Last Update: June 24, 2019
Currently electric car charging stations are a limited resource. There aren't enough, in most areas, to support the electric cars currently in use. The few areas with enough charging stations, like the Netherlands, are the exception rather than the rule. Of course we all must share the facilities fairly. Isn't that what our parents taught us as children, to share?
In the news we see stories about competition for charging stations sometimes results in actual fights. We see the anger in online forums for electric car owners. The loudest anger is over folks parked at an electric car charging station without using the station. There are two labels used for this:
- An ICEHOLE is the owner of a fossil fuel powered vehicle (ICE means Internal Combustion Engine) parked at a charging station
- An EVHOLE is the owner of an electric vehicle parked at a charging station, but the car is not plugged in and charging
In both cases other people are being prevented from using the charging station.
Another area of anger is when someone unplugs another person's electric car. To an extent this is a case of "don't you dare touch my car", but there's also the issue of priority. Any electric car owner needs to charge their car. But who has priority? Does the person whose car is currently charging have priority over someone who drives up and needs a charge? The person angry over their car being unplugged from the charging station therefore believes they have priority.
Electric vehicle owners are all in the same boat, trying to make best use of this new type of car, while working around the inadequate infrastructure. We shouldn't be fighting one another, but instead working together on solving the problems.
We can avoid the fight by following some common sense principles:
- Charging stations are only to be used for charging a plug-in electric car
- These scenarios are not to be allowed:
- Non-plugin car parked in front of a charging station
- Plug-in (PHEV or BEV) parked in front of a charging station, but not plugged in
- A plug-in car that’s become fully charged should move away as quickly as possible
- Driving a plug-in car doesn’t give us free reign to violate other laws in order to charge our car
- Offer education to those who don’t understand, rather than abusive anger
Here's a few problems we're facing:
- ICE'd Charging Stations: Gasoline car owners sometimes park their car in front of the station, blocking access to charging stations. Sometimes this is done from ignorance, not understanding what a charging station is much less why charging station access is so critical. Other times it is purposeful, by people with a political beef against electric cars. Either way, a blocked station is one that cannot serve electric car drivers.
- "ICE", in this case, means "Internal Combustion Engine"
- Electric car owners sometimes do so as well, generally from a mistaken sense of entitlement. As laudable as electric car ownership is, we aren't free to commit other crimes.
- Hogging the Charging Station: Sometimes an EV owner leaves their car plugged in long after the car is fully charged. This blocks access to the station just as completely as if it were a gasoline car.
- Too many cars for available stations: Sometimes so many people want to use a cluster of charging stations, that some have to wait. Not everyone likes to wait, do they?
Understandably, there's plenty of room for anger. The phrase "charger rage" comes to mind, and has been used in the press. Anger might lead you to do things that aren't entirely wise. I've seen people in online forums wanting to "key" the offending car, to let air out of their tires, to block in the other car, to make revengeful visits to gasoline stations and block gas pumps, etc. Doing any of these things may feel satisfying for a few minutes, but in the long term don't solve anything. Instead these things compound the problem by escalating the level of conflict, and in most cases those actions are crimes.
If there's an empty handicapped parking spot next to a blocked charging station, do you park there and stretch the cable over? That's not recommended because you'll then have committed a crime. The handicapped person needs that parking spot just as badly as the electric car owner needs the charging station. The difference is the longer history over which the needs of handicapped people became a big enough political issue to pass laws to govern use of those spots and penalties for misuse.
The cure, until there's enough charging stations, is to learn to share. Electric car owners need to understand cooperative access to shared resources. Gasoline car owners need to grasp the significance of charging stations and why access is so vital.
Points of Electric Car Charging Etiquette
There is a question of priority. Given two cars, a BEV and a PHEV, both needing to charge which should be given access to the charging station? It's probably the BEV car, maybe.
Charging stations are just like the concrete pads in front of gas pumps. They are spaces that should be occupied only while the vehicle is being refueled. Since charging stations are a scarce resource we must share them effectively. That means moving your car out of the way once it's fully charged.
If you feel the open charging flap is too subtle a signal, leave a note for the other drivers.
For an EV charging placard - scroll down.
Now that we've gone over principles and rules of etiquette let's talk about practical situations. For the most part these are questions seen in online discussions.
An electric car parked at a charging station but not actively charging is blocking access to that charging station. By rights the owner of that car should have moved their car to free up the charging station, but that's not always possible. What if there's a free parking spot next to the car, and the cord can be easily unplugged and moved to the other car? So long as the first car is fully charged the owner of that car does not have much ground to stand on. For what rightful purpose do they have to deny another electric car owner the ability to charge? For what rightful purpose do they demand their car not be unplugged in any circumstance?
The right to park at an electric car charging station ends when the charging session is over.
Consider the issue of handicapped parking spaces. Universally there are laws about handicapped parking, where access to handicapped parking is limited to people meeting the required criteria. A car owned by a non-handicapped person does not have a right to park in such a spot, and can get a parking ticket or have their car towed. That's because of laws making it illegal to park in a handicapped spot unless the car has a handicapped sticker.
A similar argument can be made about electric car charging. Just as handicapped drivers need the handicapped parking spaces, electric car drivers need the parking space in front of the charging station to charge their car.
But the laws to make it illegal to park at a charging station are few and far between.
Those stances are understandable but not accurate. The demand that Tesla car owners only use "their" charging stations is bordering on a racist-apartheid attitude. What I mean is - substitute the kind of car for the skin color of a person, and that same attitude has been used over the generations to marginalize all kinds of people.
Any plug-in electric car has the right to use public charging stations.
Mitigation - J1772 extension cords
Suppose you find an electric car charging station that's blocked, and the charging cord is free to be used. You could park in a nearby parking spot, then drag the cord to your car. But what if the cord is a few feet too short to reach your car?
You could wait around until someone shows up and moves their car? While the right to park at an electric car charging station ends when the charging session is over, that depends on the car owner actually moving their car. What if they've decided they have the right to leave their car at the charging station overnight? No amount of screaming will make that charging cord longer.
Consider the J1772 extension cord.
Both of these products are like extension cords, but they have J1772 charging plugs on each end. Just like we might use an extension cord to run a power drill in the back yard, we can use a J1772 extension cord to extend the reach of a charging station cord.
"Take Charge and Go" has designed charging cord hangers, and a set of stickers and notes, useful for communicating charging requests and etiquette to others. See takechargeandgo.com/2015/02/14/hangers
EVRules.com - A whole website dedicated to charging station etiquette
Plug In America has developed an "EV Card" to help communicate your needs to other drivers - http://www.pluginamerica.org/evcard
The EV Charger News placard is another take on a card with which to communicate with other drivers: evchargernews.com/chargeprotocolcard
Discussion groups about EV Charging etiquette
Etiquette posts from around the web
- Electric Vehicle Charging Etiquette - Part of the PlugInCars.com guide series - plugincars.com/
- Electric Charging Station Etiquette for Plug-In Cars - edmunds.com/fuel-economy
- Your Ultimate Guide To Electric Car Charging Etiquette - Green Car Reports greencarreports.com/news
- Squatting, useful for certain human functions, is bad charging station etiquette - Discusses the problem of hogging charging stations long after a charging session is finished. longtailpipe.com
- Electric car road rage, electric car etiquette, and sharing charging stations - An electric car unplugged by another EV owner started an e-mail battle, a post on Forbes.com, and then my first pass at the etiquette points above longtailpipe.com
- Charging Station etiquette? Volt owners hogging the juice!! - A useful discussion on MyNissanLeaf mynissanleaf.com
- Charging Station Etiquette - Sharing :) - Another discussion thread, this time on Priuschat priuschat.com
- Public Charging Etiquette - Another discussion thread, this time on TeslaMotorsClub teslamotorsclub.com