Leaf Drivers Publicly Shame Selfish Charging-Station User

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ECOtality Blink charging stations for electric & plug-in cars

ECOtality Blink charging stations for electric & plug-in cars

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Imagine the scenario: You’re heading to a meeting and leave your shiny 2011 Nissan Leaf electric car plugged in at the local charging station, confident that it will have enough charge to get you back home when you return in a few hours.

Then you return to find another electric car owner has unplugged your car to charge their own vehicle, leaving your car at the mercy of California’s new electric-car charging bill which could result in your car being towed. 

And of course, leaving you without enough charge to make it home. 

That’s what happened to one Los Angeles Nissan Leaf owner when he visited LAX airport. 

Indignant Post

Unsure if he should unplug the usurping car from the charger, and noting that it was almost full, he chose to vent his fury on the popular myNissanLeaf owners’ forum. 

“You just unplugged my Leaf. I left a sign on the dashboard, did you read it?” he wrote, pointing out that he’d left a note in the dashboard asking to be left in until 9:30am. “You saw the [charging] lights, [with the] middle [one] blinking. I only got 30 minutes of charge,” he continued. “Not enough for 60 miles return trip."

As it became apparent that the car that took the charging station was almost full when it was plugged in--and stayed there for days, taking up a valuable electric car charging space--owners got mad.

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2011 Chevrolet Volt using Level 2 240-Volt charging station in Vacaville, California

2011 Chevrolet Volt using Level 2 240-Volt charging station in Vacaville, California

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Current electric car charging stations are often located between two parking bays, allowing for one car either side to make use of them.  It’s not uncommon to see two electric cars side-by-side, with one unplugged while another charges. 

As we’ve covered before, there’s an unwritten but strong code of conduct to using charging stations. Unplugging someone else’s car to charge your own is considered rude -- unless they’ve placed a note in their car’s windshield giving you permission to do so. 

Today, the act of maliciously unplugging someone else’s car without permission is almost unheard of. But the recent California Assembly Bill 475 could add a nasty twist to such an inconsiderate act. 

Backed by General Motors, it would make being parked in an electric-car charging bay without being plugged in illegal. Under that bill, the Leaf owner who was unknowingly unplugged could have found his car being towed for a parking violation. 

Hunted down

But the story doesn’t stop here. Many of the regulars at the myNissanLeaf forum set about to track down the inconsiderate unplugger to let him know just how unhappy they were about his action. 

After leaving a note on the offending car’s windshield, owners kept a watch on the car, noting that it didn’t move -- it still hasn’t -- since the offending event two weeks ago. They also identified the owner via a photograph of his Leaf’s customized license plate that he had put on Facebook.

At the moment, the driver hasn’t responded to any emails from Leaf drivers--or returned to his car--but we can only imagine the surprise reception that awaits him when he flies back home. 

Under AB 475, by the way, the offending Leaf driver would have every legal right to leave his or her car plugged in to the recharging station--for months at a time.

Extreme reaction or justified? 

Electric car charging stations are currently a hot topic -- both for electric-car drivers and those who have yet to get a plug-in car. 

With advocacy groups fighting to save charging stations at Costco stores as well as fighting Assembly Bill 475, the provision and proper use of charging stations is in the spotlight. 

We think the message is simple: Be courteous to other charging station users, follow simple etiquette, don't unplug anyone without their permission, and make sure you don’t leave your car parked in a charging bay for weeks at a time. 



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Comments (16)
  1. This is only going to continue, there are allot of people out there who do things for their own benefit without any consideration for others. I guess we're going to need locking chargers on electric cars just like gasoline cars have locking gas caps and doors.

  2. CDspeed, if a tow truck needed to tow the vehicle, how would they remove the charge cord without injury or permanent damage to the lock, vehicle or charger? Seems unworkable. The only solution I see is one charger per parking spot, and hoping there is enough to meet demand. Point goes to hydrogen vehicles.

  3. Eh, it was just an idea.

  4. As if nobody could have seen this coming, right? Fast charging is
    the only thing that makes sense in public. Wait till those copper thieves find out about EVs.

  5. OMG, not copper thief's! Guess all our efforts are in in vain, time to give up.
    Seriously? Come on now.

  6. This was debated to death on the article "GM Riles CA Electric-Car World (Again) Over AB475 'Charger..." on this blog. Put a lock on the charging cord and give a key to the business or parking lot attendant so they can unlock their charging cord if the car is fully charged. If the car sits there one hour after the attendant unlocks the cord from your car so someone else can plug in, then you are given a $100.00 ticket and your car is towed away. If you charge in an airport, then your car can be towed to an open parking slot at the airport. You shouldn't have the right to block charge stations or unplug someones car.

  7. Solutions will need to be free of attendant or property owner intervention (unless he's paid for effort etc.). Any towing scheme will cost way more than it's worth and creates liability.

  8. It also is significant that one MNLer drove to LAX to plug the original LEAF back in and left a "friendly" note on the "un-plugger's" car. Steps were also taken to assure that the "un-plugger's" car was plugged back in later.

  9. Dashboard camera.

  10. We need this offered in the USA, not just Japan, for the Nissan LEAF: http://ev.nissan.co.jp/LEAF/OPTION/IMAGES/dop_th_06.jpg

  11. Simple solution to prevent stealing other people's plug: Add padlock holes to car and attachment plug.

  12. seems like they could offer two charging plugs if they have two parking spaces.

  13. Should the Leaf notifify you via phone that your car was unplugged or at least allow you to check the status. I believe you can use your iPhone to see if your volt is still plugged in. Then you could address the issue quickly and not be left with no charge.

  14. The Leaf is set up to notify you if your car is unplugged while charging but I believe that this feature only works with iPhones. I assume the person in the article who was the victim of unplugging didn't have an iPhone or didn't set up the feature.

  15. Solve the problem the good ole American way. Charge for it!

    Have each car that parks pay for how much time they want to be there. The cars "not needing" a charge would prefer to wait to get home to charge cheaply thereby freeing up the charger. Those "needing" the charge would be happy to have access even if it "cost" as much as buying premium gasoline or 2x-3x normal parking costs.

    The money would be available for more chargers, further alleviating the issue.

  16. This seems like a simple problem. Are these charging stations free? That's nuts. A charging station space should be fee metered, like a parking meter. If the station can support 10kW and the local power rate is $0.2/kWh, then a fee of at least $2/hr should be charged in addition to normal parking fees, if any. If you leave your car for ten hours, you pay $20, even it it was charged after two hours. Parking facilities can provided valet arrangements where your car will be moved after it's charged. If you leave you car for longer than you have credit for, you get a ticket, towed or both. This isn't even hard to work out.

    As far as unplugging someone else's car, I'm sure there are already laws on the books that cover tampering.

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