One of the things about driving an EV that I noticed very quickly is that the ideal locations for “refueling” infrastructure are totally different to ICE cars. Gas stations are just not the best places for charging stations, and even with the very high speed chargers that some car manufacturers are talking about, I don’t think they ever will be. Instead, the best places are the places (apart from at home), seem to be public parking lots. These are places where EVs spend enough time to pick up meaningful charge, while their drivers are doing something else.
Free vs Paid
I’ll admit it, getting a free charge while shopping, or grabbing a bite to eat is a fantastic bonus. The only issue with free chargers seems to be that they are too attractive. It is rare that any of the free ones in Alameda are unoccupied when I’m nearby. I have been lucky enough a couple of times to get a charging spot at Alameda’s South Shore (two free chargers from Volta Charging), but usually when we’re there the spots are full when we arrive, and the same two cars are still there when we leave. In San Francisco, even though the free chargers are in paid parking lots, they’re always occupied when we’ve tried to use them.
The paid spaces are also often occupied however. In Alameda, there is one near the library that I’ve been lucky enough to get into a couple of times. In other locations, they too are usually occupied. The exception to that is when they charge outrageous fees, then they’re always available.
The popularity of EVs seems to be exacerbating this issue too. This weekend we were at a large shopping mall in Pleasanton, California. With a parking lot holding over 5,000 cars there are just 10 EV charging spaces. Four free ones from Volta, 4 paid ones from Blink Charging (one in a blue space & not restricted to just EVs), and, at least according to their maps, two from EVGo. There were a lot more than 10 EVs in that lot on Saturday, and while a few were longer range Teslas and Chevy Bolts, many were shorter range vehicles like ours.
For us, with a limit of about 80 miles, the unpredictability of being able to charge at our destination, even if we know it has charging spaces, means we don’t use the EV for anything further than 25-30 miles away from home.
I’ve also encountered ICE vehicles occupying EV charging spots. The first picture (above) is in the Alameda city civic center lot. The day we were there, the Chrysler was parked in one of the two functioning EV charging spaces (the remaining 2 are offline awaiting repair). It is not the first time I’ve seen this in the Alameda lot, and while it was not critical for us to get a charge, I’m sure there are times when access to those spaces can be essential to getting home.
In Pleasanton, one of the paid charging spaces was occupied by a Mustang:
Both spaces are clearly marked as being reserved for EV charging. Part of the issue I’m sure is that the EV spaces tend to be closer to the buildings they are associated with, making them much more appealing spaces. I’m sure the reason for that, in most cases at least, has more to do with the location of an appropriate power source than providing a convenience to the drivers of EVs, but I suspect some might not see that.
I have also caught EV users occupying the spaces but not charging (or even plugging in). On that the spaces are a little more vague in most lots, but if you don’t need a charge, leaving the space for somebody who does seems like the polite thing to do.