Human civilization functions largely because there’s a certain set of rules, unspoken and spoken, written and unwritten, that we humans all, collectively agree to abide by. I’d say about 75% of these rules are about where you can or can’t poop or which parts of your body you have to keep hidden under fabric. The other stuff is important, too, especially the parts that deal with how we interact with cars. Some rules are, of course, sacrosanct, like never fucking with another person’s vehicle. It’s against the rules. But times do change, and sometimes the set of rules needs updating. Currently, we’re in the early stages of a mass transition to electric vehicles, and as a result, I think we need to update and define how to properly interact with these electron-huffers. Specifically, we need to define the rules around EV charging etiquette, so let’s just take care of that right now.
There’s one specific rule that really needs defining, and that has to do with a particular reality about charging electric cars: it takes a while. Well, really, two realities: it takes a while, and there’s still not really enough chargers. The internal combustion cars that have heretofore dominated the automotive landscape had neither of these restrictions: fuel stations are plentiful and pretty much everywhere, and even if you have a massive fuel tank, you can fill up a car in, what, ten minutes, tops? It’s pretty much a non-issue.
But, for EVs, that’s not the case! Sure, Tesla has a nice robust network of Superchargers, but even that pales compared to the colossal number of gas stations in pretty much any country, and EVs from other manufacturers have to rely on a patchwork network of chargers that often don’t, you know, work. If a parking lot has EV chargers at all, it’s often just a handful, crammed into some corner, and it’s very likely one of those charging slots is already occupied by a car. Is that car still charging? What if it’s done charging, but the owner is nowhere to be found, and it’s just sitting there, idly hogging a fat electron hose that you could be using?
What should you do? This is exactly the scenario our newest EV owner, David, encountered when attempting to charge his BMW i3 at the Autopian/Galpin West Coast HQ parking lot (David just got the i3 back from the dealer; he’ll show you what’s wrong/whether the battery seems new soon!):
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Did David do the right thing by unplugging a no-longer charging car and plugging that cable into his car? Was he in the right to close that car’s charge port door? Well, wonder no more, because I have consulted with the Egyptian god of thunder/lightning (and the desert, and chaos, and a few other side gigs, but lightning was the closest I can get to electricity), Set, who has provided the theological backing for these new Holy Rules for Charging EVs.
These will be the rules for EV charging from this point on; I’m willing to listen to suggestions and commentary and adapt the rules, but I’ll have to consult with Set, and boy is he cranky.
Some of these rules are for the EV owners, some are for the carmakers. Let’s get into them.
1. Thou Shalt Not Hog a Charging Point Without Charging
As much as possible, if you’re at a charger and plugged in, you damn well better be charging. It is the responsibility of the EV owner to at least make a good faith attempt to know when their car is done charging (many cars have apps that tell the owner this information) and when their car is done, it should be unplugged and, ideally, moved to make the charger available for someone else. Of course, you shall never park in a charging spot if you have no intention of charging, or are driving a combustion-only car. That’s just a dick move.
2. Thou Shalt Unplug A Fully-Charged Car From A Charge Point If Needed
Understanding that humans are fallible, and may sometimes leave a fully-charged car plugged in after it is done charging, it is deemed Right and Just for another EV owner to unplug a fully-charged car from a charger. This may only be done if the car is charged to at least 80%; any lower is not permitted. The 80% number has been chosen as that is the generally recommended regular charging level to use for optimal battery longevity, and most fast chargers are designed for maximum charging speed up to 80%. Charging from 81% to 100% takes longer, and while this is permitted at a public charger, that last 20% is not a protected right.
3. Carmakers Must Build Cars With External Charge Indicators And Plugs That Release Locking At 80%
Currently, most EVs have some sort of external charge state indicator, and most also have mechanisms to lock the charging cable in place. These rules will mandate clearly legible external charge state indicators on all cars as well as mandating that any locking mechanism for the cable will release when the charge level hits the owner’s pre-set level or 80%, whichever is lower.
I know these are absolutely possible because many EVs already operate in a manner close to this. Above you see the Hyundai Ioniq 5’s external charge state indicator, as well as a menu setting that unlocks the cable when charged.
Here it is in video, even:
Over-the-air software updates may be needed for all EVs to make certain that they unlock charge cables at 80% charge, and, if no external charge state indicator is present, the manufacturer will be responsible for a recall and retrofit of the necessary hardware, on pain of that company’s CEO being taken into the desert by the god Set and subject to the god’s cruel whims until those changes are made.
4. Thou Shalt Carefully Close Charging Doors or Panels On Cars You Unplug
In the event that you do remove the unlocked cable from a car charged to 80%, it is the responsibility of the cable-remover to carefully close the charging port door on the other car. You must treat the car with as much or more respect that you would treat your own car. So, no slamming.
5. Thou Shalt Be Careful With Thy Cables
Currently, the state of cable management at EV chargers is more primitive than your average vacuum cleaner. Cables generally do not retract, they tend to be thick and ungainly, and it is up to the users of the cables to replace them neatly, which Thou Must Do. Thou Shalt Not just leave the cables on the ground, and if you need to run a cable over a car to get to yours, Thou Shalt Make Certain that the cable in no way impedes that car’s ability to move or leave, and cannot cause any damage whatsoever to the car. If there’s any doubt at all – an antenna may be bent, a rubber scuff may be made on a hood or roof, then Thou Shalt Calm The Fuck Down and Wait until you can get plugged in without potentially impairing anyone else’s car.
So, what do we think of these? I think they’re solid rules; I’ve gotten some pushback on the 80% criteria, but I think you can go to 100%, but you’ll need to remain with the car and negotiate. Still, I’m open to hearing opinions and discussion! I can say the same for Set, but, worth a try, right?
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Are you idiots? We arent talking the EV hits 80% remove it. We are talking the ev hits 100% but stays connected for another 6 hours because asshole hooked it up and leaves it connected until he is leaving for the day. An ev charging space is not a parking space
I would add – if there is a choice, EV owners should pick the fast charger that most closely matches their cars’ charge rate. Both so that they can be done faster, but also to not hog a charger that’s much faster than their car can use. For example, I try not to use 150kw-200kw+ DC fast chargers with my 50kw max rate Chevy Bolt when a 50kw charger is available, leaving the true fast chargers to the EVs that can fully use them.
In my limited experience, the charging cable belongs to the car being charged. So you can’t unplug it from the car; you need to unplug it from the charger. But then you can’t close any charger door on the car, because the cable is still plugged into it! If you were to unplug the cable from the car AND the carger, the cable would be stolen. Bad idea.
Or do chargers work differently in your corner of the world?
Not true at US public charging stations, the charge cord is part of the charger.
These proposed rules seem very reasonable and should be posted at every charging station.
The easiest way to describe charging stall etiquette is to equate it to urinal spot etiquette. Its really almost identical.
So now I’m supposed to stop using the urinal when only 80% done? That’s going to be problematic.
I don’t want anyone else to close my “charging port” for me.
I vehemently disagree with 2. Yes, people hogging chargers with a fully charged car are at best oblivious, and otherwise outright assholes. That does not give anyone the right to mess with their property. You should never unplug a car that isn’t yours, no matter how good you think your reasoning is. Systems should absolutely be designed to disincentivize this behavior, but it’s not up to you to be a vigilante. Never mess with someone else’s car.
I also disagree with 3. Sort of goes back to the reasoning above, but you should be able to keep your cable locked for as long as it’s plugged in, including once you’ve reached 100% – it’ll reduce people’s ability to mess with your car, which again, isn’t allowed.
I would also not want the state of charge be externally displayed. It’s not anyone’s business what SoC my car has – it only breeds the vigilante behavior rule 2 advocates for.
I’m going to agree with this one, but only because I’m relating to it from a gas pump point of view — just trying to visualize if I were in the costco fuel line (which usually has cars lined up 5 deep) and the person behind me seeing that I’ve pumped 12 gallons into my 16 gallon tank, deciding “you have enough,” and deciding my turn is over.
At the same time, I also realize that it’s different — I’m standing there and intend to shut off the pump and drive away the instant I’m done, and not roaming around the store shopping while preventing others from fueling their cars.
I don’t own an electric car yet, but I would imagine my phone might beep and say “5 minutes until charging is complete,” allowing me to run outside and move the car.
If pumping the last 2 gallons into the 10 gallon tank of a car took 90 minutes, you might feel differently.
Well you are wrong. If you arent causing damage it is fine. Assholes need dealt with. So simply unplug and do no damage or wait until they return and depending how long beat the shit out of them. See it keeps it from continuing to happen.
Beat them with the very cable they hogged?
Most charging locations impose a fee once a certain amount of time has passed since the car reaches 100%. I’m doing them a favor by unplugging it. Maybe they should raise the fees to where it costs more than your soy mocha latte.