Monthly Archives: December 2014

The Seven Attributes of a Highly Effective EV Charging Station


The good and the bad in Electric Vehicle Charging Station siting

OK, I am nerding out. I have helped set the new employee charging policy and kicked off my blog about EV ownership and charging. One of the nagging thoughts I keep having is about what would be the utopia of public charging stations?  After driving electric vehicles over 80,000 miles over the last 3 years, I have learned a few things about what really makes and breaks a charging location. I’ve seen the good and the bad when it comes to EVSE setup and here are seven of the attributes of what makes a good charging station.

The perfect charging station

  • is not close to the entrance
  • is easy to find and clearly identifiable
  • can easily accommodate all shapes and sizes
  • has amenities nearby
  • is thoroughly crowd sourced
  • isn’t free
  • enforced by a consistent set of rules


  1. The Perfect Charging Station is in a Place Far Far Away

Charging location at the Target Fremont location

The most important aspect of a charging location is where it is actually located. A prime ‘charging’ spot should not be in a prime ‘parking’ spot. It shouldn’t be by the front door, in a space that is necessarily close to the entrance of a business or close to or shared with a disabled persons parking spot. The charging spot should be further back, less convenient to walk to the front door of the business and closer to the driveway or main entrance of the parking lot for an easier approach to the station. Take for example these chargers at a Target store in Fremont, CA.  The setup of these chargers is nearly perfect and contain just about every attribute I look for in a perfect charging location.One of the best attributes is that they are away from the front door of the store and they are easily locatable as soon as you pull into the parking lot. These chargers are located about halfway back from the rear of the parking area. People in non-electric vehicles do not feel as though these spaces are elitist gas cars can park closer to the entrance. The charging signs are also placed fairly high on their posts making them easy to locate as soon as an EV driver pulls into the lot. Many public chargers are not clearly marked. This is particularly an issue when they are provided in a large parking structure. Several years ago, I drove my BMW Active E that had 80 miles of range over 360 miles in one day driving from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles before the days of Superchargers (Actually 1 day before Superchargers, they debuted the week after my trip). The scariest part of my trip was trying to find a charger that was supposed to be in a mall and I couldn’t find it. In the end it turned out it was on the backside of the mall. If chargers are not readily apparent, station owners should have additional signage pointing users to the location of the charger. EV signs with arrows, signs with descriptions (e.g. “EV Chargers are on 2nd Floor”) or assistance by parking attendants are all extremely helpful to first time users. On a surprise trip I planned for my family last year, we went to Disneyland where they had arrows on the parking entrance. Special identification for the vehicle coming in the lot and the attendants were well versed getting me to my space. All the stations were well maintained and in an inconspicuous space so that they would not be easily ICED.

The challenge for business is the installation expense to place the stations in such an optimal space. The stations will require a robust electrical connection and possible trenching to position the charging station correctly. Jim Burness of National Car Charging recommended the following attributes. Spaces should be a limited distance from the power source, the load should be anticipated on the circuit (About 7 kW per level 2 station), considerations for wall or pedestal mounting and to avoid areas prone to flooding. Although charging stations are well protected against shorting out, nobody wants to connect their car while standing in a puddle. Facility planners will have to trade off the location of the charging station with the cost to get it to that position. The long term positive outcome is there will be a lot less frustration policing the stations and greater satisfaction from their EV customers that use the spaces.

The charging station should have a robust connection with the network. When dealing with a networked charger, it will most likely be networked via a 3G or 4G data connection. The station should have a clear signal and not be located on a ground floor or basement or additional expense will be incurred to provide a data connection.

The station location should be expandable. If your location is successful and driving in additional business and satisfaction, the location should be in a space that could convert additional existing parking spaces into charging spaces. Don’t think of these charging spaces as removing parking, they are simply making spaces more functional and will encourage more EV drivers to do business in this location.

  1. The Perfect Charging Location is Easy to Find

ChargeArrowAs I had noted about the charging stations at the Fremont Target, the charging stations should be easily identifiable upon entering the property. An EV driver pulling into the Fremont Target lot and can see the green EV Charging signs that are positioned high on their posts, green being a color that is associated with electric vehicles. If the charging station can’t be located in an area that is visible from the parking entrance. Signs pointing to the location are very helpful. If signs are not feasible to direct people, make sure the location noted in the network description giving information on where on the property it is located. Turn by turn descriptions, location on the property, visible attributes. For example “The charging station is located on the southeast corner of the building next to the bank ATM”. Or “It’s on the third floor of the parking structure by the south side stairs”. Branding of the area, of the charger should also be used and the charging stations should be clearly marked. Striping and stenciling should mark the charging spots. Again, green and white colors signify the space has a significant function. Blue should be avoided as it may be confused with a disabled space.

Signage at the charging station is extremely important. The signs need to be concise about the usage of these functional spaces and the consequences violating the rules. The signage needs to alert drivers of internal combustion vehicles that the space is for charging of electric vehicles only. One thing a charging sign should not say is just “EV PARKING ONLY”. The sign needs to alert EV drivers that the charging space is not a preferential parking space. Too many EV drivers do not plug in when they use a charging space or they stay longer than required to charge their car. It’s important that EV drivers move their vehicle as soon as possible and provide contact information if they won’t be able to move it immediately. Signs should indicate a time limit, hours of operation if necessary, civic or vehicle codes if there is a law in the area pertaining to EV charging blocking of spaces. There should be signage stating the minimum fine amount for being parked and not charging and a contact number in case there is a problem with the charging (circuit breaker tripped, unsafe condition, faulty equipment). Signage indicating the location of the space should be mounted high to aid in locating the spot, warnings and special instruction signs should be at eye level.


Example of charging station sign produced by Brian Marquez

  1. The Perfect Charging Station Can Accommodate All Shapes and Sizes

Now that the location and approach is figured out, how the charging station is positioned is very important. If possible, the station should be approachable perpendicularly. Preferably not in a diagonal space. It may be easy for a Nissan Leaf to pull in nose first and have the charge port within a foot of the charging station. However if a Tesla Model S pulls in, the charge port is on the rear left corner of the vehicle. If they pull in nose first and the charging space is diagonal and in the right corner, the cord will need to be over 30 feet long to reach the charge port safely. Chances are the Tesla driver will have to back in against the flow of traffic to charge. Ideally the station should be set up so vehicles can approach from the front or the rear of the station. It can also be ideal to have 4 spots serviced by a dual connector charger in the common corner of the spaces. This can service the most vehicles, but it may be difficult to set and police a charging policy. It’s usually best for charging station user to move their car as soon as possible once their charge is complete. The station should also be well protected from vehicles running into it. Consider installing bollards (short vertical posts) around pedestal mounted stations or wall mounting in a high enough location to avoid bumpers contacting the unit while also being conscious of someone wheel chair bound that may need to operate the station.


Bollards protecting a charging station (Source: Internet)

The station’s user interface should face the vehicle for easier use and also consider having enough length on the cable to avoid a tripping hazard. A retracting system on the charging station is nice, but tends to have maintenance issues or there should be enough length in the cable so it can drop to the ground, get to the worst-case scenario of the vehicles charge port on the opposite side of the charging space and not be a tripping hazard to get there. This will usually require an extra 5 to 6 feet of cable to do this.

The charger should be covered, especially in areas with inclement weather. Remember your customer will probably spend a minute outside their car activating the station, connecting their car or returning the connector to the station when complete. A little shelter goes a long ways and helps protect the equipment from the elements. Also, it is extremely helpful if more than one charging station is at the location. In the total cost of the project, a second charging station does not necessarily double the cost of the project. You will already be running an electrical line for the 1st station and setting up the identification and provisioning of the system, the variable cost will mostly be the cost of the charging unit. Having more than one unit allows for better usage of the facility and fault tolerance should one of the systems going down there will still be another available. Look at the how Tesla setup supercharging locations. There is a minimum of 6 charging stations at each site to allow for availability, fault tolerance and expansion. Meanwhile the other competing quick charging formats (IEC 62196-3 – DC Charging Combined Charging System (CCS) and CHAdeMO) have received multiple complaints for only having one charging station per location. If a station is blocked or broken, customers can’t charge.

  1. The Perfect Charging Space Would Accommodate Me Staying a While

Now everything is all set and I can come in and charge. The perfect charging station would be well lit, preferably under a canopy to protect me from the elements and have access to amenities. There would be a restroom available nearby and hopefully a good WiFi signal. Businesses that rely on a captive audience are learning about this. Many casinos are adding chargers to their parking knowing their customer is not going anywhere for a while. Hotels are also learning to add them. Hotels along scenic highways like the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur or the Best Western Plus at Villa Del Lago along California’s Interstate 5 have created a charging oasis along busy travel routes. Customers of these chargers will probably stay the night or eat at the restaurant at the hotel. Mary Demarest-Paraan, a participant in many Facebook EV groups also recommended a place to buy snacks and useful shopping in the area is helpful. Movie theatres, furniture stores, the DMV and as EV endurance champion Terry Hershner noted with his over 5,000 charging events noted “Even more restaurants!”

Also it would be very helpful someone on shift at a business be trained in the general operation and problem solving of common issues with the charging station and that they know who to contact for more complicated issues. Many times I have run across charging stations where no one on staff knew where the circuit breaker was or who had the access code. Simple instructions could have alleviated this issue. This could be performed by a manger, supervisor, security or a facilities technician.

  1. The Perfect Charging Station Would Be Thoroughly Crowd Sourced

Once the station is setup and running, it should be added to the network’s website and station apps if it is setup for public use. Disclosure of fees (session fees, time fees, per kilowatt hour fees, penalties for staying over time limit, etc). The station should be listed on crowd source sites, Plugshare, ChargeMap, CarStations, Open Charge Map, Google and manufacturer sites should all include the charging location with as much information as possible. If the site allows uploading of photos, there should be a photo of the station near a reference, and a picture of the stations from the entrance of the location to assist first time users to find the charging station. Also as EV drivers we should let business know that we appreciate the ability to charge and that is the primary reason why we do business with them. If a business added a charging station where that made me switch my business, I also contact the business I left to let them know why. Take for example Walgreen. When they first installed free charging stations at their pharmacies, I switched by prescriptions from the local Target that did not have a charging stations to the local Walgreens that did have a charging station. Now that the Walgreens charges an excessive amount to charge there, I have kept my business Walgreens, but I let them know that I use their drive thru rather than walk into the store where I may have bought other items to avoid the charging fee. Which brings me to my next point…

  1. The Perfect Charging Station Would Charge Me To Use It

Wait? Why wouldn’t you want a free station? It’s simple, to promote turnover of vehicles using the station and to remove any elitist stigma. Public charging should be for someone really needing a charge (Necessity charging). If there isn’t a cost, then an EV driver will be taking advantage of the free electricity, otherwise known as Opportunity Charging. This leads to some drivers camping on a space. At one location near my house, there is a Nissan Leaf that you will find every day around 5 PM sitting on the free public charger and it will not move until the next morning.

A well setup charging station will have some sort of nominal fee for charging. The business setting up the charger will have to establish what works for them based on their customers demographics. Charge per Kilowatt Hour (kWh) tends to benefit customers with small batteries or slower internal charging acceptance rates such as a Plugin Prius, Chevrolet vehicles, some conversion vehicles. Time based charging is more of a benefit to larger battery and vehicles with higher acceptance rates such as Tesla Model S, Roadster, Toyota Rav4 and Ford Focus. I prefer the time based rates as it encourages turnover of vehicles at sites. Let’s take the Plug In Prius as an example. Suppose the Prius pulls in with an empty 4.4 kWh battery. Let’s say the business considering a $2 an hour rate or a 35 cents per kWh rate and the Prius sits in the space for 5 hours even though it would take only an hour and a half to charge the Toyota. In a charge per kWh scenario, the Prius driver would only be charged $1.75, but at $2 an hour, they would be charged $10 if they stayed 5 hours, or $3 if they moved as soon as they were done. Some business set up features such as the first 2 hours free and $2 an hour after that. An even better policy I have seen is $2 an hour and $10 an hour after 4 hours. This is not to condone excessive charging just to get on the charger, just if the user is exercising poor etiquette when plugged in.

Free charging can work in employee charging situations provided the system is networked. This way the facilitator of employee charging can pull important metrics on who is not following general EV etiquette when plugged in. If they see an owner of a Leaf was plugged in every day for 9 hours, they know they have a problem. This can be done with RFID cards or even with provisioning company badges to the charging station. Having a networked and monitored system helps the company policy police itself. Abuse the system, lose your privilege.

  1. The Perfect Charging Station Would Be Enforced With Consistent Laws Wherever I Went

Think of what you know about charging in a disabled person’s parking space without a placard? First and foremost you know that it is wrong the wrong thing to do, the parking space serves a function for someone that is disabled. You also know that it is expensive if you get caught, anywhere from $250 to $1000 and with that expense, you know that law enforcement likes to enforce these laws not only for the protection of disabled people’s rights, but also to collect sizeable revenue for their municipality. Now imagine if that same general knowledge and enforcement was applied to charging station spaces. There would be far fewer instances of ICEing and better access to the use of charging stations in public places. The laws may need to be carefully worded to allow for those waiting in queue for a charging station to safely park awaiting the opportunity to charge, but it is all learnable behavior. Just like respecting a disabled person’s space. Consistency in these laws also helps reinforce that notion that these are functional spaces that serve a purpose they are not just preferential spaces. How we get consistent laws will be difficult. Vehicle codes are set by states and enforced by municipalities. Politically active EV drivers need to contact their local and state representatives and ask them to write laws consistent with states like California, Florida, Maryland and Hawaii.

Just like pushing for consistent laws, pushing for these seven attributes should be part of every charging station design. When you visit a station, make sure you check in with the crowd sourcing sites noted in the article and leave a comment on your rating on how they fared in each of these characteristics. If you can work with station owners and let them know how they did and also pass this information along to organizations that advocate additional charging locations in your community. Over time we should see a lot more “perfect” charging stations available.

Did I miss an attribute that you would like to see? Leave them in the comments section below.


The 6 Steps of What To Do if Your Charging Spot is ICEd


ICEing, it’s not just something that happens in winter anymore. ICEing is an electric vehicle term for when a an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle parks in a space that is designated for Electric Vehicle charging. Sometimes this can occur simply because the driver of the ICE vehicle simply did not notice the spot was intended for vehicle charging because of unclear or confusing signage, but many times it is a blatant disregard for the designation of the spot. “Why should this spot be reserved for some hippie tree hugger? They aren’t here, I just need to run in for an hour. If they needed the spot, they should have gotten here before I did!” Unfortunately many people do not realize how critical these locations are to EV drivers. These spaces serve a function for electric vehicle drivers to charge their vehicles. Imagine if gas pumps were blocked by electric vehicles while they shopped?

Unfortunately many municipalities and businesses have not had the experience yet of dealing with the social aspect of car charging. They have installed the chargers to show their environmental awareness or support for electric vehicles, but didn’t understand where the stations should be placed, designated and enforced so that the charging spaces can be used for their intended purpose. Hopefully, this will get rectified over time as more people use charging spaces, behaviors become mainstream, signage is standardized and governments pass tougher laws and impose stiffer fines for those that block charging stations.

But what about now? How should you as an electric vehicle driver deal with this situation? It is important that you try to deal with the situation calmly and do not attempt to take the law into your own hands. There are several escalation steps you should take to rectify the situation.


  1.      Attempt to alert the driver of the ICE vehicle

In some situations where I found the space blocked, the driver was in or near the vehicle and I was able to talk to them. If you are comfortable approaching the driver, you should alert them that the space is for electric vehicle charging and that you need to use the location for its intended purpose. Some offenders will be unaware of what they have done because the charging space is not very well marked or they may have mistaken it for a handicap spot. Others however may be holding a grudge against EV drivers. In that case I would not attempt to get into an argument with them, just go ahead and proceed to step 2. If the driver is not nearby, then it is recommended that you leave a firm but polite note asking them to please be observant that they are blocking your ability to charge so hopefully in the future they will not block a charging space again. Depending on your faith in humanity there are several versions already available for this. From the whimsical cards created by Ecotality to the “Notice of Inconsideration” that is designed to look more like a parking summons. Once the note is left, you should proceed to step 2.


  1.      Alert the business/property owner

Next, you should try to find someone in authority at the location to alert them of your issue. However before that, collect information about the vehicle. Note the:

  • license plate
  • make and model
  • color of the vehicle
  • Description of the space blocked if there are multiple charging spaces.
  • Any identifying features of the vehicle that you can note (Roof rack, parking pass ID, stickers, etc)

If you can take a picture with your phone, that can also be very helpful with the future steps. Also, make sure you are in the right. Is the charging spot properly marked? Is it really a public space or is it a semi-public space (e.g. a car dealership). Is the spot intended only for employees? Are there only certain hours that are marked that the spot is open to the public? This may determine how firm you can be with the person you will be speaking to. Even if you are not necessarily in the right, you can still justify your discussion. For example if a business stood up a public charger but did not mark the space charging only, you could note that you are a customer of the business and would like to see the space better marked so the situation does not occur in the future. Or one of the worst offenses is when a company puts up a sign stating “EV PARKING ONLY” and someone parks their EV in the spot without charging it.

When you do go to the business, ask to speak to the manager. Make sure when you meet them that you are cordial and polite, but let them know the gravity of the situation. Make sure your problem becomes their problem. If you need to charge to get home and can’t. Let them know that. If you do business with the location mainly because they had a charger, let them know that too. Give them the information you collected on the offending vehicle and see if they know who it belongs to or if they can page the driver. Hopefully you will find someone that is concerned about your problem and will try to rectify it, but there are chances that you may not. If you are in that situation, take the persons name you spoke to and if you are comfortable ask for contact information of their manager and let them know that you will be contacting the charging provider, parking enforcement (provided they have jurisdiction), but more importantly you will be writing about your experience on social media and consumer rating sites.

What if this happens at your place of work? If the company is large enough to have a security or facilities group, let them know. Otherwise, talk to your manager or HR. If your company has an employee handbook or policy on parking, ask them to include a section on EV parking.


  1.      Alert the charging provider

Chances are at this point you will need to abandon all hope of being able to use this charger. You should not give up the effort though. Actions you take today may help a fellow EV driver tomorrow. If the charger that you are trying to use is part of a network, you should contact the network provider. Tesla, Chargepoint, EV 350, Car Charging Group (Blink) and all the other networks maintain customer service numbers that can assist with charging issues and the support representative may be able to direct you to another nearby location that may be available. They may  also have a more direct communication with the facilities manager than the person you spoke to and can get your issue resolved with a more knowledgeable resource. They may also call the authorities on your behalf especially if there is an issue with operating hours not being honored. Again, use the information you have collected so far about the vehicle that is blocking the space and who you spoke to at the place of business. Also if there is an ID on the charger, get that information as well to make it easier for the network’s customer care representative to pinpoint the location. If you cannot find the station ID, try to provide the address.


  1.      Alert the authorities

For this next escalation, it is good to know the laws that govern EV charging in your area. Progressive areas such as California and Washington have statewide laws banning the blocking EV charging spaces. Laws in Florida make EV charger blocking penatlies as expensive as thosefor blocking an disabled person’s parking space. Other areas may have it in certain municipalities. Try to know the laws around your area and leave the vehicle code number in a convenient space in your vehicle for reference. In California, we have Vehicle Code 22511.1 that states “A local authority, by ordinance or resolution, and a person in lawful possession of an off-street parking facility may designate stalls or spaces in an off-street parking facility owned or operated by that local authority or person for the exclusive purpose of charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes….” So if a spot is blocked, you can call the local parking enforcement and use a very firm tone that you are at a location where a vehicle is blocking a charging space in violation of  vehicle code 22511.1 and is preventing you from charging your car and you need the vehicle removed immediately. Knowing the code number for the jurisdiction is helpful to show that you know the laws of the area and gives an impression of your own authority on how the situation should be handled. Again, it is up to you if you want to wait for the authorities, but chances are that you are better off finding another spot to charge if possible, but at least now the owner of the vehicle and the manager of the property know that there is a serious issue.


  1.      Alert social media/use crowd sourcing

Next, use social media, web pages and crowd sourcing sites to let others know about the problem. If this is a networked charger, go to the networks website and check-in to the charging location and give a negative rating if you were unable to charge. Networks and station owners review this information and may take steps in the future to better patrol the charging space to improve their rating. If you were able to eventually charge, note what worked to get the car moved. Also use Plugshare or other community charging sites to leave a rating on how your experience was dealt with by the driver, the manager or the authorities. Again, businesses respond to bad impressions by customers. If you had a particularly bad experience, escalated even higher to another level of a management or the interaction with the company’s web presence. Talk to the person’s manager that did not take an interest in your problem while you were on site, find a customer service contact and if the business has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp or Google, leave a note and/or rating about your experience there too. In one instance, the person who had blocked a charger had a personal license plate that matched their Twitter handle and it was very easy to identify the ICEing offender and from there a public shaming ensued via these avenues. There is also the ability to leave stories and pictures in EV discussion groups, Facebook pages and picture/video sharing sites which may be shared by industry bloggers as well and members can give their feedback on the experience.  I have also created a Facebook group dedicated to sharing stories, resources, pictures and experiences about being ICEd called ICEHoles.


  1.      Alert your elected officials

You last escalation if you still have the energy is to alert your elected officials. Especially if you live in an area where there are no laws or if there are laws that are not being enforced. I would recommend starting locally and expanding from there. Again make your problem their problem. If you have an Electric Auto Association or Plugin America group in your area, see if they are aware of any legislation or proposed ordinances that are being planned. Let your representative know that you support the proposed law or would like a law that is similar to one of the other ones that you may have researched such as California’s Vehicle Code 22511.1 or Florida’s statute 366.94. Again, be polite and courteous, but firm in what you want.

In all, there are quite a few steps that can be taken, some more quickly and effectively than others, but each of them will help in the long run. They don’t necessarily need to worked in this order, but they can be effective if followed.

Earlier in this story I noted how one EV driver, Corbin Dunn, who shamed an ICE driver while visiting the Aria hotel in Las Vegas found victory using many of these steps in no particular order. Corbin started when he wrote about the incident on his blog and emailed their customer relations site. The Aria resort was very responsive. They apologized for the problems, fixed a broken charger that Corbin noted and noted they would improve their signage and enforcement of the area. Several of Corbin’s friend’s also sent complaints to the Aria resort and they were all responded to.

Are there other steps that worked for you? Leave them in the comments section below.