Your Ultimate Guide To Electric Car Charging Etiquette

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Rabobank EV charging (via SolarCity)

Rabobank EV charging (via SolarCity)

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The end of 2010 is fast approaching and that means in a few short months we’ll see the launch of several different plug-in vehicles. But as the 2011 Nissan Leaf, 2011 Coda Sedan, 2011 Chevrolet Volt, 2011 Wheego Whip LiFE and others hit the roads of the U.S., hundreds of new electric car and plug-in vehicle owners will discover that there’s an unwritten set of rules regarding what you should and should not do when recharging your EV. 

 So here’s our ultimate guide to ensure that you never commit an electric car related faux pas the next time you plug your car in. 

Rule Number 1: Share And Share Alike

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of finding an empty electric vehicle charging station just waiting to be used. But before you plug in and leave your car charging ask yourself if you really need the extra charge the point will provide. Especially true if there’s only one charger, tying up the charging point when your car has more charge than it needs does no one any favors. 

Project EViE's Matt Vance at electric-vehicle charging station in Paris

Project EViE's Matt Vance at electric-vehicle charging station in Paris

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Rule Number 2: Pure Electric Before Plug In Hybrids/Range Extended EVs

Driving a Plug-in Prius, or a 2011 Chevy Volt? Remember that while you may really want to make use of the electric charging points available to minimize your use of gasoline, not everyone has a gasoline engine to fall back on. 

If you’re a plug-in hybrid or range extended electric car driver, try to only plug in when there are plenty of public chargers available. It avoids arguments.

Rule Number 3: Charge Up - Move On 

If you’ve just arrived at the mall after a 60 mile trek on the freeway and really do need to charge your 2011 Nissan Leaf up so you can get home, make sure you move your car to a regular parking space when you have enough charge.

Turning up to do a day’s shopping and leaving your car plugged in long after it’s fully charged is seriously uncool. 

Cars like the 2011 Nissan Leaf let you know when they’re full. If your car texts you to say “I’m done!” then free up the parking bay/charger for someone else. 

Rule Number 4: Safety First

Charging Cables are hazardous to everyone. While the charging cables that come with most charging stations we’ve seen are brightly colored, retract back into the base station and are designed to not get in the way it is still possible to trip someone up with them. 

When you park up to charge make sure you park in such a way that the charging cable has a safe and uninterrupted route to your car - and that where possible, no one can trip or catch on the cable. 

Rule Number 5: Charging Is A Privilege, Not A Right

While you may be helping to kick-start a whole new industry while lowing the nation’s consumption of fossil fuels by driving electric, remember that owning and driving an electric car is a choice. 

As a consequence, any charging points installed are there for your convenience, especially ones that are offered free of charge. 

Be courteous to those who have provided it, look after the charger and report any issues to the relevant party. And try to remain calm if your favourite free charger isn’t available. 

Lastly, if you are bumming a charge from somewhere remote without a dedicated charging station, don’t assume it’s free. Offer to pay for it, or at least give an extra tip. 

2011 Chevrolet Volt 240V charging station

2011 Chevrolet Volt 240V charging station

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Rule Number 6: Register With A Charging Network.

If you run a local business or live in a less-than-supported area and have charging available you don’t mind sharing, why not register with a charging network. It helps others to find places to charge and gives you access to a great database of places to plug in. 

Rule Number 7. Early Adopters Are Ambassadors

If you’re an early electric car owner you’re an ambassador for a gas-free future. If you can, spend time talking to folks who ask questions, be nice, and don’t forget to help spread the word about electric cars. 

In Conclusion:

EV charging will rise over the next few years, but so will the number of electric cars. Follow our guide and there will hopefully always be somewhere to plug in.

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Comments (8)
  1. And wipe down that charger handle before and after use with a disinfecting wipe. Some gasoline user might have touched it, and well, you don't want to get infected.

  2. No, use reusable clotheswith 7th generation cleaner! Got to stay environmentally friendly! ;-)

  3. Great article Nikki. Supporting #7, I would add join your local EAA chapter. They will have all the correct info about the benefits of EV driving. You can see if there is a chapter near you on this site:
    Supporting #1, here is the Courtesy Charging Protocol card that you can put in your window with a post-it note pointing to the time it is ok to unplug your vehicle.

  4. maybe add,
    8.always try to charge Off Peak so we don't add extra loads to the peak Time Of Day power production.
    9. Be sure to put the cord back nice and neat for the next person.
    10. Say thanks to the place that provided the charging location, hotel, store etc. It's worth more than money to hear they did the right thing.

  5. Fantastic article, Nikki! These rules need to be spread far and wide. Linda Nicholes saw them and suggested Plug In America add them to our website. We'll discuss it soon, but I suspect the board will be strongly in favor. Thanks for making the effort.

  6. Nikki: What about hotel charging etiquette? Should you always ask permission, or just plug in and see what happens?
    I'm thinking at least at first I'll scope out an available outlet, then mention to the desk clerk that I noticed an outlet and ask if I can plug in overnight. If there is a cost objection, I'll offer to pay an additional $1.50 for the night, which is likely more than the cost of the charge.

  7. When visiting someone at home, you need to charge, either overnight or just top off. Do you pay your friend or assume that it is gratis? Interesting question that many e-car owners will assume it is free although those same people may have never asked their hosts to pay for their gas to visit them... thoughts?

  8. Well, gas isn't only 1-2 dollars for a full charge

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