Electric car road rage, electric car etiquette, and sharing charging stations
The rise of electric cars will give us new ways to accidentally offend others. An example is a recent incident of an electric car driver, in search of a charging station at which to recharge his car, unplugged another electric car while it was being recharged. The incident may have gone unnoticed with nothing more than an irritated post on a discussion forum, except that the victim was Forbes staffer Todd Woody whose ability to write an entertaining little rant made it into the news stream.
Woody is currently testing a Ford Focus Electric and had driven to Berkeley CA, where the car was plugged into a charging station while he waited at a Cafe. Upon receiving a text message the car had been unplugged unexpectedly, he went back to the parking garage to find a Coda electric sedan next to the Focus Electric, and that the Coda was now plugged into the charging station. The Coda in question was one of the manufacturer demo cars used by Coda of Silicon Valley. This led to some back-and-forth between Woody, and Coda's PR department, who apologized profusely for the incident. What's more important in this case is not the identity of who did what to whom, but the bigger picture status of electric car adoption, electric car recharging infrastructure, and the etiquette of electric car ownership. These sorts of incidents are already happening everywhere electric cars exist, and will happen more frequently as the numbers of electric cars increase.
The San Francisco Bay Area is the home to a lot of electric cars today, but electric car recharging infrastructure deployment is lagging behind other areas. One can see this simply by using smart phone apps like Recargo, and browse around the country looking at the number of charging stations in each metropolitan area. The SF Bay Area clearly has fewer than some other areas. In particular the cities of Berkeley, Albany and El Cerrito, an area whose residents are infamous for environmental sensitivity, have one and only one public recharging station. The one which Todd Woody was using that day.
See Tijuana to British Columbia in a Nissan Leaf in 8 days for another take on the state of electric car recharging infrastructure in California versus Washington State and Oregon.
The electric car recharging station infrastructure has a ways to go before there's enough coverage for even the current electric car owners, much less coming electric car owners. An etiquette for charging station usage will facilitate making the best use of electric car charging resources.
It's not just electric car owners who must learn the etiquette, it is also gasoline car owners. Electric car charging stations are parking spots in which a charging station is involved, and access to these parking spaces are just as important to electric car owners as is handicapped parking important to those with handicaps.
All electric cars should have preference over plug-in hybrid cars: While a plug-in hybrid car can use electric car charging stations, it is the all electric car owners who are absolutely dependent on access to charging stations. The plug-in hybrid car can recharge its battery pack from the gasoline engine. Owning a plug-in hybrid car is laudable, but ask ones self, which car owner has the deepest need for that charging station, the electric car owner, or the plug-in hybrid owner?
Non-plugin cars do not belong in electric car charging spaces and Hybrid cars are not electric cars: A non-plug-in car parked in an electric car charging spot is said to have ICE'd the parking spot (ICE: Internal Combustion Engine). These cars are unable to use the charging station, and block electric car owners from using the station. It seems that hybrid car owners are sometimes proud of owning their hybrid car, and have developed the idea that the phrase "electric cars" includes hybrid cars. While hybrid car ownership is laudable, a hybrid car parked in an electric car charging space blocks electric car owners from using that space. The plug-in hybrid cars (the Chevy Volt and Prius Plug-In) can use charging stations, but normal hybrid cars cannot.
Electric cars should be parked in an EV charging spot only while charging: An electric car owner may think electric car parking is some kind of privilege for electric car owners, but in reality it is a convenience for those who need to recharge their car. Owning an electric car does not give a right to park in an electric car charging spot, instead it is the need to recharge that gives that right.
When your electric car is done charging, move it so other electric cars can use the charging station: To reiterate, the need to recharge ones car gives the right to park an electric car in an electric car charging spot. Charging stations are still a scarce resource, and we must remember how to share.