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California AB 475 & Public EV Charging Etiquette, Laws

It’s very exciting to be part of a new EV movement that is so far forward on the cutting edge of society that we are finally starting to see legislation and policy start to catch up with the reality of new technology developments.  One of the laws currently being considered by the state of California is effectively an update to EV Public charging stations and their use.  Technically right now, California law requires that a ZEV (Zero Emission Vehicle) i.e. Battery Only EV sign up and get a special decal to utilize and park in designated EV Charging Only parking spaces.  Failure to do so may result in a ticket.

In reality, we are seeing inconsistent enforcement of this (how many of you Leaf/Volt Owners actually have this sticker? / Did you even know you needed a sticker technically?)  While we have heard of situations where a EV Owner was ticketed for not having the decal (though obviously utilizing the charger) they are more the exception than the rule.

Enter AB 475 – finally an update to this rule.

You can find the full text to AB 475 here.  But I will summarize the primary laws below.  (It’s a simplification and any novice litigator would chew up my interpretation, but in laymen’s terms)

1.)     You no longer need a decal to use an EV Parking Space

2.)     To Legally use an EV Parking Space, your car must be plugged in and utilizing the charger (plugged in).  They don’t want you parking in the EV Space and not using the charger.

3.)    Any Plug In Vehicle Qualifies – (BEV) Battery Electric Vehicle or (PHEV) Plug In Hybrid.  –E.g. Volt, Leaf, Plug In Prius, Tesla etc.

Personally, I would love to see this get passed as it would get on the books what is already happening in practice – namely that all plug in vehicles should be allowed to use EV Charging facilities.

However – in an open discussion it’s worth highlighting that not all EV advocates are for the bill as it stands.  Here are some of the concerns that other blogs/EV Advocates have raised.

1.)    PlugInAmerica:  To paraphrase from their statements published on Autobloggreen:  They think this law is bad because it would effectively prohibit charger sharing.  (E.g. taking a charger from a parked vehicle “when they are done charging”)

2.)    People will use a loophole to say they are “charging” because they plugged in their engine block heater thus circumventing the rules based on how the law is written.

To me, point number 1 is worth considering it merits while point 2 is moot.  Someone would have to go out of their way to try and use a level 1 charging station in the public as a block heater.

Point 1, which is that this law would effectively kill Charge Sharing is the point I want to consider.

If you think about the point of a state like California supporting public charging, I believe that the main reasons are below.

1.)    Incentivize Adoption of Plug In / Battery Operated Vehicles (For public policy reasons)

2.)    Reduce Emissions/Gas Consumption Etc.

If you think about any benefits of “Charge Sharing” and the actual use cases of public charging, while I think the idea of altruistic “Charge Sharing” is good (maximizing electrons into vehicles)  I don’t think from a policy standpoint it’s a good idea to allow someone to grab your charge cord and plug it into their vehicle without your consent.

My view of it is, when you are in an EV space, you are there for the charging, and it’s first come first serve like any other facility.  If someone unplugged my car I would get an alert immediately and be concerned that someone was tampering with my charge or worse stealing my charge cord!

Another argument often made is well let’s say you have a PHEV and a BEV (e.g. Volt and Leaf) technically the Volt doesn’t need the charge to get home, but the Leaf might, is it ok to “charge share” and unplug the Volt to charge the Leaf?  In an idea altruistic world that sounds great, but who’s to say that the Volt isn’t out of gas and needs the charge as well?

Lastly, the idea of charge sharing IMHO has limited use.  For public charging, I really see only two real high volume uses.

Case 1:  (Mall/Movie/Dinner) You are probably only parked here for 1-4 hours max.

Case 2: (Airport Parking) You are probably parked here for days.

For Case 1:  A PHEV driver, would probably be able to use all of the charge while they are there, leaving little time to “charge share”

For Case 2:  There is a valid point, that effectively there may be a case where a vehicle nearby would benefit from higher charge station utilization.  But Who’s to judge when the charge is done?  Or when the Owner will return?  Or if you unplug them, any concern or undue burden it is on the EV Owner (Who has probably flown across the country – as I just did) would find when they are unplugged in the middle of their trip?

I’d love to hear your opinions on Charging Etiquette and AB 475.  But where I stand, I want to be able to charge my Volt – legally.

44 Responses to “California AB 475 & Public EV Charging Etiquette, Laws”

  1. Victor says:

    Hi Patrick. I’m glad you chimed in on it. So far all the posts online have made it sound like the Evil Empire (GM) ramming this bill through. I read the posts on PlugInAmerica. Their argument was that the original bill should be scrapped, and rewritten from scratch. Personally I think that would have taken years. I don’t have a problem with the bill, and think the old sticker system was ridiculous. I too would not want someone else unplugging my car for any reason. Saying that is likely to get us chastised as EV-newbies who aren’t in “the know” on how it’s done in EV land. It passed by a landslide, and I’m happy.

  2. scottf200 says:

    Even after a charge in the Volt having the vehicle plugged in can help maintain the batteries optimum temperature. As well before you come back to the car you can remote start it to preheat the car and on an L2 charger most of that energy will come from the L2 charger and not from your car battery … that means you get longer range (vs using battery to heat your cabin or seats).

  3. I find this defense of GM’s effort to push the bill into law misleading. It fails to mention the many other problems it would cause.

    For example, mandating that vehicles must be “connected for electric charging purposes” will require every parking space to have an EVSE installed. In effect, GM has just doubled or even quadrupled the cost of developing the EV public infrastructure for many EVSE providers.

    Moreover, if this bill is truly intended to benefit all EV owners, why did GM not seek any input –let alone a consensus– from Nissan, Mitsubishi, Tesla, Coda, Fisker, Volvo, Toyota, et.al.? Volts constitute a small minority of EVs, so why is the GM tail wagging the EV dog here? The customers of other OEMs are affected by the bill just as much –if not more– than GM’s. NO law should be enacted that affects the entire industry without first consulting all the entities affected.

    Of course, delaying and inflating the cost of the EV infrastructure would actually make the Volt’s hybrid onboard solution more appealing to consumers –and pure EVs much less appealing. After all, sufficient public charging could render EV range anxiety a moot point –the very thing GM wanted to “copyright” for Volt advertising. Could it be that GM is thinking that one way to undermine and outsell the LEAF (and all other pure EVs) is to keep them tethered to a limited range as long as possible?

    Finally, if GM is so paranoid about clueless meter maids, why not simply provide each Volt a nice rearview mirror tag that clarifies it is indeed a PHEV? Problem solved.

    • Shad says:

      Hey Mark, you raise good points. I work for GM and try to get good, responsible policy put in place that helps our customers. I might be able to answer a few of your concerns. First, our priority is to Volt customers. Our competitors can certainly weigh in and often do, but our priority is to take care of our own – obviously. Second, and most importantly, this law has a special provision that allows local jurisdictions to implement their own regulations. By their own admission, these “community protocols” are followed by a small, tight knit group of EV owners. It makes more sense for them to implement policies at the local level rather than assume they’d be accepted statewide, which is what this bill is about. We shouldn’t assume EV drivers from San Diego to Eureka would follow or even know about these “protocols.” There must be a baseline policy from which to start.

      • Shad (and PatrickZWang below):

        Sure, any manufacturer is concerned about its customers first and foremost. But GM knew fully well when sponsoring this bill that the consequences would affect *all* EV owners –*not* just their own. Moreover, it is impossible for other OEMs to “weigh in” on such an issue if they do not *know* about it, especially with such short notice. Did GM, in fact, get word to those OEMs about the bill? Did Butler? If not, I find the way this was handled irresponsible, undemocratic, and unconscionable.

        As an analogy, how would GM like it if, say, Nissan sponsored a bill to make it illegal for any vehicle with a tailpipe to park in an EV designated charging space? And then pushed that bill through the legislature over a weekend without first informing other OEMs of its content?

        After all (they could reason), a Volt, a Karma, a plug-in Prius can always engage their onboard gas engine if their battery packs run low –unlike a pure EV, which depends upon that public charger to keep running. And they would be right! Patrick, for example, was “pissed off” to have to burn gasoline to get home, but just imagine how much more pissed off an EV owner would be!

        Well… thank goodness Nissan has yet to resort to similar lobbying tactics out of “priority” to its own customers.

        Moreover, I would like to see the data from the actual study, survey, or questionnaire that GM conducted among actual EV owners to gather their feedback and recommendations prior to pushing through this bill. Simply assuming they would agree with it does not suffice when we are taking about laws imposed upon the citizenry in a democracy.

        Finally, let’s boil it down to the real issue: GM wants Volt drivers to also be able to use public charging facilities. I completely agree! Any vehicle with a plug to charge an EV drivetrain should have such access. But implementing this law is like trying to hang a picture with a sludgehammer. Let’s just scrap the 2002 law, including the stickers, and if GM fears that clueless meter maids will not recognize that Volts can legally park in EV spots, whether they are plugged in or not, just provide nice, durable, rearview mirror tags clarifying that they are, indeed, a PHEV. Everyone’s a winner!

        • Shad says:

          Well just to be clear, every car maker, including Nissan and other OEM BEV makers, are aware of this proposal. We all expend a tremendous amount of resources to stay in the know. Whether or not they join the discussion is up to them.

          The primary purpose of this bill is two fold: 1) update the old law, immediately, to include new plug-in vehicles; 2) establish basic public policy for public charging statewide.

          But for some reason, a key point of this proposal is getting overlooked by the opposition – an important feature that allows flexibility to address most of the concerns you site above. One of the provisions of AB 475 is that a local authority gets to preempt state law. So any community can come up with a scheme that better suits its needs, wants and desires. There are obviously strong feelings about the need for flexibility and following community-based protocols, so it makes more sense to apply them within a community that respects and follows them rather than at a statewide level where they are not followed, understood or known.

          But it is important to understand that AB 475 does not erase local policy. So parking lot owners can build any kind of public charging infrastructure they like, right there in their community, and establish policy that recognizes whatever protocols may exist there. Much more responsible than forcing unique, community behaviors throughout all of California.

          • Shad says:


          • Shad:

            Oh, yes: other OEMs “are aware of this proposal”… NOW! Thanks to EV advocates who contacted them. They were NOT aware of it before GM and Butler submitted the bill on a Friday, and pushed it through on a Monday. I find it disingenuous that you would distort that issue with such an after-the-fact claim. It is impossible to “join the discussion” when one is not aware it is taking place.

            The biggest irony of all here is that you just decried “forcing unique, community behaviors thoughout all of California.” Yet that is precisely what you are doing by mandating that vehicles must be “connected for electric charging purposes” –a behavior that was never forced upon EV owners in the past! And then you would have every community, township, municipality, city, county pass their own ordinances to preempt the state law??? Put them to all that work at the local level…??? Otherwise, unplugged vehicles by default will risk getting towed…? Exactly who is forcing what upon whom here?

            Most inexplicable of all:, why would GM want to punish its own Volt owners with fines and tows??? Your proposed law does NOT punish plug-pullers, only those whose vehicles *ARE* unplugged. That makes NO sense if you really care about your own Volt customers. NONE.

            Just issue them rearview mirror tags.

  4. PatrickZWang says:

    Hey Mark,

    Thanks for posting! To me this is part of the fun of “defining” a yet as undefined space where there is no perfect answer.

    To your points, this is where i would differ.

    -Whether GM should have “consulted with” or collaborated with other EV manufacturers on this bill, I can’t really say that they did or didn’t. But my personal opinion is that the burden really falls on other manufacturers to weigh in on policy changes (you might argue whether they have the same access to legislators as GM does and I wouldn’t disagree that GM probably has a lot more weight being the biggest American Manufacturer). However, I’m happy that someone tried to move the needle on updating the law, and “consensus building” is great, but progress is better. Just my 2 cents there.

    -Increasing the cost of electric charging infrastructure is definitely not something we want to do. I personally hate wasteful regulation, but where I differ is on the assumption that this law would actually cause the waste you are describing. You might have read my thoughts on how many instances of “waste” would really happen.

    I really don’t see your point on why GM would benefit from increasing electric infrastructure cost. Sure the Volt can drive without a charge, but just as every other EV owner out there, we hate being shortchanged a charge. Last month, a charge programming snafu on my part caused my public charging session to be interrupted. I found this out after I got back from a 3 hour movie and instead of having a mostly full battery, I sat there needing to burn gas all the way home. That pissed me off. Didn’t leave me stranded, but i was still pissed.


  5. TommyBoy says:

    Sorry, Mark. I am going to have to disagree with you on the consensus idea. I am glad that GM is looking out for its own. I am asking why isn’t Toyota/Tesla, Coda, Nissan, etc. doing the same? They have a responsibility to do so. If they are not in the game, that is their problem and owners of their products need to ask these other car manufacturers, “why aren’t you?”

    WRT sharing, I am going to disagree with Patrick. As a Volt owner, I have the responsibility to keep my car’s gas tank & battery full. That said, I find it just as selfish (and thus rude) to unplug another without contacting the other driver already on the charger.

    I think we/all EV owners need to come up with a practical, yet polite protocol for this situation (“Case 1″). Perhaps an update to the old etiquette that takes advantage of the latest technologies (smartphones, cell phones, etc.).

    I also think we (all) need to demand all parking lot owners (employers, BART, merchants, local governments, churches, etc.) set aside a proprotional (at least) number of charging parking spaces. There are 2 motivators that we need to employ to their fullest: 1) regulation, and 2) whether we will ride/attend/shop/work at a place that does not do so.

    • Neko says:

      Hey TommyBoy,

      Hear you loud and clear. Nice of GM lobby to keep so quite about it but that’s what they are paid to do. I guess driving in the HOV lane shouldn’t require a sticker either, just hang out your drop cord.

  6. victor says:

    Here one of the many reasons why I’m happy that AB475 passed. While many arguments are valid against it (namely the sharing problem), in the real world that represents a situation that will not happen nearly as often as what is pictured in this photo I took today:


    This is by far going to be the more common occurrence.

    • Richard says:

      Ah yes, the California Science Center.

      We went there two weeks ago, and got a charging spot, because we got there early, but by the end of the day, every other charging spot was ICEd.

      I have to say, those spots are not clearly marked. Just one sign saying EV Parking Only, but it’s in front of only one spot, even though the charge cords can reach to the adjacent spots. And I believe there’s no EV marking on the ground.

      Bad situation, but probably something to take up with CA Science Center first. Because if the spots are not marked properly, the cars can’t be towed, AB 475 or not.

  7. Tom says:

    Yes, I knew I needed a ZEV sticker for my Leaf EV and I have one. It makes far more sense then this lame-brained scheme that GM is trying to foist on the EV community. It is an amazingly bad piece of legislation that will bring a number of problematic and undesirable changes to the EV charging scene. We can only hope and trust that Brown is smart enough to see through it and veto it.

  8. John says:

    I can’t speak for the Volt but the Leaf has a very clear indication on the dashboard when it is charging (and to what level it is charged) and when it is done. It also doesn’t have an idiotic horn that sounds if someone unplugs it. (And though it can be disabled, few Volt owners apparently know how to do so)… What was GM thinking with THAT idea!

    • Shad says:

      I prefer my vehicle not be tampered with. And I’ve watched people unplug it and get startled by the horn and quickly plug it right back in to stop the madness. Idiotic to you, genius to me.

  9. Shad says:

    Mark – the bill was introduced in February of this year. To think that it “snuk by” anybody – including our competitors – is just inaccurate. Reality is legislative proposals don’t get “submitted” our “pushed” through to anywhere or fly under anybody’s radar – especially in this state. Your outrage would be better served if it was aimed at those who were apparently asleep at the wheel while this bill maneuvered its way out of the state legislature. Or perhaps their silence is, in fact, their position on the matter? A good question for them.

    If approved AB 475 will have absolutely zero impact on any parking facility in California that doesn’t currently follow the old, antiquated law. I don’t know for sure how many there are, but hopefully that number is low – zero even. But this bill is not a mandate. Its purpose is to provide a very basic, foundation policy to remove a vehicle from a public charging location that shouldn’t be there. That’s it. If a parking lot owner decides to allow protocols, they may do so. If lot owner wants to install one charger for multiple parking spaces, he may do so. But we’re (all) going to deliver tens of thousands of EVs to California rather quickly – it’s irresponsible to leave an outdated law on the books.

    What scenario(s) are you worried about if this bill does become law?

    • Shad: It saddens me to see that you continue to distort the reality of the situation with such misleading statements. GM might have started to work with Butler on a first draft of this bill in February, but in no way does that constitute introducing it to the floor of the legislature, in plain view of the public –and your competitors. That did not occur until only a week ago last Friday.

      More importantly, even if your competitors were aware of the up-and-coming bill, you and I both know that right up to the Thursday before GM was singing a different tune that would not have alarmed them.

      EV advocates like Chelsea Sexton and those from Plug-In America had much earlier pointed out the mistake of mandating that vehicles must be “connected for electric charging purposes” because it would undermine plug sharing and require that every space have an EVSE. GM had assured them for two months that they concurred with those concerns and thus favored reverting to the original version of the law, but modified to include PHEVs. Then, only at the very last minute, and without informing those advocates directly, did GM betray that reassurance and have Butler introduce the present bill with the “plugged in or towed” stipulation included!

      Thanks to those advocates getting the word out over the weekend, *NOW* Nissan, Tesla, et.al., know what GM is up to. It wouldn’t surprise me if, as a consequence, they have set appointments to meet with the governor to discuss the legislation –and GM’s manner of pushing it through. I sincerely hope so, since their perspective on public charging is even more crucial than GM’s.

      As for your final question, you already know what the worrisome scenarios are, for Sexton and Plug-In America have pointed them out repeatedly to GM for many months now. The default state law should allow EVSE sharing. Then, if GM wants to enforce a “must be plugged in” stipulation, they can push for THAT at the local level –not the other way around.

  10. Mike Thomspon says:

    Gee Shad, going to be real interesting to see your Volt towed when someone unplugs it – legally or illegally – your Volt will still get towed, and you will punished for someone else’s mischief. Could be just a kid seeing how it works and not putting the plug back. Or it could be some who has ill will toward your plugging in. Either way, your car is towed. As a plug in vehicle driver of over 10 years, I can tell you it happens. Not often but it does and will happen on occasion.

    We’ve seen charge cords cut off of chargers, and recently the Quick Charger in Vacaville got vandalised, with what appeared to be peanut butter. We’ve also seen RV’s – MOBILE HOMES – plugged in to EV chargers. When asked, the owner said the cord was going inside the mobile home parked at the to charge an electric bike that can’t be seen.

    • Shad says:

      Very true, Mike – that day will stink. In the same way it stinks when cars are ticketed/towed when they’re neighborhood parking permit is scraped off their bumper. But having my cord yanked is not my biggest worry – I agree with you it likely won’t be that often. My bigger peeve would be somebody disabling my preconditioning feature. This adds a noticeable amount of EV miles to my battery and I use it all the time. Thing is, my car needs to remain plugged in for the feature to work. Plus, what’s wrong with parking stalls designated for EV charging to actually have a charger? Then you wouldn’t even think of touching somebody else’s car…

  11. Mike Thomspon says:

    By the way I am a GM owner and driver of a GM plug in vehicle.

  12. Greg Brewsaugh says:

    I own both a Volt and a Leaf. The legislation as written does more harm than good, regardless of which vehicle I plug in. Those of us who have been driving electric for over a decade have seen it all when it comes to public charging. AB475 will have numerous negative unintended consequences, and should be sent back to the drawing board.

  13. Mike Thomspon says:

    We’ve already seen the chargers at LAX airport 100% occupied with vehicles arriving that need to charge and no available charger. What if a vehicle is parked for two weeks connected to a charger at an airport or other facility? Does it really make sense to monopolize the charger when there is a cost to install them and they aren’t ubiquitous? A Volt parked thier for two weeks, that is fully charged when the spaces are 100% occupied will be forcing other Volts to burn gas.

    GM should consult or at least take some input from Plug In drivers and owners of Plug In vehicles. GM should be competing on style, performance, marketing etc. and we should all work cooperatively – manufacturers, owners, government etc. to make plugging in easy, compatible and ubiquitous. AB475 as written allows a non-plug in gasoline car to park plug in to an EV space “exclusive purpose
    of charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric
    charging purposes” of it’s 12V starter battery. Nothing in there about motive power having to come in part or fully from the charging. Nothing in there about not towing vehicles that are accidentally or maliciously unplugged. (Even with the 12V battery, you have to be careful, because you can put gas cars in gear and use the starter motor to move the car form the 12V battery – which some people will try – many tried to game and claim the hybrid vehicle credits for conventional gas cars, it absolutlehy will happen that if the legislation is not very well written, it will be abused.)

    Quote from AB475:
    22511. (a) A local authority, by ordinance or resolution, and a
    person in lawful possession of an offstreet parking facility may
    designate stalls or spaces in an offstreet 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.

  14. Mike Thomspon says:

    From the article above:
    “To me, point number 1 is worth considering it merits while point 2 is moot. Someone would have to go out of their way to try and use a level 1 charging station in the public as a block heater.”

    Hmmm… and people have never gone out of their way to circumvent parking restrictions?

    Pass AB475 and stores (or the Internet) will start selling J1772 compatible block heaters with a tiny battery so you can be connected and charging in a non-Plug In, gasoline only vehicle. (…that does not use electricuty in part or in whole in normal operation to propel the vehicle.)

    Maybe they’ll put a J1772 plug in a rechargeable radar detector! (yes thay are legitimate and nefarious uses for radar detectors.)

    The nefarious types will have no problem dreaming up ways they can legally park in EV spaces with a non Plug In car. And they will do it. Hacking your satellite box is going out of your way, and numerous people do it. Just because “Someone would have to go out of their way” to an EV space is not a deterrent to keep someone from using an EV space with a non Plug In Vehicle, some would in fact consider that a challenge and will come up with many innovative ways to do so. As long as you have something connected that charges, you can park in an EV space.

  15. Mike Thomspon says:

    Wow, the more you read this, the sillier it gets.

    AB475 Quote:
    “…parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes.”

    Ok, so you “connect” your cell phone to your “vehicle” “for electric charging purposes” of charging your cell phone. YOU CAN PARK IN AN EV SPACE!!!

    AB 475 says that your vehicle has to be connected. It does not say it has to be connected to the EV charging station. Your vehicle could be connected to your cell phone. It does not say that you have to charge a battery that porpels the vehicle in normal operation (have to exclude the drive the car on the starter motor case.) So charging your cell phone is “for electric charging purposes”.

    Or the charging station has 120V plug in and you plug in a standard 120v to 12V car battery charger to charge the 12 volt battery – You have fully satisfied the text of AB 475 and may park in the EV space as long as you want because you are parked “for the exclusive purpose
    of charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric
    charging purposes.” … of the 12 volt car battery (aka. starter or aux battery).

  16. PatrickZWang says:

    Hey Mike,

    I’m no lawyer, but here’s my thoughts on what you write into law, how its intepretted, and how law enforcement reacts to it.

    Ultimately, the law is only as effective as it is enforced. Someone can always find a loophole or bend rules or just all together ignore the law and hope not to get caught. Don’t tell me you’ve never driven over 65mph on a normal highway, or didn’t feed the meter for being parked 5 minutes ;)

    As such if you think about writing a law that has the effect of deterring people who would park their ICE car in an EV spot thus blocking it out for its intended usage, this law would have some effect on that as eventually they would be ticketed or towed and people would respond to that accordingly.

    If someone wants to find a loophole for “plugging in” how would you close it? Would you change the common language to saw “plugged in to charge the battery that can directly power the traction motor of the car?”

    That would close it (maybe) but someone COULD still find a loophole that says, well the 12v battery is used for the high voltage switches – but the real question is – how would you enforce a law that specific? Would you train a meter maid to discern the difference?

    The folks minding these spaces need to be given clear and easy to understand ground rules, or enforcement will be uneven. Being “plugged in” is clear, though potentially with “loopholes” – but isn’t everything?

    The original implementation of “stickers” is one way to do it. So that law enforcement does not need to make that decision. But there are administrative costs with issuing, expiring, and managing stickers (that the state of california would have to bear)

    Are those costs worth the losses in some charge sharing to the whole of society? I haven’t done the math, but it is something to consider.

    My main point is, in thinking about policy, there’s a lot more to consider than just making it bulletproof from the reading. And unless someone can qualify those points or any adverse consequences of “changing the law”. I believe their statement is just an opinion. My statements included.

    • Mike Thomspon says:

      “The original implementation of “stickers” is one way to do it. So that law enforcement does not need to make that decision. But there are administrative costs with issuing, expiring, and managing stickers (that the state of california would have to bear)”

      The state of california does not bear the cost of the sticker, the applicant (registered vehicle owner) pays $17 for it. If that doesn’t cover it, the state can raise the fee. It’s a pretty inexpensive program, and the Plug In Vehicle owner pays for the costs. Compared to all the other costs of vehicle acquisition, public charger installation, especially when you argue for dedicating a charger to only one spot which adds millions to the cost of deploying charhers in California, that you would choke on $17 per vehicle owner? Really?

      Sharing chargers is a real thing. Long Term Parking. Or your workplace, two people can easily share a single charger, they park in two spaces adjacent to the charger. Each person needs only a couple hours of charging because the speed and length of their round trip commute exceeds their electric only range. The vehicles are at work for 9+ hours. One vehicle plugs in first thing in the morning. The other, person, by agreement with the first driver moves the charger connector from the first car to the his car. This is a fairly common scenario in the bay area with high speed commutes in the HOV lane that are 30+ miles each way or need to incorporate 10 or 20 miles worth of errands during the day.

  17. Mike Thomspon says:

    The officer can write the ticket and get the car towed. But the person using a 120V to 12V charger to charge the vehicles 12V battery can take it to court and win, because he complied with the law (AB 475). That now sets a precedent, more people will use the same loophole and the police or parking enforcement people will stop ticketing because it’s the non-Plug In Vehicle is not violating AB 475.

    It’s not up to the judge to say, “Oh but they intended that, don’t worry about what the law actually says.”

    People are already doing this sort of thing all the time. It’s not theoretical. It’s reality. When the gaming of the laws gets really out of hand, the law makers have to go back and change the law, if they get around to it.

    Officers do have some discretion about whether they decide to write a ticket or not. But once it’s written, it follows written law for that citation. And the police prioritize the crimes they write tickets for. Towing companies are also going to be careful to only tow when they are certain they have the legal right to tow the vehicle.

    We HAVE seen non Plug In, gasoline only vehicles parked in EV spaces with the charging connector shoved into the front grille to look like an EV. Passers by have unplugged Plug In Vehicles that were charging – not another EV driver, just an unrelated stranger walking along. That’s reality.

    It’s not theoretical. Dismissing real concerns from issues that have happened in the past that will cause Plug In vehicles to be towed under AB 475 is not helpful to Volt owners or the owners of other Plug In vehicles.

    One of the reasons AB 475 specifies the wording on the signage is that the wording IS critical to enforcement, they realize that and specify the signage. AB 475 has some serious issues with unintended that have been raised publicly and privately to Governor Brown, GM and many others.

    I have been in and continue to be involved in the process of getting EV chargers, proper signage that’s enforceable, the maintenance and other issues with public charging. I interact with the various people including representatives from different cities at conferences like Plug In 2010, Charged 2011, etc. I listen to what they say, the problems they encounter and we share ideas on how to solve them. I’ve also seen the reality of plugging in.

    There will be some places where there is only one EV charger. Maybe it’s easy from the Volt only point of view to not care about charger sharing, because the Volt will just fall back to gasoline. Any car that can Plug In should be provided the most opportunities to Plug In. There’s a whole spectrum of Plug In vehicles out there. Plug In hybrids, electric only vehicles, motor cycles, in the future SUVs. There’s 120V charging, 240V charging and Quick charge. The idea that a Plug In vehicle should be towed if it’s unplugged is going to harm Plug In drivers. You also don’t want to policies that encourage stying plugged in at the only Quick Charge station for 20 miles, depriving other vehicles of the use of that Quick Charge station. Sure parking time limits can partially address the Quick charge problem partially, but a 300 mile range Tesla may need the Quick Charge for an hour and a half while a 100 mile range LEAF only needs it for 30 minutes. AB 475, be plugged or be towed is too restrictive and too expensive. It’s also riddled with loop holes.

    I’ll gladly help improve the language of AB 475. And no, I’m not some legal genius, but I do now how to work with other stakeholders to come up with a good bill. Stakeholders including manufacturers, cities, the state, the public, the Plug In vehilcle dirving public, legislative analysts who do have the legal expertise and legislators.

    There is far more than “opinion” being discussed here. There is real world experience and collaboration with others to support Plug In vehilcles of all types.

  18. Mike Thomspon says:

    We just need to update and streamline the state EV sticker California DMV has had for years to include all Plug In Vehicles, specifically adding Plug In hybrids!:
    Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Parking Decal Application REG 4048

    The program could use some refinement, to have green stickers for EVs and add yellow for Plug In Hybrids. Looks like neighborhood vehicles and motorcycles are already covered,

    Then we streamline the application process for this and the HOV sticker by having the dealer submit registration, HOV, Plug In Vehicle parking Decal (reg4048) all at the same time when you buy the car and have the DMV process them all at once. We could have temporary decals to go with the dealer temprorary plates.

    • Shad says:

      The sticker program is nothing more than a free parking perk. Cars could park at chargers and not use them – I’ve done it. This legislation is not meant to be a ‘perk’ for EV drivers. Stalls designated for charging should have a charger. Use the space to charge, as intended. Don’t touch anybody else’s car.

      • Sorry, Shad, but once again you resort to exaggeration to distort the reality of both current practice and what AB745 proposes.

        In truth, AB745 represents more of a “free parking perk” than the current law. If it is enacted, EVs could park, plug in, top off the battery, and then just sit there, for literally days, not charging anything –just… parking!

        Would it at least not be more courteous in those instances to put a placard on the dashboard which gives an adjacent EV owner permission to unplug after the time it takes to top off has expired? After all, as you said: “Use the space to charge, as intended.”

        And to clarify: unplugging that J1772 is NOT “touching” somebody else’s car. It is touching the plug –which does NOT belong to them.

        Finally, please concede that EVSE sharing is entirely voluntary. Nobody is forcing anyone to offer that courtesy to other drivers. Nobody ever has. Moreover, AB745 doesn’t stop plug-pullers anyway: it only punishes the owner of the vehicle found unplugged with a ticket and tow! Why would GM want to do that to its own Volt owners?

      • Shad: Since you do not want anybody else unplugging your Volt, you obviously would not leave a placard on your dashboard granting permission to do so after its battery pack is full. Okay. Fine. Years of experience among EV drivers to date shows that it is highly unlikely any of them would unplug your vehicle then.

        However, I am curious: would you refuse a similar courtesy upon returning to your Volt? If another EV driver left a note on your windshield asking you to please plug in the vehicle next to yours when you left, would you just ignore the request and return the plug to the EVSE instead? “Tough frijoles,” because “stalls designated for charging should have a charger”?

        I’m sorry, but it is contradictory and hypocritical for GM to attempt to outlaw EVSE sharing and still claim that “It’s a community.”

  19. PatrickZWang says:

    Hey Mike,

    You bring up several valid points of concern. I don’t doubt that those problems exist, but what I want to consider is what the alternatives are and the costs/holes associated.

    Let’s consider the “sticker” solution for example.

    We know that this would make identifying eligible vehicles easier.

    We also know there is a non-trivial cost with this system. I am pretty sure that the $17 application fee does not cover the administrative costs. Consider this back of the envelope calculation.

    prior to Volt/Leaf, there were perhaps 1,000 – 3,000 eligible EV’s on the road in California (an educated guess?) This means $17,000-$51,000 in one time revenue to the state. This doesn’t even pay a low end state worker’s salary+benefits for a year. Supporting this would require some basic customer service, technical support (Database/Application Development), supervision, etc. And we all know just how efficient the state / DMV is.

    Going forward, there are certainly some “economies of scale” with regards to fees / program admin costs, but someone still has to process all the registrations etc. I’m thinking that a program like this would take no less than 4-5 FTE’s at our current scale, and many more with more EV’s on the road, especially if policy’s need to change later.

    Bottom line is, I don’t think the admin costs to stickers are trivial. Otherwise, why would the state be looking to simplify and streamline the program.

    You would weigh this against potentially installing additional EV charging infrastructure to offset the loss of charge sharing. What is that actual loss vs actual utilization? My guess is that there would be some loss. (Not trivial) but not the end of the world either if you think about queuing and utlization. (There as as often times where stations are under-utilized as over utilized as I have seen out in the SF bay area)

    Also, AB 475 does have to provision to allow any local garage or authority to do whatever they want. So if your work garage sets a policy to allow sharing, or first come first serve, or permitting, that’s fine for work and ultimately there is no change there.

    I will seperate my thoughts about any “non-sticker” policy so its easier to respond.

  20. PatrickZWang says:

    Per your Point about the Current AB 475 being vague. I agree. It is vague. But I don’t see any policy rendition or wording that would make it more clear to understand and more watertight.

    It is my belief that if someone parked their ICE in a spot, and got towed or cited – that even IF they could win in court, that they would continue to park in EV spots. Even if you got off your citation, you would spend hours at court or getting your car back from the tow yard just to save a few minutes parking.

    Again, not a lawyer, so I don’t know how this would work, but my understanding is that the judges are there to intepret the law – and an intepretation of “plugged in to charge” should mean its default intended purpose, to charge a large capacity battery who’s primary purpose is to move the car. Do you write this into law? Or leave it up to the judges? Not sure. But what I’m saying is that at any level there will be an angle to work on the wording, unless you can think of a more specific wording that better addresses the issue.

    What I am wondering is – is this really the issue or the issue the loss of charge sharing? (Which you don’t really lose if you are parking in any controlled enviroment)

    I believe that setting general and easy to understand policy at the state level – remember the people now buying EV’s are being more mainstream so they may not be educated about charge sharing etiquitte – then setting more localized policy where people who participate know the ground rules makes more sense than foisting a more specific rule on all the state.

    • Victor says:


      Local policies will dictate how this law is enforced. As far as the EV “newbies” not being educated on charge sharing etiquette, reality will set in very soon to all of the EV elitists. There is not going to be an etiquette except on a very localized level. In a couple of years, plug ins (like the upcoming Prius) will be everywhere. Do you really expect them to follow any kind of sharing etiquette? People won’t follow that any more than they follow passing lane etiquette.

      Many of the elitist forums will brand one a troll for speaking in favor of this law. The reality is, before AB475, the convoluted rules would have prohibited me from parking in an EV space due to lack of a sticker that I was not entitled to receive. Technically, since it’s not law yet, I could still be cited. I doubt any of the people running the lots will do that, since they’re happy to see the chargers actually getting used.

      In the future, I see all of this bickering being a non issue when there are metered costs associated with the chargers. Once money is involved, then ICEing and overstaying a parking spot once charging is complete will cease to be an issue.

  21. Mike Thomspon says:

    Current charging infrastructure is pretty sparse. Even when chargers are deployed en masse, chargers will be sparse along some smaller highways. We had a charger in Gilroy, though it was Avcon, but there was a free California grant to upgrade it to J1772. Costco instead of taking the free upgrade actually spent money to have it ripped out and entomb the conduit in concrete.

    This WAS the only charger in Gilroy. Now there aren’t any chargers close to highway 101 from San Jose to Gilroy. Each charger is a precious resource. Networked chargers costs $5,000 plus just for the hardware, instalation, planning, permitting and construction add thousands more, depending on the site. since chargers are not free and take a lot of planning and negotiation to get installed and they also require dedicated electrical circuits, forcing a charger to be dedicated to a single space greatly increases the cost and reduces the utility. Suppose a local employee plugs their EV at the only charger in Gilroy (when it used to be there) at 8am and they didn;t need a full charge so their car is fully charged before noon. Should long distance EV travelers be denied the use of that charger if it’s ok with the first driver just because he leaves his car parked their and unpluggin it to share the charger when he NO LONGER NEEDS IT will get his car towed?

    If nothing else, look at the current charging infrastructure, say at http://www.recargo.com/ . Do you notice that once you are outside of major cities chargers are very rare indeed and where they are, there’s usually only one or two chargers?

    For a Plug In Hybrid it’s a minor inconvenience, if the chargers occupied, I’ll just burn some gas instead. If it’s an EV, it’s a major inconvenience and can easily through your trip off by hours or even a day if you need a full charge and have to resort to 120V charging.

    Keep in mind how this impacts the ENTIRE Plug In community, not just Plug In Hybrids or just Plug In Electric Vehicles.

    And don’t forget, AB 475 as written allows someone to park in an EV space just by getting a 120V to 12V battery charger and charging the starting car battery of their gasoline only SUV, truck or car. We’ve already seen people trying to cheat the Plug In Parking spaces by sticking chargers into the grille of their gasoline only vehicles. An enforcement officer unfamiuliar with all the models of EVs will think it’s ok.

    In fact, just go buy a J1772 for $125, bolt it to your car so it looks like it’s functional and connect to the chargers allowing you to park in any Plug In Vehicle space for $125. Ok, so go ahead and make it legal, spend another $130 or so, to add the electronics to activate the J1772 charger and get a small universal input 120/240V to 12V battery maintainer or charger to charge your 12V battery and it’s COMPLETELY LEGAL under the current AB 475. $250 total to legally park your gasoline only vehicle in any Plug In space! What a deal!

  22. Mike Thomspon says:

    Charger sharing is an issue, though It’ certainly less of an issue to Plug In Hybrid owners, other than some don’t want anyone touching their car in a public place and they burn a little more gas. For EVs Charger sharing is an issue of not being able to charge and continue your travel until the fully charged car that is occupying the space leaves and the typically could be hours and in some cases over a day.

  23. Mike Thomspon says:

    A comment to the NY times, where the commenter states what he did to use an EV space. AB 475 will be abused if passed as is.

    August 22nd, 2011 2:59 pm
    Never saw them used at the various hippie/ yuppie coops during my 5 years in Vermont. Finally just attached the end of an extension cord to my truck to take advantage of the prime parking.”

    With the new chargers like the Coulombtech chargepoint stations, many of which have a 120V outlet for charging, all you need is an old extension cord to fake charging.

  24. Not Rich says:



  25. Joe says:

    What about the legality/ethics of my scenario?

    I Park my Volt at a charge station 2 days a week for work at a free public spot (I’m at my other office 3 days a week.) There are 2 designated EV charging stations but 4 chargers. I park in a non-EV spot and am parked there for b/w 8 & 9 hours, even though I am fully charged in 4 hours. There are no rules for charging posted except for the 2 “EV Only” signs by the 2 spaces.

    My job doesn’t allow me the flexibility to move my car, during lunch or otherwise. I have been doing this for 2 years with no problems, tickets, or any static. But now I’m getting nasty notes from someone, threatening to call the police.

    Practically: 1) I live in an apartment and cannot plug in at home; 2) Most days there are no cars there in the morning when I plug in and no cars there in the evening when I leave. 3) Sometimes — usually Saturday when there is a farmers market — the other 3 spaces are occupied, but only when I leave (there is also a hotel nearby). 4) Even though there are 2 EV spots and 4 charges, there are only 2 other spots the extra cords can reach.

    I’m guessing the nasty notes are from someone wanting to top off on their lunch/attending the farmers market, but who knows.

    Am I breaking the law? Am I being rude?

    I think if Nasty Notes is a topper-offer and knew my full scenario, the egg might be on their face. I don’t mind paying the money for gas — but would of course rather not — but I honestly think if I didn’t plug in there ever, the 16-18 hours I won’t be there won’t be replaced by my 8 hours of charging by any combination of others.

    • Joe says:

      Update: I realized a 5th spot will reach one of the chargers. I have disabled my unplugged-while-charging alarm and displayed a placard inviting EV users to unplug my vehicle if the charge is complete for charge sharing (green light blinking). Since I am usually the only EV there in the morning, hopefully the 5th spot will always be available. . . No more Nasty Notes, yet.

  26. Ray Heatley says:

    Tonight my wife and I was at one of the Indian casinos here near San Diego. I wanted to charge our Tesla but could not because gas vehicles were parked in the spots. I took photos of the three trucks and showed them to the casino security. I was told that the trucks belonged to the casino. I might be wrong but I think it is against the law for gas vehicles to block charging spots. Maybe US law does not apply on Indian land. I may never go to Valley View Casino again and I believe the management really should return to school.

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