12.17.2010 - by Marc Geller
My Trial LEAF & the trials of public charging

Credit: Marc Geller

I’ve got a LEAF for a few days. Very exciting. I’ll have a full report soon. But I’ve got to mention one frustration I’ve encountered. Restricted charge stations.

In San Francisco at this moment there are, I believe, six deployed new J1772 charge stations. One, a ParkPod unit in the Hilton parking lot, was installed with private funds. Two are at a private parking garage on the Embarcadero, paid for with federal and state money via Coulomb’s ChargePointAmerica grants. And three streetside at City Hall, trumpeted in signage as a “Green Vehicle Showcase.”

Usage at the City Hall location is restricted; only official city and ZipCar plug-in vehicles may use them. All others subject to ticketing and towing.

Ironically, in practice this means only the converted plug-in Priuses in government and ZipCar fleets, using the 120 Volt receptacle in these Coulomb ChargePoint stations, can park and charge. The LEAF I’ve got for a few days, which could plug in at Level 2 and be showcased, remains underground out of site while I sit on a jury a block away. And I could use the charge, as I’m charging at 120 volts at home. And, adding insult to injury, two of the three spaces with chargepoints were open when I went to court, during lunch, and when I departed. The third, occupied by a BAAQMD plug-in Prius, appears not to have gone anywhere, long ago charged to full.

The point isn’t my convenience while doing jury duty. Ordinarily, I’d take the bus. It’s about optimally utilizing the public investment in charging infrastructure. San Francisco spent tens of thousands of dollars installing these charge stations. Mayor Newsom trumpeted their arrival, and Coulomb uses them in its self-promotion. They are serving everyone’s interest save the public.

The day has finally arrived when they could be used as intended, for opportunity charging and to showcase the arrival of electric vehicles. Bureaucratic obstacles must be overcome, at least during the first year or two, to maximize the public benefit of this investment. Empty spots and/or restricted access does not serve the interest of the drivers, nor in reality, of the infrastructure providers or government trying to educate the public about electric vehicles.

2 comments on “My Trial LEAF & the trials of public charging”
  1. Bill says:

    As an advocate for the existing charging infrastructure, I’m concerned that the new plug-ins and EVs will park at charging locations (often, right by the front door of businesses) that they are unable to charge at, just to get the close-in spot. A campaign needs to be developed to stress, “If you can’t charge here, don’t park here.”

  2. Paul Scott says:

    Marc’s frustration is shared by many. Access to charging is extremely important, especially in the early days before charge stations become ubiquitous.

    I’d like to know the name and contact info for the person who made this decision so we can target them with calls asking for the decision to be reversed. Who do we call?

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