park in that space simply because they have an EV or that they perceive the spot to be a standard parking space to be used as long as they like.

3. The space has been ICE’d by an inconsiderate or unobservant gasoline powered auto driver.

4. Plug In Hybrid Electric vehicles (PHEV) and Range Extended Electric Vehicles (EVREx) drivers that have a gasoline back up, are plugging in at charging stations when they just want to top off their battery to save gas and ignoring battery electric vehicles that may need to charge.

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How can we stop this madness?

If you drive an EV please follow these 12 simple rules of charging station etiquette (see sources at end of article) and all of us–from the pioneering early adopters, forward thinkers and tree hugging earth worshipers to the EV tech geeks and and those just out to save some money on gas–will be able to work together in helping to promote the future of EV’s and their associated charging infrastructure.

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1. Pure Electric Before Plug In Hybrids and Range Extended EVs

If your EV is fully electric and runs on battery power 100% of the time, common sense and good etiquette says you should have priority over EV’s with internal combustion powered range extending technologies such as the Chevrolet Volt or BMW i3 REx.

If you are the driver of a Plug In Hybrid or Range Extended EV, and any of the below conditions apply, please do not hog the charging station.

-There is a small number of charging stations.

-You see battery-electric EV’s waiting nearby to charge.

-Your vehicle has enough of a charge/fuel to get you to your destination.

– Your car has a gasoline engine to fall back on if you run out of charge.

Please do the right thing, be courteous, and let the battery electric EV’s charge first. Remember that some of them may have come a great distance and need a charge just to get home.

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However…

Owners of fully electric vehicles such as the Nissan Leaf, BMW i3Tesla Model S  or Zero motorcycle do not have the right to unplug extended-range EV’s such as BMW i3 REx or Chevrolet Volt, simply because those vehicles have backup gasoline engines…

…unless they are fully charged.  See #2 below.

2. Do Not Unplug Someone Else’s Vehicle – Unless They Are Finished Charging

If you arrive at a charging station and another EV is charging, please do not unplug it. You have no idea how far they have to go and how much power they will need to get there. However, if their car has finished charging as indicated by the blinking charge indicator lights on the car’s dash, or as indicated on the charging station’s screen, then you may unplug it, close their charge port, and plug in your car.  In this event, the driver of the EV in need of a charge should leave a note explaining why it was unplugged. The note should be full of gratitude and should always include your cell number and/or a business card.

Be aware that on some later model EV’s the charging cord cannot be removed without being unlocked by the driver.  In this case it is entirely up to the driver of the plugged in vehicle to be aware of his car’s status and unplug and move it when its charging cycle is complete or when he has enough charge to get to his next destination.

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3. Be Courteous, Charge Up, and Move On

Please occupy a charging station only while your EV is actively charging. As soon as the charging session is completed, no matter if your battery is full or when you have enough range to reach your destination, please unplug your car and move it to allow access for another driver in need. Please remember that these are charging spots, not standard parking spots. Using a charging space as a standard parking space is really not cool.  Would you leave your gas car parked at the pump for several hours after its tank was full and if you did so, what would happen?

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Brammo Empulse Electric Motorcycle charging

Most EV’s, or EV networks such as Chargepoint, will text you when the vehicle is full. If your vehicle/network texts you to say “I’m full!” then please, free up the charger for another driver.

In some areas with pay to charge access, the charging network will continue to charge you a fee for as long as your vehicle is plugged in and in and even after it is fully charged.  This is a great motivator for the vehicle owner to get unplugged and moved as soon as it is charged in order to avoid overage fees.

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4. Charge Only When Really Necessary and Share and Share Alike. 

Just because you drive an EV does not mean you’re entitled to an EV charging spot–remember it is not a parking spot for those with the most expensive EV’s, or perceived higher social status, it is meant to be equally shared by all Plug In Electric Vehicle drivers. If you do not need the extra juice, please leave the spot open so another driver can use it.

EV Charging Station - Biltmore Square

Personal Observation: I have noted on several occasions, at one particular charging station in the south Asheville, NC area, that certain repeat offenders treat the only two available free charging stations in front of a certain Hilton Hotel as regular parking spots.  These owners will often leave their vehicles, of various manufacturers, in these spots for many hours at a time thereby blocking assess to other EV owners in need.  I noted this once again on January 03, 2015 when I arrived to view a movie at 2:30 pm.  Two Chevy Volts occupied both charging stations and were actively charging.  There was no way to park beside them and wait to charge as the only other available parking spot was handicapped access only.  My Leaf was low on juice and needed a charge to get home after the movie.  Since I had 45 min until the movie started, I parked nearby and decided to have a beer at a nearby restaurant in order to keep an eye on the cars in the hopes that one of them would leave and I could therefore get a charge during the movie.  When it was almost time for the movie to start I checked both cars’ charging status and noted that one was fully charged and the other was still charging.  I could not wait any longer so went on to the movie.  After the movie I found that the Volt that was still charging before the movie, almost three hours earlier, was gone and had been replaced by a Leaf that was actively charging.  The other car, the same volt that I noted to be fully charged before the movie, remained, still plugged in and still fully charged just like I found it over 3.5 hours previous.  According to this information from Chevy it takes around 4 hours to fully charge a Volt, and since the Volt in question was fully charged before I entered the movie theater and remained plugged in over three hours later, it seems that that the volt owner was using this spot as a privileged parking spot rather than an EV charging station.  This is just totally uncool and very bad charging station etiquette and, as I have said before, please do not hog charging stations and always share with other EV owners in need.  Anything less makes you and other EV drivers look bad.

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I know it goes without saying but please, never park like I did in this well composed photo that illustrates really bad parking etiquette no matter what you are driving.  

5. Drivers Must Follow The Rules 

This goes without saying but simply because you drive an EV does not mean you can park in a handicap space or on a curb just to be closer to a charging station. Do not do it unless you enjoy having your car towed.

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6. Do Not Leave Nasty Notes…But Do Leave Notes

If the charging spot you counted on using has been occupied by another EV for an extended period of time or has been ICEd—in other words, a gasoline powered Internal Combustion Engine powered vehicle is taking up the spot—the EV driver should leave a polite note on the vehicle explaining the predicament. The note should be viewed as a good-will gesture that will hopefully work to convince the offender not to make the mistake again.  Please also note that in some areas such as Raleigh, NC, drivers of internal combustion engine powered vehicles that park in spaces reserved for EV charging are subject to high fines.

7. First Come, First Served

It doesn’t matter what you drive, how much money you make, where you live, or who you are, or if someone else was in the charging spot before you, then that is your tough luck and you are going to have to play be the rules and the etiquette, be nice, and wait your turn.

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8. It’s Okay to Ask for a Charge

If you are really in need of a charge and the spot you need is occupied, and you are able to park next to the car that is currently charging, you can signal the other driver that you would like them to plug you in when they are finished charging by opening your charging port/door.  It is also a good idea to carry in your car “charge” cards like these from Pluginamerica.com.  You can put them on your dash when you are in need of a charge as a signal to the other driver to plug you in when they leave.  Another really cool high tech option is to use a myEV datalogger *  not only to keep track of your vehicle’s stats and health, but it also allows you to ask other EV drivers if you can unplug their vehicle via a text message, wherever they may be. See an example image from the app below.

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* This option requires that both EV owners have a myEV datalogger and it’s associated QR code window sticker installed in/on their vehicle.  NOTE: The myEV datalogger is currently in the beta testing phase and will be available soon for all EV owners everywhere.  I am a beta tester for the unit so if anyone in the Blue Ridge EV Club wants to learn more about it just ask me at the next club meeting and I will be glad to show it off 🙂

9: Register With A Charging Network.

If you are a frequent charging station user then it will benefit you to register with the charging networks that serve your area.  It will also greatly assist you to download the charging station locator apps (such as Chargepoint and Plugshare) to your smartphone.  With these you will be able to pull up all nearby stations and, depending on the app, see which stations are occupied and you will also be able to comment on if the station was functional or not or any other issues other station users need to be aware of.

The map below is from the Plugshare.com website/App showing charging stations in Asheville, NC USA.

asheville charging map

If you are a local business owner/operator and have installed an EV charging station that is not on any of the charging station networks and/or you live in an area that does not have a strong charging station infrastructure, then you should really consider registering your charging station with one of the charging networks and put your station on the map.  This will not only let other EV drivers know you are out there via their cars navigation system and/or app, but it will also give more people access to your business and more money in your pocket if you decide to charge a fee for the use of your station.

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10. Safety First

Watch that cord!  While your car is plugged in, make sure the charging cord is either flat on the ground and/or tucked under your car so pedestrians do not accidentally trip or drive over it. You would not want to have the surprise of a nasty lawsuit thrown in your face because someone tripped over your charging cord and was injured.  Once your car has finished charging, remember to wind the charging cord back up onto its holder if the station is so equipped, to keep it neat and out of the way of others.

11: Charging Is A Privilege, Not A Right

As stated previously in Rule #4, just because you drive an EV does not mean you’re entitled to an EV charging spot.  Remember, it is not a parking spot for those with the most expensive EV’s or perceived high social status, it is meant to be equally shared by all EV drivers and it is a privilege, not a right.

Remember this: You are the future of clean transportation,  you are helping an entire new industry get off the ground and at the same time lowering the nation’s consumption of fossil fuels by driving electric.  However, owning and driving an EV is a personal choice and as a direct consequence of that choice, any charging stations out there are there for your convenience, especially the ones that are offered free of charge.

Many of these charging stations are offered by nearby businesses so please be courteous to those who have provided it, take care to look after the chargers and report any issues to the owners.

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Lastly, if you are in need of a charge from somewhere in between charging stations or at an even more remote location without EV charging station infrastructure, such as a barn, gas station wall outlet (as I wrote about on day one when we drove our new Leaf across half of Tennessee), or a beer and ice shack at a festival (as seen in this article ), do not assume that access to the power is free.  Be courteous, positively represent all EV owners everywhere, offer to pay for any power used, or at least give the business/outlet owner a tip.

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Charging my Leaf at the Earthshine Discovery Center barn in Lake Toxaway, NC.  The good folks at Earthshine will let you charge if you are in dire need of some juice–please be sure to tip them for the charge.  While charging take a walk around the farm and see what this wonderful place has to offer–you will be glad you did.  Hopefully soon I will have this location on Plugshare as a residential emergency charge point.  If you do not see it there please contact me for more information on how to access it when you are in need of a charge.

We do not want to in any way be known as rogues, bums, or moochers and give a bad name to the EV community as a whole.

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I gladly donated $5 to a children’s charity for one hour’s access to this gas stations’ outdoor wall outlet.

12. EV Owners Are Ambassadors For A Better Future For Everyone

Being an EV owner and driver means you are also an ambassador for a gas-free future. Help make that future an even brighter reality by spending time talking with people who stop to ask questions when you are plugged in at public charging stations or parking your EV in a public parking lot.  Be nice and genuine to those who ask questions, do not be in a hurry and always spread the word about the joys of driving electric electric in any way you are able.

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I know that is a lot of information to process but I believe you will see that these “rules” of EV charging etiquette are really just basic common sense that when applied, will make your EV ownership experience better for you and for those you share the roads of the future with.

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Sources:

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1050431_your-ultimate-guide-to-electric-car-charging-etiquette

http://www.pluginamerica.org/evcard

http://gmauthority.com/blog/2014/06/general-motors-offers-ev-drivers-10-workplace-charging-etiquette-tips/

http://www.chevrolet.com/volt-electric-car/faq.html

http://www.chargepoint.com/

http://www.plugshare.com/

http://www.plugincars.com/eight-rules-electric-vehicle-etiquette-127513.html

http://www.recargo.com/

http://insideevs.com/one-charging-spot-generated-27000-fines-ice-drivers/