Transport Theory

Redefining EV etiquette: California's new parking law

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Under California's new law, cars parked in EV charging spaces can be towed if they are not plugged in - a move that threatens to throw off existing rules for EV etiquette.

As we bring electric vehicles into the mainstream, there are bound to be some logistical hiccups along the way.

California's Governor, Jerry Brown, recently signed a law stipulating that battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV) can be towed if they are found parked in EV charging station parking spots and are not plugged into the stations. Seems logical. It's like towing a car that's illegally parked in a handicapped space, right?

Wrong. Here's where it gets tricky: the existing EV etiquette deems that if an EV parked in a charging space has finished charging, a nearby EV owner may remove the charger and plug it into his or her own car. Now, under the new law, the EV owner who was parked in the designated EV charging space but is now charger-less could be towed.

The legislation has also drawn attention to the debate over PHEV rights, so to speak. Proponents of the law argue that it was needed to make sure that all EV owners would be able to use the chargers. Meanwhile, critics argue that since PHEVs should not be able to use public chargers because they use gasoline as a backup source of fuel, and so are not completely dependent on electricity.

The arguments are sure to continue. Jay Friedland, legislative director of EV advocacy group Plug In America, told AutoObserver that California lawmakers are already working to present a 2012 bill that would rectify the parking space dilemma. But Betsy Butler, of Torrance, California, who introduced the bill, said that as the number of EV drivers on the roads is set to increase dramatically over the next few years, legislation is needed to ensure equal access to existing chargers.

Consider this the beginning of a long discussion about how to accommodate the growing number of  EVs on the road, as well as shaping evolving rules regarding electric vehicle etiquette.

Photo: Chevrolet

via [AutoObserver]

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Channtal Fleischfresser

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Channtal Fleischfresser has worked for The Economist, WNET/Channel 13, Al Jazeera English, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press. She holds degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure