Electric car charging: the basics you need to know (updated) Page 3

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2015 Nissan Leaf

2015 Nissan Leaf

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Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't point out that there are points of etiquette to consider so that all drivers of plug-in cars help each other out.


Some of the most challenging situations come from competition for public charging stations.

First, there's the problem of "ICE-ing," in which a car with an Internal Combustion Engine parks at a charging site, blocking access for plug-in drivers--whether inadvertently or maliciously.

Your best bet there is to see if there's a local security guard or a way to page the driver. Failing that, leave a factual but courteous note pointing out that their action prevented you from recharging--which was the sole purpose of the spot they parked in.

Electric vehicle parking by Flickr user aaron_anderer, used under Creative Commons license

Electric vehicle parking by Flickr user aaron_anderer, used under Creative Commons license

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Admittedly, some charging spots are not well marked, while others are located close to buildings and hence in the most desirable spots, increasing the chance of selfish behavior.

Assuming you find a public charging site, how should you behave?

First, make sure that you don't occupy the space longer than it takes your car to recharge.

RELATED: Etiquette Tips For Electric-Car Charging: New Video Explains It All

Charging spots are not there to provide free parking for electric-car drivers, just as no gasoline or diesel driver would expect to be able to park at a gas pump for hours.

Second, if you can't get back to your car to unplug and move it immediately once it's done recharging, you may choose to leave a note for other plug-in drivers. Usually it will say something like, "If the green light on my dash is flashing, you may unplug the charging cable."

Electric Vehicle Only parking sign, Philadelphia public garage [photo: Jim Burness]

Electric Vehicle Only parking sign, Philadelphia public garage [photo: Jim Burness]

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Some electric cars now have interlocks that require the key fob to unlock the cable, however. Make sure you know whether your car does.

Third, be aware that if you've still got 30 to 50 miles on your car--and you're planning to drive less than that--you may want to wait until you get home. Even if the charging is free.

Someone may well be on their last miles, and need the recharge a lot more than you do.

Finally, there are other disputes that we're going to steer clear of.

Be aware, for instance, that some drivers of all-electric cars believe that plug-in hybrid drivers should always defer to their needs, because the plug-in hybrid can use its engine to get home--but the battery-powered car can't.

The goal is for all of us just to get along.

And you're likely to find electric-car drivers to be enormously informative, willing to talk about their cars and why they like them, perhaps even offer you a drive.

That's how some electric cars get sold to first-timers: They drive the car, decide they like the experience, learn about the much cheaper cost-per-mile of electricity versus gasoline, and the seed is planted.

Meanwhile, educate yourself, be courteous to others, and go forth to drive electric!

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in May 2015. We have updated it to reflect the current state of electric-car charging, a topic that continues to draw interest among existing and prospective electric-car buyers.


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