Los Gatos EV Parking Spots Filled By Gas Cars

By · February 07, 2013

Los Gatos Charging Stations

Photo via Recargo.

The Northern California city of Los Gatos has four public charge spots in its downtown area. According to data collected from the stations serving those spaces, their rate of usage has more than doubled since just last summer. In June 2012, plug-in drivers used 458 kilowatt hours of electricity from the stations, though by year’s end that number had jumped by more than 1100 kWh.

On average though, that rate of usage still hovers at less than 10 kWh of usage per station, per day, meaning that they’re inactive more often than not. Unfortunately, Los Gatos drivers seem to have taken this as an invitation to park non-plug-ins in the spaces—something that is not currently prohibited under the town’s ordinances despite the passage of AB 475 last year, a statewide law permitting localities to penalize drivers for using such spaces without plugging in.

According to an article posted at MercuryNews.com, some Los Gatos-area plug-in owners are understandably upset about it. Bryan Mekechuk, a LEAF owner who plans to speak to the city council about the issue, told the Los Gatos Weekly Times that he regularly travels to the town to do his shopping, but that he and his wife have on several occasions found all of the charging spaces occupied by internal combustion engine cars (ICE). “We need to start dedicating spots,” he told the paper. “Not all of them, but we need a path to better EV accessibility."

Though charge parking policies vary from municipality to municipality, Los Gatos intentionally chose to make its plug-in spots open to all vehicles because of concerns about parking shortages during peak hours. However, in addition to sometimes leaving no available charge spaces for plug-in drivers, parking an ICE in a charge spot also fools public charging locator software into telling users that the space isn’t in-use, since no vehicle is plugged into the station.

These problems will likely have to be resolved locally, in part because there were no conditions tied to the federal grant that paid for Los Gatos’ charge infrastructure mandating that municipalities provide EV-dedicated parking as a condition of receiving the funds.

Complicating the issue further is that EV advocacy group Plug In America opposes laws like AB 475 because they require plug-ins to be actively charging in order to park next to a station. Plug In America advocates plug-sharing, a practice that enables plug-in drivers to use their own discretion in unplugging other EVs once they have completed their charge so that other vehicles can use the station.

Comments

· · 1 year ago

This is a serious issue everywhere. We have a couple dozen EVSEs around Syracuse, NY, but they are almost always ICEd. This in turn leads the public to believe that there are no plug-ins on the roads, therefore 1) it's ok to park in front of the chargers and 2) they were a waste of money.

To a BEV driver, if you can't trust that a charger will be available, it might as well not be there. For a PHEV or EREV driver, it may just mean that you burn more gas than otherwise.

· · 1 year ago

Need to get a group of EV owners to park and block in the ICE vehicles, and/or place nice notes on them making them feel ashamed of their wrong-doings (and their inability to read or follow directions)

Best way to protest this.... EV owners Park infront of a gas pump for a good hour or so, reducing the consumers ability to refuel. Will this make an impact? No probabbly not. But I feel your frustration.

· · 1 year ago

If you have seen some of my other postings, you know I am not a big fan of 'public' charging stations. Deployment in workplace parking lots, maybe airport parking lots or any other place cars are going to be left parked long enough to recharge 'naturally', i.e. while the owner is doing something other than driving around waiting for the idiot ICE owner to move so his / her battery can be charged enough to make it home.

But it isn't just ICE owners who can be clods. Take the example of a Volt owner who the other day parked in one of those charging spots - because the parking lot was full and the charging spot was in a prime location. This would be a Volt owner with gas in his tank and a charge in his battery that would most certainly have gotten him home and a long way beyond.

So if you are going to deploy one of these public charging stations, DON'T do it next to the handicapped parking! (Instead, you could put up a sign saying 'We love you but go to the far corner of the lot for your charge.' Otherwise be prepared to set up a 'needs' police force - automatically ticketing Volt owners who plug in and even 'pure' EV owners who don't NEED to.

· · 1 year ago

@world2steven - I agree that "prime" spaces encourage ICE-ing but there are other practical factors to consider. For example, if the EV station is to be powered from the building's existing electrical supply, then moving them to the far corner of the lot increases cost of installation faster than linearly as wire sizes and scope of parking lot closings increase. At a certain point the wiring required becomes absurd and it can't even be done at all without transformers!

· · 1 year ago

Complicating the issue further is that EV advocacy group Plug In America opposes laws like AB 475 because they require plug-ins to be actively charging in order to park next to a station.

AB 475 doesn't require the city to require electric vehicles to be actively charging in order to park next to a station. AB 475 allows municipalities to restrict the usage of a parking spot dedicated for electric vehicles.

So, the city can mark two parking spots in front of a single charging station as for electric vehicles only if they choose too. Just the same, they could mark a single spot in front of a charging station as active electric vehicle charging only.

· · 1 year ago

"Plug In America advocates plug-sharing,"

Plug-sharing is dumb. That just give the public more excuse NOT to build more charging spaces... If you want it, force them to build enough spaces for every EV out there...

"This would be a Volt owner with gas in his tank and a charge in his battery that would most certainly have gotten him home and a long way beyond"

Why shouldn't the Volt be allowed to charge there? If the Volt is NOT charging and taking up a spot, then it is wrong. But if the Volt is charging, then it has just as much right as any other BEV to be there. Sure, Volt can use gas to get home (assuming it has some), but a BEV can use "diesel" to get home too, when it is being towed on the back of a tow truck... Any plugins have the right to charge. But I agree it is a "bad" practice to leave the car charging on the "public spot" while the battery is full and it is just taking up space.

· · 1 year ago

I shop where I can charge, If I can't charge, then I can't shop. So that's one reason why I don't shop in Los Gatos even though I pass through the city every day.

· · 1 year ago

Thank you for the article, Zach. We went to Los Gatos twice this past weekend and couldn't charge on either occasion. All the stations were blocked. Personally, I was especially enamored by a Volt parked in a spot and not charging, since it was cheaper to run on gas than to pay $2.50 session charge. Getting ICEd is no fun, but being PHEVd (peeved) is a unique experience, that's for sure.

· · 1 year ago

@surfingslovak - I tell you, you need a 'needs' police force. Even if that Volt were charging, did it NEED to be charging? 'PHEVd' is obviously a euphemism as well as an acronym.

· · 1 year ago

@surfingslovak,

I agree that Volt shouldn't be there if it is NOT charging. In fact, that is wrong for any "EV" to occupy a charging spot without charging.

@world2steven,

The "NEED" is really questionable, isn't it? BEV certainly do NOT need it either b/c tow truck is always a call away... The point is that people who buys Volt love to have an Electric car but worry about the charging/range issue. They already paid a premium to to have the gas engine onboard, but why punish them to prevent them from charging just b/c they already paid a premium?

The so called "NEED" was a choice that buyers made.

· · 1 year ago

Yes, this is a key issue.

To date we've driven over 4k miles in our Leaf in the 2.5 months we've had it and never relied on a public charging station because a) they may be taken, b) they may be ICE'd, or c) they may not be functioning.

For example, the Denver Museum of Nature and Sciences has one station - and yep, if we could drive there, be sure to plug into it for 3-4 hours, then drive home we could use our Leaf. But on one trip there (with our hybrid) we found the station ICE'd and a second time a plug-in Prius occupied the spot.

Realistically the ONLY way this can work is for the owner of the EV station to accept reservations and call a towing company if someone without a reservation occupies the spot. That's a hell of a lot of work for the owner of the station to do on top of installing it.

For this reason I think that only the early adopters who are willing to put up with all the problems of getting extra power can rely on stations. For the rest of us, it's about using your EV for only those trips that you know will return home in the range of your car.

· · 1 year ago

A related issue is long-term charging, such as as airports. Realistically I could drive to either COS or DEN airport in my Leaf IF (and only IF) I could guarantee to be charging it while I wait. DEN has some 240V charging stations but there is no guarantee they'll be open. On top of that, I don't need 240V - 110V is fine for airport trips if I can be assured that my trickle-charger cord won't be stolen.

What I'd like to see is a long string of 110V outlets (much cheaper to install) available at airport parking lots. The airport people would still need to police that the spots aren't ICE'd and we'd need a solution to prevent people stealing the charge cords. But otherwise that would make our EVs much more useful.

· · 1 year ago

@RedLeaf, You can lock the L1 Supplied EVSE with a small baggage lock after its connected to the vehicle.. This will eliminate anyone from unplugging and taking the EVSE. On top of that we all know the car in immobilized while its plugged, so thats eliminates the issue. Are you able to L1 at the airport?

· · 1 year ago

Parking on one's cord is a good way to slow down a thief and a lock on the release of the J1772 prevents casual unplugging. However, a determined thief could jack up the car and hacksaw through the lock. This is why public parking garages should have fixed chargers not owned by the users of the garage: It shifts the incentive to protect property onto the people who are patrolling the garage.

· · 1 year ago

Awesome Idea... Never through about rolling over the cord to secure it. takes a few extra moments of planning to get situated, but Ill definitely do this in the future.

· · 1 year ago

Those green signs are too friendly!

For a better sign, see
https://electricauto.site-ym.com/store/list_products.asp?catid=109224

There are other signs here:
https://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/2711/shop/shop.jsp?storefront_KEY=553

If better signs don't do the job, patrol and use warnings on the windshield. If that doesn't work after a reasonable time, tow after warning.

There's no point in installing chargers in a public lot if the public doesn't really have access.

· · 1 year ago

@RedLeaf ·- "What I'd like to see is a long string of 110V outlets (much cheaper to install) available at airport parking lots. The airport people would still need to police that the spots aren't ICE'd ..."

I would certainly go along with the first sentence. In fact, for long term parking areas nothing else makes economic sense. Why would you want to put a level 2 charger in an area where people literally have all day to charge??

Got to take issue with you on your second point however. IF your LEAF had an active thermal management system (ATMS) like the Volt you would want it to stay plugged in for the duration of its stay at the Denver airport. This might not be as critical for you, except in the dead of winter, as it is for us further south in Arizona.

But I'm guessing the dollar value of a 110 volt installation would quickly be returned to EV owners parking at airport lots if they could stay plugged in. I believe the Volt's ATMS keeps its battery between 32 and 90 degrees as long as it is plugged in even when the car isn't running.

· · 1 year ago

@world2steven,

Your example of the Volt's ATMS system doesn't really go against what RedLeaf was saying. That doesn't count as ICE'd. ICE'd would be in the Volt is parked there, but NOT plugged in. Even a Leaf doing that would be just as bad.

· · 1 year ago

@Brian Schwerdt - I get your point about the definition of 'ICE'd'. (We shouldn't have given our own interpretations away and then we could have pounced on RedLeaf if he disagreed with us!) But seriously, the use of Level 1 charging, i.e. 110 volt outlets, is a great idea! I'm wondering how much further the concept could be extended. Airport parking lots, where cars are going to be left overnight, seems pretty cut and dried. Are there any other possibilities?

If I recall correctly, 8 hours is about 1/3 of a full LEAF battery charge. Would an extra 20 or 30 miles make a significant difference for anyone contemplating using an EV for commuting? If so employers of just about any size could afford to accommodate them (power costs possibly excepted)?

· · 1 year ago

That's awful. I had no idea this was going on.

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