EV Etiquette for All Driving Motorists
Even though an estimated 95 percent of owners of electric vehicles charge their EVs overnight at home, there are times when using a public charging station is necessary. But despite the growing number of charging units available at shopping malls, golf clubs, hotels and even museums, range anxiety remains a concern for owners.
Range anxiety is the reason why manufacturers are speeding up the installation of charging stations across the country. Kia has installed nearly two dozen DC fast chargers in Washington and Oregon to support its customers of the Soul EV. Nissan offers free charging for Leaf owners in 10 major markets, including Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston and Chicago, both at dealerships and in downtown locations.
Nissan and BMW partnered recently to offer more than 100 fast-charging units in 19 states, for the Leaf and i3. The fast chargers can replenish 80 percent of range in just 30 minutes. Nissan and BMW also are founding members, along with charging station manufacturers and utilities, of a new system that allows EV owners to access charging stations across multiple networks, using their payment account of choice.
BMW also has partnered with Volkswagen to install more than 100 fast chargers on Interstate 95 on the East Coast, between Boston and Washington, D.C., as well as on the West coast between Portland and San Diego. The units are about 50 miles apart, making it easier to take longer road trips in an EV.
With more than 280,000 EVs sold in the U.S., common sense rules for all drivers to share both the road and the EV parking spaces. I call it EV-iquette, which is snappier than calling it electric car etiquette, or plugging-in etiquette.
The EV version of road rage is when a conventional non-electric gas or diesel vehicle is parked in a spot with a charging unit, preventing an EV from plugging in. Most important and most obvious is to leave EV spots for EVs. Honor the sign that says "parking for electric cars only" or "electric charging station" or similar. It's no different than honoring spaces reserved for the handicapped, a company CEO, or your kid's soccer coach.
Recently, I was photographing an EV charging unit in a museum parking lot, when an SUV driver honked at me to move away. When I pointed to the sign saying the spot was reserved for EVs, the driver shrugged his shoulders, parked anyway, helped his wife and kids out of the car, locked it, and walked away. There are no laws that I know of -- yet --- making it an offense to "steal" an EV spot. But perhaps with more rude and inconsiderate drivers like him, it will happen.
When you park in an EV spot, leave a mobile number on the dash, or a note saying where you are and when you'll be back, so I can find you. Plug In America offers free cards you can download and print. One says "okay to unplug", the other says "charge needed", and both have space to add your mobile number to call or text.
Don't unplug another EV without permission, even if the unit shows that the charging cycle is complete. You wouldn't remove the nozzle from another car at a gas station to fill your own car, and it's not okay to do it with an EV plug, either.
However, it is okay to "pay it forward" and unplug your own EV when it's recharged, to plug in a waiting vehicle.
Be neat. Wind up the cord when you are done, so nobody trips over it or drives over it. If you are driving a plug-in hybrid, especially an extended range model like the Chevrolet Volt, don't hog a charging unit and prevent a 100-miler like the Volkswagen e-Golf or Mini-e from getting their fill.
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Evelyn Kanter has been reporting on the automotive industry since 1976, when she was an award-winning investigative consumer reporter for ABC News. She was also a reporter for CBS News. Evelyn writes for Continental Airlines Magazine, FoxNews.com, AAA Car and Travel, and has written for the New York Times, New York Post, Associated Press, Copley News Service, Travel & Leisure, Redbook, Family Circle and Edmunds.com. She is a graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism and lives in New York City.