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Like most people who have been driving EVs for a while, I have come to expect the opportunity for free charging while driving around.  In fact, I was pretty opposed to system like Chargepoint's which have set up an infrastructure around charging for juice like a gasoline pump.  However, recent events have changed my thinking on this.

The recent issue of AB 475 in CA which I believe is a very poorly written bill attempting to address problems in the current EV code. See http://www.pluginamerica.org/drivers-seat/why-were-asking-governor-veto-ab-475 from much more detail.  Plug-In electric vehicles of many types are coming and are out in the wild now and the current parking and charging code needs to be amended to adapt to these vehicles.  One of the main points brought up by Chevy Volt proponents, is that there exists a bias against them in the traditional BEV world to the extent that people may unplug their Volt in order to charge a BEV which is perceived to need it more.  While I believe this is not at all a likely or common issue, I acknowledge the issue and see how some could feel this way.

Secondly, we are seeing the current public charging infrastructure, which was never adequate, strain under the weight of all the new cars in some places.  LAX and Santa Monica are ground zero for this phenomena.  There has not been a time in recent weeks where I have seen charging available either at LAX or Santa Monica Place mall for J1772 vehicles.  The demand has now outstripped supply.  This is leading to stronger and more strained feelings brewing within the EV community.  Witness the recent issue on the MyNissanLeaf forum where someone allegedly unplugged a Leaf which really needed the charge to supply a vehicle which may or may not have needed it.  This is clearly is not cool practice and should be condemned but the tone of the forum very quickly started to feel like an ugly mob justice mentality that could turn very bad.  See for yourself how you feel about the thread as a community member http://www.mynissanleaf.com/viewtopic.php?f=27&t=5352.

This is only going to get more ugly with the masses of cars like the Plug-In Prius which is soon to hit the road.  That car has a very limited EV range and must use the gasoline engine and is certain to build resentment among some in the BEV community who depend on public charging.

I have also long thought it a shame that public charging is so often in the closest parking spots.  I don't mind walking and see how having the EV parking in the closest spots creates artificial resentment and demand for people who don't need a charge but are just lazy.  But there are practical reasons why this can't change in many cases. 

So what can we do? In this case, I do think market forces can really work with this.  Though we have been accustomed to thinking of all public charging as free, free fuel is certainly a perk that other vehicles do not get from the public.  There are clearly cases where this makes sense.  I would not argue that businesses who want to provide free charging to bring in high value customers should stop that.  But when it comes to the real public use of funds, we should use our money well.  In places where we would like to drive up demand and create incentives for buying BEVs, let's build infrastructure.

However, in places where use is already under pressure, let's increase charging supply and capacity, but I do believe the time has come to start charging some amount for use of public charging.  You want to make it so people will use it when they need it and it is not a huge penalty.  So, the cost could be similar to the cost to charge at home.  But enough that people who don't actually need a charge don't always use spaces just to get a free benefit.  I rarely need a public charge myself, but find myself saying "Why not, it's free" more than I would admit.  At that point I am removing the opportunity from someone who needs it.  I do use the "EV Sharing Protocol" (one reason I heavily oppose AB 475) but I still may put someone who NEEDS a charge out of sorts.  

So I believe it is time for the free electricity pipeline to be re-examined as areas like LAX become strained.  Let's also get more charge points out there.  But lets let the market mature and make sure everyone has a good experience. 

 


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