Calvin J. Frye

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On Charging Electric Vehicles

So, I've been driving my Leaf several months, now, and I've learned a few things. There are several different kinds of drivers, and they all approach refueling their vehicles in different ways.

Gasoline-powered vehicles, known among us as "ICE," for Internal Combustion Engines, drive as long as they like, and then stop to fill their tanks so they can go off once more. Let's call this guzzling. Filling a gas tank takes maybe fifteen minutes or less, and once full the car is good for several hundred miles before needing to stop and refuel. Zoom, zoom, SLUUUUURP, zoom, zoom...

Electric vehicles, with the possible exception of Teslas, are more grazers. Ideally, everywhere you go with your EV you stop and put a few electrons back into the battery before going off to the next stop. I charge at home overnight, then drive to work, where I plug in again to recharge before driving back home in the evening. I "fill up" twice a day -- and it takes hours each time. But that's OK. I don't have to park it at the filling station, I just charge it where I normally park anyway.

Actually, there are two types of EV drivers: customers and employees. Customers would like to be able to charge for a bit while they shop in your store, or read in the library, or shop downtown. They are interested in faster, Level 2 charging (or better), that can put 20 miles range in the car in an hour or less. Zoom, graze, zoom, graze, zoom, graze.

Employees pretty much park in their employer's parking lot for hours at a time. I don't need particularly fast charging, if you'll let me charge for the entire 8 hours I'm there. A regular 20-amp 110 volt outlet gains me 4 miles for each hour, or 32 miles if I charge all day. That's enough to get me back home again easily. That's a full charge for most plug-in hybrid vehicles. No fancy charging stations or super-duper electrical installations needed, just a couple of standard electrical outlets (although each should be on a separate 20-amp circuit). And we don't really have to be located in a prime location next to the handicapped spaces. In fact, those spaces bring their own problems (see Etiquette, below).

Put in a Chargepoint or other Level 2 charging station in a conspicuous location where your customers will notice and admire your generous invitation to park, charge, and come in. Put some regular outlets where your employees can charge while they're on duty, too. Everyone is happy, and at an average cost of $0.11 a kilowatt-hour, it won't cost you much at all.

Etiquette among drivers

Ideally, a customer-type charging station would have two parking spots. When I get to work in the morning, sometimes I'm the first to arrive and I get to plug in right away. My charge will be complete in 3.5 or 4 hours, tops. So at lunch I return to disconnect. If there's an EV parked next to me, with the charging hatch open, I will plug them in and get them started charging while I move my car. Sometimes a third EV will come into that space and wait for their turn when car #2 is finished.

This only works if there are two parking spaces reserved for EVs at the charging station--one charging and one "on deck."

It doesn't work well if an ICE is parked in the "on deck" space. Then if I finish charging and move my car, I usually don't have a way to know who also needs a charge, nor a way to call them and let them know the space is open.

Worse yet is what I often see in the commercial lot near my office (names withheld to protect the guilty). Here there are four Level 2 charging stations and five parking spots. It should be an EV driver's dream!

But this is a location where parking is a premium, and the charging stations are in a really desirable spot. Often at busy times, say around the lunch hour, every spot is occupied by a gasoline vehicle--we say the spots are "ICEd"--and the EV's are "frozen out." It would help if these spots were clearly marked for electric vehicles only. I don't park at the gas station, why would you park at my charging spot?

The lot is aggressively patrolled, and anyone guilty of parking for more than two hours receives a nasty window sticker warning and a threat of being towed next time... But ICEd charging stations appear to be permitted. Don't be those guys! If you install charging stations, label them for the vehicles that will use them.

Helpful links for my vehicles, and maybe yours: