Los Gatos EV Parking Spots Filled By Gas Cars
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.
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