EVs are bringing change to how we think about personal transportation, what kind of fuel we use for it, and, with chargers, where we should park. Owning 2 EVs, my wife and I now try to support businesses and shopping centers that support charging through free or pay-to-use EV chargers. This not only helps us top off when it’s not busy, but also lets those businesses know that EV owners are coming to their locations because of the charging, supporting the cause.
One of our local outdoor shopping malls recently installed several Volta chargers. These installations are essentially flat movie-poster-style advertisements that use the ads to pay for the charging, which is in turn offered to drivers free of charge, which we love! But… there’s this one station that’s a bit confusing. It’s labeled as an “accessible” parking spot but doesn’t state what the deal is for EV drivers. Is it for people with “accessible” plates AND and an EV? Is it either-or?
It’s just not clear, but it definitely brings up the question — as EVs continue to increase in numbers, how do we address accessible EV charging? Or is that even practical to attempt to take on given the drastically different situations and needs that people parking in accessible spots could need? Is this yet another reason for automatic charging? Could a single inductive/wireless charging standard be the magic bullet?
California has drafted a best practice document for accessible EV charging that makes some broad statements. For starters, it indicates that, where stations are provided, a portion should be accessible. Further down, it states that this ratio should be the same as for non-EV parking spots at roughly a 1:25 ratio. It gets interesting in the latter half, indicating the primary purpose of dual function (accessible parking and EV charging) spots are primarily for EV charging and signage should not lead drivers to believe otherwise:
“ADVISORY: EVG-250.1 General. While there is no positive requirement to provide electric vehicle charging stations, when they are provided a portion of them should be accessible. When co-located with parking spaces, electric vehicle charging is considered the primary function of these stations, not parking. Accessible electric vehicle charging stations are not to be reserved exclusively for the use of persons with disabilities. They should not be identified with signage that would mistakenly indicate their use is only for vehicles with placards or license plates for individuals with disabilities.”
Another accessible charging standard from “Sustainable Transportation Strategies” also states that the primary purpose of dual-function parking spots is EV charging:
“The federally funded EV Project, which is planning and deploying charging stations in several states, sets a higher bar with a 1:25 ratio. In both cases, the charging station spaces are accessible, but not exclusively for use by persons with disabilities.”
These policies make sense to me, as an EV owner, because if there are 5 parking spaces in an entire complex, as is the case with the mall where this charger is located, there are hundreds if not thousands of parking spaces, meaning there will be tens of other accessible parking spots, and the likelihood that they will also be driving an EV is extremely low (based on the 1:25 ratio of accessible to total parking spots, let’s assume 4%… and with EV penetration at 2% of that… we have a very low likelihood). Net – it’s more likely that someone will “need” the EV charger vs a free accessible parking spot.
I don’t feel like this is something we have to solve today, but it is one of many niche situations we need to address as more and more EVs hit the roads and more and more people of differing needs and abilities fit them into their lifestyles. I specifically think the loophole to allow EV drivers to park in spots marked accessible will result in tension and vehicles being towed (I can’t wait… but I’ll let you know when it happens :/ ).
Having said that, I want to hear your thoughts. Jump down to the comments and let us know what feels like the best solution to you. Please 🙂
All images by Kyle Field