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Is it ever morally right for an ICE car to park in an EV charging bay?

Yesterday I spotted a petrol Mini parked in an EV charging bay. Was the driver right, or wrong?

The default answer for EV people is ‘wrong’.  They would say that EV charging bays are for EVs to charge, and even more specifically, charge not park.  The reasons are simple; EV chargers are a scarce resource, and EV range is short so you have what’s called ‘charger anxiety‘ – the worry you have that as you approach a charger then it will be both a) unoccupied and b) actually working. In my experience, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll find yourself unable to charge, and if you’re travelling there may well be few, or even no alternatives.

So EV charging should only be used by EVs and only for charging. Which makes the Mini wrong…or is there another perspective?

The EV charge bay was at a cafe.  Presumably, it would have been installed by the cafe owners in order to attract customers to the cafe and therefore generate revenue. But at the time, the cafe was busy, so busy we could not find a parking space and departed for another venue.  And here is the opposing argument – if the charging bay was the sole parking space left, wouldn’t it be better from the cafe owner’s perspective for a non-EV to use it than to lose customers to a competitor cafe?  And it is their bay so they can dictate how it may be used.

Of course, then an EV owner may arrive and find the bay in use. Now it could be that the relative average spend of an EV owner is higher than that of a ICE owner, a suggestion for which I have no evidence other than the fact that EVs cost more than ICE, and my revenue per view for EV content is relatively high. So therefore you could argue from an economic perspective the EV bay should be left for EVs, but for how long? Who’s to know, this is assumption on top of assumption.

Another concern is that if EV owners get used to the bay being in use then they’ll learn not to seek it out, and say as much on apps like PlugShare. However, will the cafe owners care, as if the place is so busy the only bay left is the EV bay then they should be nicely profitable.

Much depends on the owner’s intended use of the bay, about which I’m speculating, and how they’ve signposted it:

– EVs only (parking and charging)

– EV charging only, no parking when not charging

– EV charging only unless this is the last bay, then non-EVs may use it

I could be overthinking this. But I’m not done.

Let’s say the third sign option is taken. It could then put the idea into the minds of the non-EV drivers that it’s okay to use EV charging bays if there’s no other choice, and that will probably not be the case for most chargers. For example, if we consider an EV bay owned by an EV charging company then there is no reason they’d want anything other than an EV in the bay, charging.  Unlike the cafe, they’d prefer the EV bay to be empty waiting for an EV, and that’s also best for EV drivers. When I have driven EVs interstate through rural areas, I can assure you I very much want to arrive at a charging point and be able to charge, as if I can’t my plans would be thrown into disarray.

There could also be a system where the charging bay is allowed to be used by an ICE if it’s the last spot available, but the ICE owner could be asked to move if an EV turned up and there was a spot to move to. This of course is complicated – you’d need a spot for the ICE, and who wants to interrupt their pleasant cafe experience to shuffle cars?

If there’s one thing you learn about the general public it is that everything needs to be very, very simple, so nuances like “if this then that, otherwise t’other” won’t work.

There is now legislation that makes ICEing (parking a non-EV in a charging bay) ilegal, enforceable with a fine; “A driver must not stop in a parking area for the charging of electric powered vehicles unless – a) the driver’s vehicle is an electric-powered vehicle; and b) the electric powered vehicle is plugged to an external source of electricity”. This of course means you can top up from 98 to 100% in a few minutes and then leave your car ‘charging’ for the rest of the day, legally. But that’s where the idle fees come in, and if the carpark space is privately owned they can sign it as they like – “for the charging of electric powered vehicles” – the space could be designated multi-use.

Finally, what about EV owners who are happy to use a privately supplied charger, for example at a cafe, but never actually buy anything from the business which has provided the charger?

So…what are your views on EV ethics?

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