Car-fuffles: B.C. drivers bicker over electric-charging stations

B.C. Hydro is concerned about the number of car-fuffles breaking out at electric vehicle charging stations.

A B.C. Hydro report found almost a quarter of EV drivers surveyed have bickered with a fellow EV driver at a public charging station, and almost one-third have witnessed such an argument.

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Authorities believe the reason for the number of arguments is the lack of awareness of proper EV charging etiquette.

For example, the survey found that more than 30 per cent of EV owners have had another EV driver unplug, or attempt to unplug their vehicle while it was charging at a public station.

Twenty-four per cent have experienced “extreme frustration” when other EV drivers use a public charger to fully charge their vehicle.

The survey also found the majority of EV drivers will go out of their way to take advantage of public charging, said B.C. Hydro. Half said they make changes to their daily schedule or routine for better access to a public charger.

Installing a Level 2 charger for an electric vehicle at home can range between $700 and $2,000, according to B.C. Hydro.

Electricity costs vary depending on the size of the EV battery and the amount a person drives.

Charging a Nissan Leaf at home, for example, is estimated to cost $35 a month, based on travelling 20,000 kilometres a year, according to B.C. Hydro. Driving a similar model in a gas-powered vehicle would cost $170 a month in fuel.

The survey also included drivers of gas-powered vehicles, and found that 30 per cent feel it is unfair that charging stations are located in the most desirable parking spots. However, 42 per cent of EV owners think more priority should be given to parking stalls with chargers.

Charging at home means EV drivers can avoid the potential for conflict at public chargers. EV drivers are encouraged to charge at home to avoid problems.

B.C. Hydro said there are more than 1,700 public charging stations available across the province, including B.C. Hydro’s network of fast chargers that it continues to expand.

B.C. Hydro said its sites do not ask users for payment, but some public charging sites levy a small fee.

“While the majority of B.C.’s public Level 2 charging stations are free to use, many require drivers to join a service network to access the stations,” said B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk in an emailed statement. “Once you’ve registered with a network, you will be sent a member card which you can scan at the charging station you want to use. Some networks’ stations can also be accessed using a smartphone app or a credit card. And obviously, if you register with multiple networks, you get access to more charging stations.”

Currently, there are five main networks in B.C. — B.C. Hydro EV, ChargePoint, Flo, Greenlots (for fast chargers) and Tesla (for Tesla vehicles). When using these chargers, B.C. Hydro recommends EV drivers follow basic charging etiquette, including:

• Take only what is needed. Limit charging to a maximum of around 30 to 40 minutes.

• Be careful where you park. Avoid parking at an EV charging stall if not charging, or waiting to charge.

• Use the PlugShare app to keep others informed: Leave a comment on PlugShare if there is a problem with a station, or to let other drivers when to expect the charger will be available.

• Do not unplug others unless there is a note on the vehicle or on PlugShare giving permission to do so.

The online survey of 1,162 drivers in B.C. was conducted by Majid Khoury for B.C. Hydro from July 29 to Aug. 5. No margin of error was provided.

— With Times Colonist

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