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Charging Legalities, Policies and Standards
and T Shirts
This is the third article in a series about electric vehicle charging stations. The first one explained that EV drivers are already starting to get tickets when parked at charging stations and that towing is within the legal possibilities in some places. The second article explains what EV drivers need to make charging work for them. This will look at the regulatory side of things to see what needs to be done to get this to support EV use.
Special thanks goes to the EV Advocates of Ventura County for helping to focus on this issue and start to find the right solutions.
City of Oxnard
Links to help others find this information
Copyright 2014 Russell Sydney, All rights reserved.
Articles on Related Subjects
James Reach is an Attorney and EV advocate who has been helping to lead the charge (that is the effort) behind getting this managed effectively. He has talked to the enforcement officers in both Palo Alto and Oxnard about this issue.
Parking Enforcement at EV Charging Stations
As mentioned in the article about EVs getting a ticket, James contacted the Oxnard police department to find out about how the police were interpreting the ordinance. He reports that “They told me that they not only checked to see if the cars were plugged in but they also looked at the charger to see if it was still charging. The charger has a light that comes on when charging and goes out when charging is completed.”
That is a good example of an antagonistic view of the regulations by enforcement. It presents a good reason to make sure that all policies and regulations are spelled out sufficiently well to keep that sort of attitude from spreading.
City of Palo Alto
The following report came in from the Police Parking Enforcement Manager. Palo Alto does not have a specific ordinance for EV parking it just goes by sign and time ordinances.
The EV-designated spaces have signs that say "limited to three hours" and "while charging." The City interprets the "while charging" phrase to mean the charger cable is connected to the vehicle. However the City does not check to see if the green light on the charger is on indicating active charging. The City will not issue a citation if the car is hooked up, but the charger is not actively charging. That seems to be in accordance with the state vehicle code law that uses the phrase, "that is connected for electric charging purposes."
There have been some problems where other electric vehicles have parked next to an occupied EV space, unhooked a car that was fully charged and plugged into their car. The EV in the designated space is no longer hooked up and the city has issued citations to those EVs now in the designated space and not hooked up.
If the EV is parked for longer than the posted 3-hour limit it will be cited in violation of the time ordinance. It was not clear if three hours is specific to the charging stations or if that was an example for a typical parking garage. Three hours is an unusual length of time so that may be for EVs only.
Any internal combustion vehicle parked in the EV space is cited for being in violation of the sign ordinance.
Finding the Right Enforcement Standards
The Palo Alto police are using what can be referred to as a "while connected" standard.
The Oxnard police are using what can be referred to as a "while charging" standard.
Then there are the more relaxed cities like Ojai and Malibu that do not use anything more than an “EV Parking Only” standard.
On closer examination there are problems with each of these standards. A review of each may lead us to a new holy grail of EV charging standards.
An “EV Parking Only” standard means that EVs are least likely to get a ticket with signs using this standard on the chargers. This standard is also the easiest way for a community to get started with EV charging stations. A simple sign in front of the chargers will do the job and may not even require any new ordinances. Most cities can give tickets for violations of any posted parking restrictions. Having the sign spell out “Plug in Electric Vehicle Parking Only” might be helpful as it will keep hybrid drivers from getting confused.
If every parking lot had two 240 volt charging stations in them with those sorts of signs, that would be a good start. If those charging stations were installed so that they could reach 3-6 parking spaces in the way described in the article on sharing chargers, then that would be even better. No more ordinances would be required and the chargers should be available whenever needed.
If the sign is an “EV Parking only” sign that also means that people living nearby can leave their vehicles there as long as the parking lot allows. Some locations have people leaving their EVs for days. There are some locations where that sort of long term parking is intended for various reasons. In those locations, the next step could be to put a time limit on the EV parking that is different than for the ICE parking (meaning Internal Combustion Engine parking). That moves in a direction that may not be productive.
A more productive direction could be to require permits for overnight parking. A sign that specifies no parking from 1:00 am to 6:00 am except by permit would do the trick. Those permits could help pay the bills on the chargers and specify how long the vehicle can be left for each charge.
The “while connected” standard makes enforcement easy but makes sharing charging stations a problem. If a driver needs a charge urgently, they have the dilemma of getting what they need and harming a fellow EV driver. If the signs say “while charging” you might want to proceed with caution.
The regulations for the State of California allow Cities to set up towing from charging sites. Unfortunately the state is using the "connected to a charger" criteria. That means that taking a charger from someone who has a full battery pack could expose them to being towed. That can only happen if the charging station has a very specific sign. The specifications for that sign are spelled out in the Vehicle Code which is copied below. That might be regressive and does not fully support EV adoption.
The "while charging" standard is even worse as it means tracking the charge and running out to move the car when fully charged. If the charger goes into a trickle charge mode then the "while charging" ticket would not happen but we would be billed if the meter has a time based fee.
Regulator may be blissfully unaware of the subtleties that relate to the “while charging” standard. For example, most if not all Clipper Creek Chargers turn off when the vehicle is fully charged and do not go into a trickle charge mode. They do not communicate this to the driver. Charge Point equipment seems to be able to shut off or go into trickle mode based on software options. You cannot tell which a specific charger will do by looking at it. At least Charge Point will send a message when this happens. So how do EV drivers cope with that? It could mean dropping your fork in the middle of desert for a mad dash to beat the parking ticket! Please!
It looks like there is a need for another standard for these regulations.
What would work?
How about something like using an "Intention To Charge" standard?
How about something like using a "For The Purposes Of Charging" standard?
Either one would allow enforcement to ticket non plug in vehicles and remind EV drivers to use the space for charging. These standards would make it difficult to ticket EVs that block the charging but that is not as bad as an ordinance that prevents sharing chargers.
What works best in your world?
Please submit comments by email and we can add them to this discussion.