GM to CA Volt drivers: “Oops, we did it again.”

....or is it?

For the second time, General Motors has sponsored a California bill that creates more problems than it solves and doesn’t support current Volt drivers (given the problems created, I’d still argue that, but…see update below). And without some eleventh-hour intervention, AB475 is going to pass. As other states often follow California’s lead, the perils of this trend are hardly restricted to the left coast.

Some background: public charging has existed in California since 1996, much of it funded by General Motors. Because federal law requires ADA access, they are often located in prime parking spaces. Signage restricts parking to electric vehicles, but “ICEing”- a gas car parking in a charger space- has been an ongoing nuisance issue.  It’s also been a manageable one, via local parking ordinances that allow offending vehicles to be ticketed or towed.

But in 2002, with EV population arguably in decline, the California legislature passed a law restricting public charger use to “zero-emission vehicles”. It also requires a DMV sticker so parking enforcement can easily tell which vehicles are eligible. Without clear evidence that local ordinances were insufficient, the 2002 law has been “a solution looking for a problem”, adding complexity and administrative costs. But its use by only a few charging sites limited the inconvenience, with just over 800 parking stickers issued to date.

That is, until plug-in hybrids hit the market and Chevrolet Volt drivers were excluded from those chargers. GM stepped in when asked, turning to Assemblymember Betsy Butler, whose district includes the company’s Torrance facility (and my house), and AB475 was born. Originally, it simply expanded eligible vehicles to include PHEVs. But in June, the sticker scheme and complex definitions were scrapped in favor of verbiage stating that any plug-in is legally parked “while connected” to a charger. The change appears to greatly simplify things, but it’s surprisingly problematic.

We’ve learned through years of trial and error that infrastructure use is maximized and cost minimized by installing chargers between two or four parking spaces where feasible. Drivers then share chargers by unplugging a fully-charged vehicle and plugging the next one in, without having to wait for someone to move his car. It also helps with ICEing, the very issue this law is meant to address. Rather than waiting for that vehicle to be moved or towed, the plug-in simply takes the next space.

While popular now, there’s no guarantee that charger sharing will continue as the plug-in vehicle population grows. Even if it doesn’t, it will remain financially prudent to install chargers between spaces. The current verbiage prevents sharing and guarantees that site owners will bear increased hardware and installation costs by having to install 2-4 times as many chargers to serve the same number of spaces.

Additionally, it leaves plug-in drivers vulnerable; any passerby who disconnects the car out of curiosity and fails to get it re-connected properly- or anyone who does it maliciously- could get that vehicle ticketed or towed. “Vandalism” has been a relatively uncommon problem so far, but this practice would take only seconds and require no property damage or breaking of laws, making it attractive to those that resent the support of plug-in vehicles.

When plug-in advocates raised these concerns with General Motors, its policy staff seemed to share them. Alternatives were collaboratively drafted (one as simple as reverting back to the original bill, another eliminating the previous bill entirely), and presented to Butler’s staff. Weeks followed with no movement on the language- odd with stakeholders and the bill’s sponsor seemingly in alignment.

A nuance that affects the fewest drivers- language referring to CARB’s definition of “PHEV”- is the most inexcusable. “PHEV” is not a regulatory term used by CARB; the agency classifies vehicles by tailpipe emissions. Typically, it defines PHEVs as “Enhanced-ATPZEVs” or e-ATPZEV, a criteria that none of the current Volts meet. Any obvious indication of e-ATPZEV status on the car is unlikely, so Volt drivers probably won’t be penalized for using chargers unless someone checks the VIN. Nevertheless, at the request of current Volt drivers, General Motors is creating a law that doesn’t legally protect…current Volt drivers. Any future PHEVs that don’t meet the e-ATPZEV standard would also be left out.

By refusing to change a few words, Butler herself is either condoning “illegal” charger use, or making a value judgement on which PHEVs are worthy of public charging. Ironically, the cars that are “dirtiest” when running on gas are the ones that won’t receive the extra electrons. allowing gasoline and other non-plug-in vehicles to have legal access to the parking and charging spaces meant for plug-in cars, potentially blocking the cleanest cars with the dirtiest ones. (I know, strange twist- see the update.)

Basing consumer incentives on regulatory classifications is generally problematic; the broad application of CARB’s “Zero Emissions Vehicle (ZEV)” label is an example. Using e-ATPZEV as the only criteria for incentives has more harmful implications, as it encourages automakers to charge a premium for that status, knowing consumers will pay to get the incentives. Since General Motors has yet to announce availability or pricing of the Volt’s e-ATPZEV option due next year, that might’ve been the point. Absurdly, the State is helping by using this criteria for both HOV lane and public charging eligibility- forcing buyers to choose the “clean” version of a vehicle already assumed to be and potentially paying more for it.

Butler’s final response came yesterday: the bill won’t be changed, as contrary to all indications, “General Motors did not share your concerns”. Not the first time interests of a corporate constituent outweigh those affected by the proposed law, nor the first time GM has prioritized its own needs above those of their customers- but neither get any easier to swallow with experience. Even Plug In America jumped in, switching its position from supporting the bill to opposing it.

Plug-in vehicle charging should be made as simple and consistent as possible, by revoking the 2002 law and starting over. Now is the time to assess the need for and best implementation of a state law as more vehicles are deployed, while relying on effective local ordinances in the meantime. Even reverting to the original version of AB475 would be better than what’s about to happen.

Instead, we will soon have a law that seeks to address one problem by creating several others, while forcing current plug-in drivers to use more gas.

Photo credit:

Update: GM’s position is that the non-e-ATPZEV compliant 2011 and 2012 Chevrolet Volts are allowed to use public charging under AB475, as are any future non-e-ATPZEV compliant PHEVs. Copying Shad Balch’s comment from below, expressing the gist of their position:

The digest has erroneously continued to reference a CARB definition, but a Digest is nothing more than a quick explanation of the bill. It is immaterial to the proposed statute and is not used for legislative intent (albeit sloppy work by the legislative analyst). The statute does not allow for discretion in defining eligible vehicles other than “connected for electric charging purposes.”

If there’s no way the definitions could be used for interpreting eligibility, that sounds like good news for current Volt, and potentially other PHEV owners. I’d asked for clarification about this concern several times last week, but I’m glad to have it now. The other issues created by AB475 are not alleviated by this re-interpretation.

Worse, the remaining verbiage in the statute allows parking spaces to be designated “for the exclusive purpose of charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes”, with no language that excludes gasoline-only vehicles, or alternative fuel vehicles that are not battery electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids. There is nothing that refers to being connected to the EVSE, charger, or electric fueling infrastructure in the space, nor what type of electric charging is permitted. If the vehicles are not defined, the charging should be: e.g., a reference to charging an onboard high-voltage propulsion battery or similar verbiage that’s common to all of the plug-in vehicles we’re trying to accommodate (but not other gasoline or alt fuel vehicles). Someone could put a battery tender on the 12v aux battery in a Suburban, and claim that he is “charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes.”  The language is fuzzy enough that anything on a car that one could argue is being “charged” would technically be in compliance.

The required signage associated with this statute invites an even looser interpretation: “Unauthorized vehicles not connected for electric charging purposes will be towed away at owner’s expense.” If the gasoline-only vehicle is connected to the cell phone inside of it, it is “connected for electric charging purposes”…of the phone.

I think we’re going in the wrong direction in terms of alleviating concerns about AB475…but the suggested options are looking better by the minute. 

(The remainder of the e-ATPZEV explanation and problems with using it for consumer incentives has been left in the post, because it all still applies to CA’s HOV lane eligibility for PHEVs. This was established last year via SB535, also sponsored by General Motors.)




59 thoughts on “GM to CA Volt drivers: “Oops, we did it again.”

  1. Great Post Chels! Thanks for keeping us up to date.

    If Assemblywomen Butler is going to be stubborn perhaps the EV community should lobby Senator Mark DeSaulnier who chairs the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, where the bill will likely land after passing out of the Assembly. Thoughts? Is Senator DeSaulnier EV friendly?

  2. Look, Chelsea clearly hinted at an “11th-hour intervention” to prevent this misguided bill from becoming law, and then she proceeded to do the heavy lifting of laying an incredibly rational explanation of why it should be voted down. The very least we can do is see to it that as many CA legislators read this as possible.

    Everyone reading this, whether or not you live in CA, should send a copy, preferably by snail mail, to as many CA legislators as possible ( and ( If enough of us do this, some of them will read it, and then we have a chance of stopping this from becoming law.

      1. Oh, I see AB475 already went through the Senate and is back in the Assembly for concurrence.

        An alternative to Paul’s snail-mail suggestion would be faxing the individual legislator’s offices. It’s pretty easy as the fax numbers follow this pattern: (916) 319-21xx, where ‘xx’ is the Assemblymember’s district. There are 80 districts in CA. Therefore, you would send your fax to (916) 319-2101, (916) 319-2102, (916) 319-2103 and so on.

        For example, Assemblymember Wesley Chesbro represents district 1 and his fax number is (916) 319-2101, while Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez represents district 80 and his fax number is (916) 319-2180.

        It would be a good idea to address your fax to each of the Assemblymembers as well. A list of them can be found here:

  3. Excellent analysis, Chelsea, as usual.

    This is slightly OT but I have been driving my Leaf *a lot* lately, plus I still have my Volt as well as additional Volts on order for fleet use. I’ve noticed a couple of things:

    1) Having chargers that you have to log in to breaks our old model of rational charger sharing. I really wish that the J1772 standard had allowed for VIN transmission, as an alternative to RFID. Your comments?

    2) From the relatively unique perspective of having both, I can say that it’s WAY more important for Leafs (Leaves?) to get to the chargers than for Volts. If we were going to re-invent our charger protocols of the ’90’s, I think that the new protocol should allow a Leaf driver to steal the plug from the Volt driver. Again, your thoughts?



    1. 1) The chargers that require authentication to unlock are very frustrating, and it’s another place where the sheer inconsistency confuses and irritates new drivers. I agree that there are better ways to authenticate, but I’d rather see the free sites just stay unlocked in the first place, like we’ve done for 15 years. (Remember the early Magnachargers used to actually have locks, and we all saw that it was totally not worth it and ended up leaving them all unlocked?) Authentication becomes useful if and when monetization comes into play, either to bill a credit card or tie the use back to one’s home electric bill.

      2) I disagree, though it’s an argument that is occurring among the factions in lots of places right now. (In the Tesla forum, it has even been expressed that a Roadster driver would find it annoying to find a slower-charging Leaf in a space. (!)

      The argument for letting BEVs have precedence is that they might be stranded, while PHEVs can always get home on gas. But we know how rarely a BEV driver is truly dependent on any single public charger to get home- if that were the case, we wouldn’t all note how range anxiety is overblown. It’s happened to all of us at some point, but it’s the exception, not the rule. And with the infrastructure being built out, it’s likely there will be another charger within a reasonable distance that can be used in those cases. But it’s also good reason to keep things like sharing/installing between spaces in place- in desperate circumstances, someone could unplug the other guy even if not full if it’s really that emergent a case.

      Also, if the common goal is achieving maximum electric miles driven, we should want the PHEVs plugging in whenever they can. Period.

      Finally, most of the PHEV drivers will be those newest to the “movement”- not willing to go full BEV yet, but willing to dip toes in. And on the more electrified PHEVs, it’s likely they’ll use very little gas, see that they don’t need the gas backup, and go full BEV on the next car. So any practice that makes a “value judgement” between BEVs and PHEVs (or between BEVs, as with the Tesla/Nissan example above) is going to be seen as off-putting and elitist. We want all drivers to get involved in the community, not least because it will make them more likely to adopt the sharing protocols and “common courtesy” practices, decreasing the frequency of problems to begin with.

      Issues may emerge as the vehicle population grows (what a problem to have!) But until then, we need to be as inviting and inclusive as possible.

      (hmm….looks like #2 could make a whole post on its own!)

  4. Misleading. The General is not pulling any “conspiracy theory” stunts here and the suggestion otherwise is blatantly wrong – the company doesn’t gain anything by this legislation and the suggestion that a future “CA” Volt will carry a premium is utterly baseless. Volt owners, rest assured – we’re fighting for every incentive, every possible benefit we can muster to make owning an EV more attractive. We have a ton at stake here and are determined not to screw it up.

    1. Now, now, Shad- you know me better than that. Especially as a known Volt fan, and never having been a conspiracy theorist, do you really think I’d write a post like that if I didn’t have my ducks in a row? Or for that matter, if every other option hadn’t run out? Interesting though, to see such a vehement reaction to one tangential line, and no comment on the actual substance or real issues.

      GM had good intentions with this bill, but it went pear-shaped. Some of the smartest EV advocates and policy wonks I know didn’t realize the implications of the language change at first, because they’re not steeped in the community of plug-in drivers. But we’d since raised these issues repeatedly with GM and Butler, when there was ample opportunity to do something about it. It’s one thing if GM doesn’t share the sharing and other concerns enough to do something about it- unfortunate, but fine. But we urged GM to change the PHEV definition to avoid the possibility of affecting current Volt drivers; it would have taken replacing only a few words. Alternatively, we suggested GM check with CARB to confirm that the agency’s interpretation wouldn’t be a problem. GM’s policy team did neither, which is just lazy and bull-headed. I did check with CARB, and was told what I repeated in the post.

      Optimist that I am, I still hope we can fix this- but it’s late enough in the game that it requires more public awareness and participation. I’m disappointed that it’s gotten to this point, but getting this right is still the top priority in the grand scheme.

        1. So we’re clear: GM’s position is that the bill summary, which describes the bill itself and includes the PHEV language, could never be viewed as relevant for the purposes of enforcement?

          If so, is it also GM’s position that the sole requirement for use of these spaces is “connected for electric charging purposes”, and that even though “electric vehicle” appears in the actual statute (just once), it does not require defining that term to include PHEVs?

          1. First part – yes, that is GM’s position. The digest has erroneously continued to reference a CARB definition, but a Digest is nothing more than a quick explanation of the bill. It is immaterial to the proposed statute and is not used for legislative intent (albeit sloppy work by the legislative analyst). The statute does not allow for discretion in defining eligible vehicles other than “connected for electric charging purposes.”

            Second part – yes, this is GM’s position. Prior amendments struck the requirement for a sticker so there was no need for a definition of a qualifying vehicle. Section 1 Subdivision F refers to an example for local authorities and is in no way a possible interpretation or definition of a qualifying vehicle.

            1. Ok, following that line of thinking, having “while connected for electric charging purposes” as sole criteria is actually worse, because it doesn’t exclude gasoline-only vehicles. There is nothing that refers to being connected to the EVSE or charger in the space (which I understand, because there may not always be one), nor what type of electric charging. If the vehicles are not defined, the charging should be, e.g., a reference to charging an onboard high-voltage battery pack used for vehicle propulsion or similar verbiage that’s common to all of the plug-in vehicles we’re trying to accommodate (but not other gasoline or alt fuel vehicles), etc. It’s even vague about whether it’s the vehicle itself that has to be the thing that’s connected and charging. I could put a battery tender on the 12v in a Suburban, and argue that the vehicle is “connected for electric charging purposes.” Ironically, other than creating the issue of current Volt eligibility, the context of the summary made the rest sound better than it now appears to be. Am I missing something?

              1. I certainly can’t argue that people won’t try to pull stunts, but the statute is pretty specific in Section 1 Subdivision A that charging is only for the vehicles we’re trying to accommodate (and therefore prohibits a gasoline only vehicle from parking in the stall): ” …for the exclusive purpose of charging and parking a vehicle that is connected for electric charging purposes.” You can’t “charge and park” a 12v battery.

  5. This looks like a case of good intentions gone awry. Charger sharing needs to be encouraged, and regulations that prevent same will hurt everyone. Hopefully this will be recognized before the bill gets passed.

      1. The bill most definitely includes current 2011 Volts. It is not tied to PHEV or e-ATPZEV designations. Read the statute.

    1. Michael, no need to throw the baby out with the bath water. I am clearly frustrated with GM on this issue, but every other automaker has made mistakes too. It is unfair to draw your conclusion about the entire company (or even the Volt program) because a couple of employees were shortsighted about the implications of a relatively minor (in the grand scheme) piece of state policy.

  6. So Chelsea, this passed the Senate with amendments last week and now has to go back to the Assembly for resolution. Is that correct? So there will still be a chance to get it overturned if we lobby hard enough?

    1. Absolutely worth trying to intervene- even if it ends up being too late to stop it from passing, we can try for a veto.

      See Paul’s comment above, I would add that it can’t hurt to send a comment opposing AB475 via Assemblymember Butler’s website: (see “Contact Betsy” link in left sidebar). At this point, she’s unconvinced any of the concerns are actual problems, but perhaps if she hears from enough people who will be impacted…

  7. “Plug-in vehicle charging should be made as simple and consistent as possible”

    Very true, and this does seem to muddy the waters. How can a ticket issued under this law ever hold up in court? You park there and plug your car in, then someone walks by and unplugs it just to be an ass and then a cop passes by and gives you a ticket. That can’t possibly hold up in court.

    Knowing that there are finally plugins available and that there are many more on the horizon from Ford, Toyota, Mitsubishi, BMW and others is really great, but seeing things like this remind me how we’ll still have to fight like hell to get fair treatment from the industry and our legislators.

    1. Agreed- I’ve brought this issue up too (just didn’t want to make the post any longer!) It could go a couple ways- either the ticket can’t hold up in court, or without a clear way to contest (can’t prove you were plugged in and someone unplugged you), it could be impossible to fight.

      It sometimes becomes a fair treatment issue, but usually it’s more a matter of ignorance- good intentions, but not adequately understanding the devil in the details. So it’s as much a mission to educate as to fight like hell.

      1. I don’t think it can go the other way Chels. You are innocent until proven guilty. The state cannot prove someone didn’t unplug your car and unless the officer who wrote the ticket will attest he saw you park the car, get out and walk away without plugging in then the case has to be dismissed. It’s not your burden to prove that someone unplugged you, it’s the states burden to prove you were guilty of parking and not plugging in.

        What I think will happen if this passes is that it won’t take long for the courts to realize that anyone that contests the ticket wins their case and eventually the officers will realize the tickets don’t hold up in court and they will just stop enforcement, if they ever really enforce it in the first place.

        1. I know that’s how it should be, Tom…just not willing to trust it. The main issue is proving that the vehicle wasn’t connected at the time o ticketing/towing- not how that happened. (Which would sort of be the equivalent of “I was speeding because someone was chasing me”, etc.) That could be done with a picture, a la what was done with red-light cameras- and look how well that’s turned out.

          Some of the cars at least allow you to receive a text msg when you car’s unplugged…but who wants to *have* to drop what you’re doing and rush out to plug your car in? You could mess with someone all day doing that!

  8. Sometimes laws are not the answer. I suggest three steps.

    1) have chargers straddle two charging spaces, but have two connections, one for each car. This “double headed unit” will be more expensive than a single unit, but way less expensive than a two single units (one for each parking slot).

    2) Make it legal for any EV, EREV, PHEV etc to park in those spots. Government can keep a list of qualified vehicles for the law enforcement people. We do this will “hybrid parking” in some locals now. No stickers for the cars.

    3) Use a public education campaign and signage to educate EV drivers not to use the EV spots (or stay there too long) if they don’t need them. This is probably best left as a “common curtsey” issue for now, not a law.

  9. John,

    Items 1 and 2 were among the alternatives we presented, though 1 also increases site owner costs not just for the EVSEs (which no company makes yet) and because the circuits generally aren’t sized to accommodate charging two cars at once. And if only one connector can be energized at a time, it presents other challenges. So among the options, it was our least favorite.

    Another issue is that because only a few sites use this law so far, and it won’t be universal even if some new sites adopt it. The inconsistency will confuse and frustrate new drivers. In some places you have to be connected. In others, you don’t. Even with good signage, some drivers will get confused.

    Re 3, that’s something we’re starting to do already, and is good practice at all sites no matter what the official policy is. To your point, these issues have always been best handled by the community itself; that’s how sharing evolved in the first place. The goal here is to keep legislation from precluding community protocols where it doesn’t need to.

  10. Chelsea,
    I am amazed that there are not dual headed EVSE’s. Parking meters have been doing this forever. It makes so much sense.

    As for the power requirements, I wonder if J1772 would allow the charger to use 6.6 KW with one car plugged in and switch to 3.3 KW with two cars plugged in. That would be great.

    Also, why aren’t you the AssemblyWoman from your area :).
    John C. Briggs

    1. two vehicles @3.3 might be possible on some current circuits. But I’d rather just get all the cars to 6.6kW to begin with. Gets you ~25 miles of range per charging hour vs ~12, which is much more meaningful on an everyday basis with public charging, and it gets everyone though twice as fast, which can only help this issue too.

      ha- you are very kind! But I’ve been assured by my better half that going into politics will result in divorce, and being an elected also means that most of my time would be spent on issues I’m not nearly as passionate about, and events (like ceremonial ribbon-cuttings) I’d have less patience for. 🙂 I think I can actually be more effective where I am.

      1. Chelsea & others – a path to 6.6 kW charging for existing Leaves is a the highest priority ask when I get those surveys from Nissan. Keep their ears warm on that. I totally agree that ~25 miles of range per charging hour is the minimum needed.

        Back to the Volt/GM issue – it’s important for legislators in all our early market states to get the legislation right. Urge the Assembly to stop and make sure. That’s why they have paid staffs.

  11. BTW, and this might not be that helpful, and I will send my feelings to the required reps as a Volt owner. And this is only related.
    But, for security purposes in dodgy parking/ 110v charing situations, I’ve tried putting my Volts 110v EVSE under the car and parking on the cable with just enough lead to pug into the charge port. That way it can’t be stolen, without cutting the cable that is. It’s fast and easy. Nasty people will still unplug you I suppose but it has never happened to me.
    OEMs should just put a little camera in so we can see who did the deed and use as evidence in court. Put a camera like the back-up camera on the driver’s side of the car. 🙂

    Thanks for the extremely valuable information Chelsea!!!!

  12. FYI, I sent this to Betsy:
    As a GM Chevy Volt owner that has been able to drive over 8000 miles using less that 20 gallons of gas in 7 months, I oppose AB475 as written. Being able to plugin my car as often as I can allows me to almost completely avoid using gasoline. Now is not the time to get this strict about public charging laws. We need to get this plugin car momentum moving for the sake of our country. Using less or no gasoline is the point of plugin cars wheather they are BEV or PHEV. This issue is the most important issue facing our nation at this time. Let’s keep sharing our public charging infrastructure while we can without additionally burdening our law enforcement with a silly law that will end up as a circus on TV and in the news with your name attached to It. Thanks, Jeff U’Ren

    1. Jeff, please read the statute – your Volt (and every vehicle with a plug) is covered. There is outdated information in this analysis. The ONLY requirement is that the vehicle – any vehicle – is plugged in.

      1. “The ONLY requirement is that the vehicle is plugged in” YES, that IS the problem! It dissuade sharing when it is important now with limited charging resources. It also opens to all EV,PHEV vehicle from being towed when they are unplugged by teenagers out for some fun.

  13. Shad, I understand. We are splitting hairs here. Kinda.

    My point is that now is not the time, so early in mass adoption of plugins, to get TOO strict about charger sharing. We just need a dame sign law to keep cars without plugs of parking in charger spaces. I’m fine with calling the police on ICE cars as long as there is the proper sign law to back it up. I’ve been doing that for years. That’s all. We don’t need to make too many laws for a problem we are not sure we have yet.

    But, in the bigger picture, for me, it’s ALWAYS a good thing to let your representatives know your keeping an eye on them. I do this all the time. I urge all to do the same no matter what your view is.

    “Hey Betsy! What do you think your doing?”

    Not sure she represents me, but what the heck.

    The punishment is that I get their stupid email newsletters telling me how great they are by doing almost nothing. My words.

  14. Great article and responses. As an EV watcher from the sidelines I find such details fascinating.

    When the EV is connected to the charging unit does it give away any identifiable information, such as last few digits of the numberplate or VIN code? If so, the charging unit’s display could store this and show the history of charge times and cars involved over the past few hours.

    This function could be limited to the parking attendant by use of a key fob or pin code on the charging unit if data protection is an issue.

    Another option would be for the car to authenticate with the charging station and then the car stores a signed electronic token from the charging station for the amount of time spent charging. This could then be used in court to provide evidence that you did actually use that charging station.

    I’m guessing neither of these is possible at present; is it something the industry is (or needs to be) considering?

    1. There are many different chargers out there- most, if not all, do not receive or store this information. Most of the authentication is tied to the driver, not the car.

      But also, proving you used the charger doesn’t prove you were plugged in at the time the ticket was issued- for the rare instances of a truly mistaken ticket, both would coincide. But doesn’t help if someone else unplugs you at some point.

      If not for this bill, no…the industry wouldn’t need to consider those (at least, not for this purpose). Seems more prudent to change the law than transform all public infrastructure…

  15. This is one of those rare instances where I don’t agree with Chelsea. Completely.

    The problem as I see it is that you want a clear and simple rule that is easily enforceable. Stickers provide this but at a huge cost. This bill just substitutes the rule that if you’re plugged in then you’re OK. If you’re not you’re not. This is sufficiently straightforward that even “Lovely Rita” can handle it. Much better than adding PHEVs to the sticker list, and it should work to prevent straight ICE vehicles from parking in the spaces.

    The notion that you would create an entire administrative process at great public expense in order that EVs have stickers strikes me as short sighted and self absorbed. I’d rather have the state spend its money on educating our kids than on making sure I can share a charger. We don’t need another state agency to perform some task which will probably be moot in a few years anyway. This bill would eliminate the sticker program and all the administrative red tape that goes with it, which, IMHO, is reason alone to support it.

    Eliminating the sticker program may, as Chelsea says, deter the sharing of chargers. But is that really a problem? The entire idea of sharing chargers strikes me unrealistic. It assume you want to run your life around your car. If I drive up and someone else is charging I’ll just leave them charging. I’m not coming back every half hour to see if they’ve finished so I can take the charger. Seriously, I have better things to waste time on than worrying whether I can mooch fifty cents worth of electricity, or, for that matter, worrying about some entitled Tesla driver unplugging my car before it was finished charging because he/she needed it more.

    The simple solution is to have a charger for each space. As mentioned, two headed chargers are available, and two 3.3 kW chargers are far better than one 6.6 kW charger in my book. If the infrastructure develops we’ll no doubt see a charger for every EV designated space, in part as a response to the new and simplified legal requirements.

    Finally, I think Chelsea is just plain wrong in worrying about the use of the term PHEV in the Counsel Digest. The statue is the only thing that counts, and it only refers to a “vehicle connected for electric charging purposes”. I don’t see any ambiguity. If your car can plug in and is, you’re fine.

    1. I don’t like the stickers either; I was clear about the fact that the best choice would be to revoke the original 2002 law and not pursue this bill. For years, we got along just fine letting someone know when a gas car was inappropriately parked, and it was easily ticketed or towed based on local ordinances. None of this was ever needed, IMO. I’ve never seen a survey that existing law prior to the 2002 bill didn’t provide adequate coverage or any similar evidence, and I asked GM repeatedly while we were “collaborating” on fixing this version if someone had or could do a survey now to see if this is needed now, rather than relying on anecdotal fears from nearly 10 years ago. Never happened- so at a minimum, were expected to enact restrictive legislation with no objective data that it was ever needed or needed now. Neither do we have any data comparing the effectiveness of this statute over the last decade at sites that used it to sites that used local ordinance or other method. I don’t think either are too much to ask, and without basis for it, we should get rid of this superfluous, inconvenient, costly policy.

      If the vehicle population grows to the point that there are or will soon be issues, we can see exactly what and where they are, and address them with some sense. Similarly, drivers have been sharing chargers for 15 years; if it wasn’t useful, they wouldn’t do it. Eliminating the whole thing solves everyone’s problem, including GM’s. Instead, this law is being forced through despite vocal opposition from the drivers themselves, which makes no sense at all.

      And, this language does nothing to keep a gas car from lodging the connector in his front grill or under his hood, completely fooling Rita. Sounds far-fetched, maybe, but it happens.

      Begrudgingly, I would settle for keeping the stickers vs this language. They were created for parking enforcement, not so drivers could demonstrate their entitlement. The fiscal impact in the original version of this bill was estimated to be $1000 per year (yeah, I was surprised too). One site owner will spend several times that amount adding one extra charger to a spot that can no longer share use, let alone all the sites that would have to be changed and all the extra costs going forward.

      Very few sites currently use this particular law. The drivers in those areas generally get the stickers and they’re covered either way. With this language, at some sites you need to be connected, some you don’t, etc., and new drivers will be confused and frustrated.

      Sharing may not last- I said that. In general, it’s not used as much to interrupt someone’s charging to plug your own car in (though some drivers have certainly given permission to do that via a card on the dash). The main way in which it’s used is when you pull up next to a car that is already full. Happens all the time at LAX, shopping malls, etc. In that case, you unplug the other car, plug yourself in, and be on your way. No running out to your car. And should you find an offensive gas car, you’re not delayed. Pull in next to it and use the charger. Simpler and cheaper for the site owner, more flexible for the drivers. No reason to deny them the option if we don’t have to; even if sharing goes away at some point, the cost and vandalism issues remain.

      I’ve not seen two-headed chargers; it came up as an idea, but I don’t know of any manufacturer that is making them. Happy to look at any I’ve missed. Doesn’t change the fact that in addition to more expensive hardware, the circuits (many of whom are buried in concrete) would have to be upgraded- again, all more than $1000 per year. And future installations will still be more expensive than they need to be.

      On the definition language, we’re trying to sort that. GM notified me this morning (though I asked multiple times this week for clarification if our interpretation was not correct) that they agree with you. I’m still waiting for corroboration from someone besides GM. If that’s the case, that there is no enforceable definition of eligible vehicles in the code and the only requirement is “connected for electric charging purposes”, it’s actually worse. There is nothing that refers to being connected to the EVSE or charger in the space, nor what type of electric charging; it’s even vague about whether it’s the vehicle itself that has to be the thing that’s connected and charging. I could put a battery tender on the 12v in a Suburban, and argue that the vehicle is “connected for electric charging purposes”.

      There is simply no reason to force this exact “solution” right this second, when there are a variety of other things that could be done that would still provide charger access to PHEV drivers in a similar time frame. At minimum, language needs to be cleaned up around the eligibility issues, but that still won’t make this a good bill.

  16. Since I do not (yet) own an EV, and have never even used an EV parking space, I might be missing something here, but it seems to me that the ultimate solution would for the DMV to issue third decals for EV license plates, something like this (see the upper left corner, under the month decal):

    This solution would solve multiple problems, IMHO:

    (1) Meter maids could tell if a vehicle is, in fact, an (PH)EV and thus legally parked in the designated space (what the separate sticker did previously).

    (2) Sharing an EVSE would still be possible.

    (3) An unplugged EV would not run the risk of being ticketed and towed.

    (4) It would be unnecessary to install an EVSE for every single parking spot, keeping the infrastructure costs much lower.

    (5) CA could charge an EV “road tax” fee for the decal, which would solve the quandry about EVs not paying their fair share of those revenues via the gas pump (which WA is trying to solve right now with a $100 registration fee).

    (6) The very same decal could designate HOV access. (And I would suggest that CA charge an additional $5 fee per every mile lower than the 40 mile average commute that the EPA rates the vehicle’s zero-emission range. In other words, a Tesla would only pay the $100 fee for a decal; a plug-in Prius with only a 20 mile range, however, would have to pay $200. These are only suggested numbers, of course, but you get the idea.)

    (7) The cost of making and distributing the third decals would be much easier and cheaper than large stickers, since the DMV has to produce year and month decals anyway.

    (8) Combining the EV parking, HOV, road tax, and registration onto one single DMV form will greatly reduce the paperwork and hassle of all those issues.

    One stone flung… eight birds down. Everyone’s a winner.

    Mark (“Yanquetino”)

  17. Interesting discussion! At first, my initial thought was ‘tempest in a teacup.’ But this is why you are so well suited for this, Chelsea- better to craft laws well now then have to change them afterwards, even for seemingly small things- inevitably, it will take politicians several laws to ‘fix’ the first one! if you plow your furrows crooked from the get-go, they are nigh imposible to straighten later (a ‘Sargent York’ movie reference for those old enough;-)

  18. Wow, this can get complicated! So here is a simple and positive local story. Public charging at the major shopping center has just been upgraded to J1772. I mentioned that a sign requiring zero emission stickers was “imposing,” and that sign has been replaced with a much simpler one stating the stations are for plug-in vehicles. The parking/security people are fine with my Volt there, even happy that the station is actually in use. So all is well for now. . .please do not forward this to idle regulators and/or enforcement authorities. Best regards, Heath

    1. That’s great, Heath, congrats! And that’s actually how the vast majority of current sites work; there are only a few that are caught up in this mess. Although GM’s made it pretty clear that they want to push for everyone to adopt it…

  19. {rant}

    I was tossing and turning about GM’s bill in the wee hours, and inevitably in these instances my conspiracy gland starts to ache. I kept wondering, over and over again, why in the world GM wouldn’t care about slowing down and increasing the costs of rolling out the public EV infrastructure…? And then it hit me. That is precisly what they DO care about: it is their ulterior motive!

    They WANT to delay it, make it more expensive, complicate it. As far as GM is concerned, the Volt’s gasoline backup engine *IS* their public infrastructure. A delayed, insufficient, expensive EV infrastructure only makes their hybrid on board solution more appealing to consumers –and pure EVs much less appealing. After all, sufficient public infrastructure could render EV range anxiety a moot point –the very thing GM wants to copyright. The best 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.

    That hidden agenda would also explain the SAE Level 3 roadblock. It likewise postpones and complicates the EV infrastructure, something completely unnecessary, if not threatening, to the Volt’s appeal. C’mon: they could have started working on a Level 3 plug years ago. Why the outrageous delay? Because they purposely orchestrated it.

    Have I become a conspiracy theorist? Maybe. But just because one is paranoid does not mean there isn’t a grain of truth to a conspiracy. Especially in a cutthroat, dog-eat-dog, capitalist world. Just look what GM did with the EV1 and the NiMH patents. You bet I believe a corporation could stoop as low as pushing for a bill like this to handicap the competition and tout its own product.

    I think it makes a lot more sense than GM just being clueless and stubborn. Despite the numerous problems the law will cause for public charging, it will actually benefit GM: the Volt can smugly remain chargeless. Will Volt drivers themselves want better public charging? Sure. They do now. But that is AFTER the sale. The uninitiated shopper, on the other hand, is obsessed with range neurosis, and GM wants to capitalize on that (literally!) as much and as long as possible.


  20. Andy F
    As a Volt owner I find level 1 plugs is all I need to satisfy my daily driving using no gasoline. This is the purpose of the PI vehicles they should be plugged in everytime they park. Be it Level 1,2 or 3. we have to focus on displacing oil which is the main objective of being connected tot he grid. What ever wording is needed to get to this objective is good enough.

    The issue of multiheads is because of the J1772 mandated plugs. If multiple J1772 recepticles were available on the stationary chargers and a dual male J1772 cord were available with the right hardware and software protection this would be eliminated.

    I plug my Volt Level 1 charger into a standard level 1 duplex or quadplex plug. I think this is the way PI vehicles should have been designed in the first place!! By the way I have to leave the Level 1 converter locked in the car and bring an extension cord out of the car to prevent some one from stealing the converter!! All PI vehicles should have a female recepticle or a cord that can be used with a conventional level 1 50 ft extension cord!! I use mine every day!!

  21. Look, I am someone very far from US. Yet amazed by the EV or PHEV progressing world, i would suggest something!


    Why not to turn our collective thought into a national campaign (within agreed states), fight and raise fund to establish alternative energy sourcing stations for all sorts of EVs with fair contribution from owners’ part (price not to be neck-strangling) from which a wide mobility of rather free energy can be developed and several other docking station can be spreaded all around the country.

    Someone asking why a FAIR PRICE to be imposed as freee energy is being questioned?

    That’s because such a project will have other costs like upgrading, maintenance and proliferation of the concept.

    Free energy not only involves solar but also eolian and hydro energy should be implemented as remember a lot of small sources coming together can be a wonderful thing.

    So, lets create a movement out of an idea and not a profit-minded sucking company.



  22. I reckon something genuinely interesting about your weblog so I saved to my bookmarks.

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