My husband and I visited Newport, Rhode Island, recently during high tourist season with our new-to-us 2017 Chevy Bolt. It was our first road trip with the EV, and we diligently researched charging in the area ahead of time using PlugShare. What we didn’t anticipate was a pattern among a whole swath of EV drivers to monopolize the two banks of public EV chargers. To EV drivers away from home: please be civil to each other!
We are taught as small children to be polite and respectful, that we should display good manners at home and in public. But civility when using EV chargers is about more than just politeness. We need to seek common ground and exchange dialogue when using public EV chargers, as situations arise that challenge the better angels of our nature, as Lincoln reminded us in his first inaugural address. Yes, we should feel comfortable expressing differences in opinions about charging demeanor and protocols. But we also need to listen and move past our own preconceptions, teaching others to do the same. Civility can be difficult work, as we need to remain present even as we confront others with whom we disagree as we negotiate public EV charging.
Do you apply the same traits of politeness and respect from your everyday life to interactions with other EV drivers when you settle in to charge? Civility begins with each of us as we rise to the role of ambassadors for the EV transition.
Positive Public EV Chargers Scenarios
About 80% of EV charging happens at home. Then again, when we’re away from home, we need to morph into new selves who are adaptable and creative when we need to charge. Instead of chronicling the antics of misbehaving EV drivers when charging, let’s adhere to an etiquette in which we build a healthy and robust EV charging community. Remember: we’re early adopters, and we need to help design EV charging situations so others are infused with confidence when traveling away from home.
Plan so you grab charging at stops that are organically built into your trip. Even if you weren’t driving an EV, you’d be making stops — rest areas for bathroom breaks, meals at restaurants, local attractions, accommodations. Design those stops at places where you can grab a bit more charge. There’ll be 20% more charge here, 10% there, but you’ll keep the guess-o-meter moving higher and the range anxiety of your traveling companions going lower. It will also keep you from bogarting sparse public EV chargers later, as your charge level won’t plummet to dangerously low levels.
Charge to an acceptable rather than maximum level. We’re all familiar by now that, to extend our EV battery’s life, we should practice the strategic 80/20 rule, which means not charging past 80% and not letting it drop below 20%. That same mantra can apply at public EV chargers — unless your next leg brings you through a rural charging desert, 80% is plenty.
Park in the center of the parking space. Public EV chargers generally have 2 charging cables per single charger. That means 2 EVs will be in relatively close proximity when charging. Check that you’re using just the parking area designated for your space so that you’re giving ample room for another EV driver to pull in next to you. (Check out the featured photo above that I took of a Ford F-150 Lightning during our Newport trip — glad to find a charger, the EV driver slid right in but neglected to refine their parking alignment so that others could fit in next to a light pole.)
Check your app periodically to see when the charging level is met. You know how you used to hate it when someone who had finished pumping gas neglected to move their car while grabbing a snack at the adjacent convenience store? Move your car when you don’t need the EV charging space any longer, too. It’s really likely that other drivers are waiting for the public EV charger where you’re parked.
Chat with others who are also charging their EVs. Share experiences about what it’s meant to both of you to travel in an EV. Learn about your neighbor’s home regions and EV charging experiences. Create community. Exchange approaches for planning your EV stops — do you use PlugShare? Tesla’s trip planning? A Google search? What have you learned about creating EV trips with little to no stress as you accumulate miles?
When you stop at a business that provides EV charging, thank them. Explain that you chose their restaurant or gift shop or hotel in large part because they offered charging. Ask them to spread the word among their colleagues that EV charging is an amenity that draws grateful customers who’ll become loyal patrons. Explain that EVs have gotten so popular on tourist sites that search filters frequently let users select options that come with charging stations.
Leave appreciative notes. Thank EV drivers for doing the right thing. If you see a large EV that’s made space for others, positively reinforce their effort. You can never say “Thank You” enough. You might also let an EV driver know your mobile # so they can call to let you know that they’re finished charging and you can hop into the space.
Talk to an ICE driver who’s pulling into a public EV charging space. In the US, where public transit is weak, personal transportation is the preferred mode to get to where we need to go. Yet some motorists who drive ICE vehicles may not understand that, if they pull into a parking spot that’s dedicated to EV charging, they’re removing a necessary function for EV drivers. Assume that it’s not an act of rebellion but, rather, a misunderstanding. The Boston Globe recently described such a deliberate act, known as ICING (or ICEing), and warned that Boston’s Mayor Wu has issued a press release: “The City of Boston is in the process of updating its Traffic Rules and Regulations to make it a ticketable offense for a non-EV to be parked in an EV charging space.” Let’s help each other to understand the importance of public EV charging before it becomes punitive, shall we?
Final Thoughts about Public EV Charging
Barbie, the doll, already has an electric vehicle — complete with a tiny charging station. Today’s children will become tomorrow’s EV owners. With increased EV sales will come ubiquitous public EV chargers. Until then, however, we need to be civil EV drivers, considering that our interactions will become models for new EV drivers to follow.
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