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Washington State to fine gas car drivers who block electric car charging station access

The unfortunately routine occurrence of gasoline powered cars parked in front of a charging station may come to an end thanks to a $250 fine being enacted in Washington State.

Washington State is looking to ease access to electric car charging stations by cracking down on the ICE'ing phenomenon. An ICE'd charging station is one that's blocked by a car, typically gasoline powered, blocking access to the station and preventing an electric car driver from using it. There's nothing more frustrating or dangerous to an electric car driver than to arrive at a much-needed charging station blocked only to be unable to use it because the station is blocked.

A bill, SB5849, sponsored by Senators Tom, Frockt, Keiser, Hatfield, and Kline in the Washington State legislature would enact a penalty for cars parked in front of an electric car charging station, but not plugged in. The measure unanimously passed the State Senate on Wednesday and is headed to the House for consideration.

The bill adds three new sections to Washington's state law. The first requires that electric vehicle charging stations have appropriate signage, a vertical sign indicating it is a charging station, and green paint on the pavement. Supplementary signage can be posted reminding people that the charging station is only for use while charging an electric car, and that there is a fine for parking there otherwise. The second section enacts a parking violation for parking in front of an EV charging station while not plugged in, and specifies a $250 fine for doing so. The third section defines an "electric vehicle charging station" as a "public or private parking space that is served by charging equipment that has as its primary purpose the transfer of electric energy to a battery or other energy storage device in an electric vehicle."

This should give electric car drivers a respite from the onslaught of gas car drivers blocking electric car charging station access. However the law has some known imperfections.

The biggest is a piece of typical charging station etiquette that will lead to a fine. It's widely thought to be good practice to share access to charging stations. If an electric car driver arrives at a charging station, needs a charge, finds another car plugged in but fully charged, it is routine for that driver to unplug the first car and plug their car in to the charging station. This happens frequently in the public. However, that first electric car is now parked in front of a charging station but is not plugged in. By the letter of the law, that first car can be fined even though the owner of that car diligently plugged their car in.

It's more helpful in the bigger scheme for the second electric car to start charging right away because the first electric car isn't gaining any benefit from being plugged in because it is fully charged. However, the owner of that second car puts the owner of the first car at risk of being slapped with a fine.

Another criticism lodged against similar laws is the role of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. The Washington law simply says the vehicle must be connected to the charging station, meaning that PHEV's are covered by the law. In some peoples' mind PHEV's have less need to use public charging stations than do all electric cars. However, PHEV owners sometimes are just as, or more, determined to drive without burning gasoline and feel as strong of a need to use public charging stations when charging in public.

Electric car drivers have a strong need for charging station access, but unfortunately they find ICE'd stations. This need is similar to, but not quite as strong, as the need for access to handicapped parking.

See also:

Electric car road rage, electric car etiquette, and sharing charging stations

Electric car drivers ICED out of charging stations can retaliate with education