After owning our Nissan Leaf electric car for seven weeks, always charging it at home, I decided to check out the recently installed charging stations at the Chemeketa Parkade in downtown Salem (Oregon).
There are four of them, conveniently located on the first floor of the parking structure near the walkway to JCPenney's. So convenient, they're tempting to drivers of non-electric cars who blatantly ignore the signs displayed between each charger.
Two parking spaces are dedicated to each charger, as the cord can reach a car parked in either space. So eight spaces should either be empty, or filled with an electric car. Count the electric cars in those eight spaces.
(Hint: our Nissan Leaf is an attractive light blue. None of the other cars in the photo is electric. If you came up with "one" as the answer, give yourself a carbon free prize.)
This is irritating. Most people respect designated handicapped parking spaces. Why don't they respect electric vehicle only parking spaces?
The most likely reason is that Salem doesn't have a city ordinance that levies a fine for using a space assigned to an electric vehicle charging station. I know this, because after I drove our Leaf into the only open space I grabbed my iPhone and started to snap a photo of the offending gas guzzling car parked next to me.
I hadn't realized that the driver was still in the car.
He jumped out and said, "Hey, don't turn me in. I'm with the EV (electric vehicle) project." The guy was there to fix a broken charger. He apologetically said that his work car couldn't be electric because he does so much travelling around, since the range of a EV is only about 100 miles.
OK, this was a good guy.
I holstered my iPhone camera and turned to asking him parking questions. He said that Salem didn't have any rules against parking a regular car in an EV spot. I told him that the chargers being installed by the EV Project aren't going to be of much use if owners of electric cars aren't able to use them -- an emerging problem.
Hopefully the City of Salem will change its parking ordinance so a ticket can be issued if an ICE (internal combustion engine) car uses an electric vehicle space. Apparently California has such a law, as does the city of Portland.
California recently considered a controversial revision of its statute, AB 475.I'm not sure if it's become law.
"Pure" electric car owners in California, like us Leafies, were upset that the proposed law would (1) give equal parking rights to hybrid electric cars like the Volt, which can run on an ICE after the battery gives out, and (2) require that a car in an EV slot be actually charging.
Being an EV newbie, I wasn't aware about charging etiquette in early adopter places like California. But from this article I learned some manners:
The existing EV etiquette deems that if an EV parked in a charging space has finished charging, a nearby EV owner may remove the charger and plug it into his or her own car. Now, under the new law, the EV owner who was parked in the designated EV charging space but is now charger-less could be towed.
Well, that doesn't seem right.
But at least California has rules and an enforcement mechanism for Electric Vehicle Only parking spaces. The Oregon Legislature needs to follow California's lead. So does the City of Salem.
I'm going to do some lobbying about this, now that I've seen how many ICE people thumb their noses at EV Only parking signs.