Saturday, August 17, 2013

Charging Station Rage and Solutions

Charging Stations
Credit: Oregon Electric Vehicle Assoc

Many drivers have run into the issue of road rage at some point, but charge station rage is somewhat new.  It's a whole other situation that drivers of non-electric vehicles may not understand, but can possibly relate to.  In this post I will discuss the problems and the possible solutions both now and what may come in the future.

There are several types of electric vehicles currently available in the world; pure electric, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid.  As electric vehicles are new in the market, early adopters may find the the issues mentioned in this post commonplace, at least until electric vehicles are more common.  Pure electric vehicles do not have an alternative power source available, just as pure gasoline vehicles do not.  But in these modern times, finding a gas station is not too difficult.  Hybrid vehicles rely on the gasoline aspect to provide power and for the most part do not need an external connection to refuel their batteries.  Plug-in hybrids however also have access to gasoline, but in many cases the owner would likely rather use electricity whenever possible as it is much cheaper than gas.  

Since electric vehicles are still scarce, there is also a scarcity to the number of electric charging stations available (although the numbers are increasing daily).  Electric vehicles suffer from decreased range as well as elongated re-fueling times.  Often an electric vehicle will take hours to re-fuel, rather than the 5-15 minutes required for a gas vehicle.   And the typical range of a pure electric tends to fall between 60 and 110 miles (barring any Tesla Models). So when the driver of an electric vehicle arrives at a charging station to find any number of obstacles, anxiety is a common reaction. 

At the gas station, it's a very rare event to leave the pump running for more than a few minutes.  It is just as rare is not more so to have a random stranger remove the nozzle and take it to their own vehicle or return it to the pump.  Who would do such a thing? But in the case of electric vehicles the situations are slightly different. 

Because of the long charge times and short ranges of electric vehicles, it certainly could be frustrating to arrive at an electric vehicle parking space and charging station, to find it occupied by another.  And likely even more so infuriating to find a non-electric vehicle in the spot. Hopefully the forethought of the driver of an electric vehicle, having the patience of a saint to have waited so many years for the re-advent of the electric vehicle, could wait a few hours longer for access to a charging station.  But when non-electric vehicles usurp the place, it shows the ignorance or deliberate animosity of that driver.  In any case, a cool head and a calm tongue will respond appropriately.  

Further legislation or actions that recognize the logistics in the use of electric cars will hopefully resolve these confounding problems.  
  1. An electric vehicle could have an display on the charge point to indicate total charge, thereby allowing the next customer an idea of how much time remains.  Most electric vehicles already have an app that can notify the owner of the status of charge, but not necessarily any one else. 
  2. The charging station connector could have an auto break-away that would disconnect the vehicle once it was done changing, giving an indication to the next customer that the current vehicle was done.  
  3. Street parking meters could all be replaced by dual functional charging station  / parking meters.
  4. Electric vehicles could use induction at the head undercarriage to have change take place without a corded interaction.  This could eliminate the fear of accidental or deliberate disconnects for the current customer.
  5. Parking lots could have special sections dedicated to electric vehicles only.
  6. EV parking spaces could be time-shared with ICE
These solutions are only with regard to current electric vehicle charging situations.  The hope by all is that in the future charging an electric vehicle will be as fast or faster than gasoline fueling and the range of electric vehicles will be comparable or greater than their gas-powered cousins.  

No matter the situation whether by usurpers or legitimate use, electric car owners should retain the peaceable perspective and level-headedness when dealing with the problems of these early charging station troubles.  We should consider the good fortune and grace that electric vehicle owners have managed to achieve by escaping the dependency on oil.  And despite these minor inconveniences at the charge station, the road is just that much more quiet from the use of electric vehicles than ever before. 
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