Calif. Gov. Signs Controversial EV Charging BillBy Scott Doggett September 12, 2011
Over the objection of some of America's staunchest electric-vehicle advocates, California Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a bill that allows all-electric battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) as well as plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) to be towed if they park in designated EV-charging parking spaces but are not plugged in. "We think that there's the potential that the law may end up costing the state money, because in essence you now have to have one charger per EV parking space," Jay Friedland, legislative director of the advocacy group Plug In America, told AutoObserver Friday.
In the past, if an electric vehicle (EV) were fully charged, it was acceptable for the owner of an EV parked nearby to unplug the charged vehicle and plug in his or her car, Friedland said. But under the new law, the unplugged car will be at risk of being towed away. Friedland said Plug In America is working with some California lawmakers to introduce a bill early next year that "will fix the problem."
Other opponents complained that PHEVs should not be granted the same right to use the chargers as BEVs, because unlike BEVs they are not entirely dependent on electricity for fuel. PHEVs have onboard gasoline-fuel generators that permit them to generate their own juice once their batteries are depleted. Friedland said Plug In America, possibly the strongest EV advocacy group in the U.S., does not share that sentiment. That's because the group primarily wants vehicles to rely less on fossil fuels and more on electricity, regardless of whether they are plug-in hybrids or BEVs, he said.
Protecting PHEV Rights
Proponents of the bill, which was introduced by Torrance Democrat Betsy Butler, consisted chiefly of General Motors and owners of Chevy Volt PHEVs. They said the law was needed to ensure that PHEVs can use the chargers. The issue is likely to affect other states as public chargers become more commonplace and rulemakers look to California, which has pioneered most BEV practices and regulations, for guidance. A provision of the law allows individual jurisdictions to set up additional rules if they so desire -- things like time limits so that a car that needs only an hour of recharging time doesn't take up the space for four or five hours while the owner has dinner and attends a movie.
The seemingly innocent change appears to spell an end to the collegial practice of "plug sharing" that California's BEV drivers have practiced for years as a way of maximizing the relatively few public charging ports available. Butler, who spoke with AutoObserver in a telephone interview, defended the measure as one that is needed to help move electric-vehicle charging into the present. The old informal sharing etiquette was fine when there were a few hundred electric-vehicle drivers in the state, but now that there will soon be tens of thousands of BEVs and PHEVs, she said, everyone needs to have equal access to the chargers.