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Charging Etiquette 2: Electric Boogaloo


The social politics of EV charging could easily turn into an interesting little side column. Here’s the rundown: I had returned from vacation and the Porsche EV had sat for a week in my garage without a charge, leaving the battery pack a little sleepy. Some additional pack charge was consumed when I installed and tested my replacement HID headlight bulbs. My Torque app showed that there was still a decent charge left on the pack, so I drove the car to work the next day without topping off. It performed well, but the available free amps were somewhat anemic. An opportunity charge would hit the spot, but where to plug in at work? Good question. It was the perfect excuse to case the office parking structure for free electrical outlets!



I found just one receptacle, but it was surrounded by RESERVED parking spots, except for one. What a surprise to find a Chevy Volt in that free spot, already feeding through a very long extension cord. I had stumbled on somebody’s private little watering hole! Although there was still another outlet, using it would involve parking in a RESERVED spot. This little conundrum caused me to recall a saying: “Seek forgiveness, not permission.” I parked and plugged-in, composed and printed the apology above, and left it under my wiper blade with my card.



Not wanting to miss an opportunity to bond with an EV comrade, I left another note on the driver window of the Volt, opening a dialog about the lack of charging stations in the parking structure. As the hours passed, I waited for the phone call urging me to ‘Please vacate the reserved parking spot’ that I had wrongly occupied. But the call never came. When I returned to the garage that evening, my battery pack was full and the Volt was gone. But I did receive an email. The Volt owner informed me that the building management did not have any plans to install EV charging stations, and we bantered via email about the hassle of foraging for electricity.



Which raises an issue: In the age of smartphones and intelligent networked appliances, our electrical grid is painfully out-dated and entirely inadequate to mediate the needs of a new breed of energy user. To wit, the initial communications in my office parking garage required paper and ink because there was no better channel available. In fact, both of my paper notes pointed the recipients to smarter channels of interaction: cell, text or email. This is because the power grid is not smart enough to recognize when and where people need energy, and then connect them to available electrons and each other. Granted, autos have become network savvy and much smarter about themselves and their surroundings, but I’m willing to bet these recent innovations are part of a macro-trend toward electrifying our fleet. However, because our power grid is so outdated, those advances are as useful as a transistor radio to a caveman.





6 Responses to “Charging Etiquette 2: Electric Boogaloo”

  1. The technology for over power line internet, is available, it just isn’t being used.

  2. Brems – you are a very thoughtful professor – well written – I got drawn in – Nice work – 4D

  3. Bremsy, as you know, I try and charge my Volt at work. Unfortunately, the charge often shorts some of the electrical circuits in the garage, or so i’ve been told, so now i often come back to an unplugged charging pack. That is quite frustrating, but speaks to your comments about the outdated grid.

    That said, it feels great on those days that I am working away to know that my car is being charged.

    As an aside, whenever I ask friends or family to allow me to charge at their home, they are always wary to allow it…until I tell them that it’ll only cost them $1.50. And then they usually ask for a dollar and give me a break on the 2 quarters.

    • Does it still trip the breaker using the 8 amp mode selectable on the cord set? The Volt does not draw more than 12 amps max on a normal 110 volt circuit, and most modern household circuits are 15-20 amps. Either there is something else running on the same circuit (like a microwave oven) or your work has very old or faulty wiring that should be checked out. I would definitely speak to your building management, which may encourage them to inspect their garage circuits, or even consider installing a charging station or two.

  4. I thought your car charging story was leading to some dark ending. Maybe a towed car or some passive aggressive note left on your windshield about taking someone’s parking space. Glad it ended well for you. I don’t have hopes of being able to charge at work, but luckily I only commute a few miles. I like the business cards you made up.

    • It will only be a matter of time before a critical threshold of electric vehicle owners forces building managers to install charging stations. Hopefully, they will already be enrolled in contributing to the solution and will gladly provide that service.

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