Scarcity Of Public Charging Stations In California Is Turning Electric Vehicle Owners Against Each Other

Electric cars are pretty popular in California right now, but there’s one major problem facing all those owners — there aren’t enough charging stations for all those new vehicles hitting the streets. This has led to some bad behavior at the plug, so to speak.

California has encouraged electric vehicles in an effort to cut emissions, but the campaign to go green has led to some conflicts among owners jockeying for position at electric charging stations, reports the New York Times.

Charging stations aren’t as numerous as gas stations yet, leading electric-vehicle owners to exhibit some rude behavior — unplugging each other’s cars, fights at the plug and secret alliances to trade spots in corporate parking lots.

In one example, a man said he’d plugged his Nissan leaf into a public charging station in Silicon Valley one day this summer. As he walked away, he saw another Leaf owner pull up and unplug the charger from the car he’d just left, apparently about to plug it into his own vehicle. The first Leaf owner confronted him.

“I said, ‘Hey, buddy, what do you think you’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Well, your car is done charging,’ ”Leaf owner No. 1 said, adding that he told the other guy that his car wasn’t actually done charging, plugged the vehicle back in and left “after saying a couple of curse words, of course.”

In the short-term, some are seeking to educate electric vehicle owners and others about etiquette, with things like signs that warn someone not to unplug a car until it’s done charging. In the long-term, more public charging stations would be the best solution: California’s Gov. Jerry Brown has promised a sharp increase in charging stations, as the state continues to push for more electric vehicles.

As it stands, there is only about one public charger for every 10 electric vehicles, which comes out to around 15,000 in California and 33,000 across the country. There are also many other charging spots that could basically be wall outlets at a home or business made available to the public as well.

Though many do charge their cars at home, public chargers are essential because of the limited range of those vehicles, which is usually around 80 miles. That “range anxiety” can make drivers seek to charge up at public stations even when they might not need it because heck, it’s free, so right not?

Competition between car owners can become even fiercer, depending on the model. One driver of an electric Fiat said she was ticked off to find a Tesla parked in a charging station spot… that wasn’t charging. She was out of charge and unable to get home without out. When the driver returned, she asked why he was taking up a spot without charging. He told her he had one more errand to do and walked away.

“I seriously considered keying his car,” she said.

In California, Electric Cars Outpace Plugs, and Sparks Fly [New York Times]