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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.