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Charging spot, Woolies Mount View, Queensland. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

Clean Transport

Discrimination At The Pump? No Love For EV Drivers?

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Most Australians shop at either Coles Supermarkets or Woolworths Supermarkets. When we do, we not only get points, but also a discount on petrol purchases. Is this discrimination against the small percentage of Aussies who now drive electric cars? I posed this question across several Facebook groups in Australia and stirred up a real hornet’s nest. My main aim was to start a conversation, and I sure did that. My sanity was questioned, my integrity was put in doubt, and I was certainly misunderstood. I was urged not to write the article, as it might stir up the wrath of the non-EV public. That didn’t work.

However, I did start a necessary conversation and hopefully that will lead eventually to better access to charging for electric vehicle owners and better use of available assets and funding.

Let me state categorically: I am not pushing for free charging at an air conditioned carpark next to the door. I am merely pointing out that EV owners are not yet being catered to as well as the drivers of fossil fuel cars. I also need to emphasise that I appreciate all the efforts being made by multiple players (including supermarkets) to make charging accessible — everywhere!

Chargers at Woolies. Photo courtesy Majella Waterworth.

My initial concern was sparked when I visited the local Woolies supermarket. It is great that they have installed 4 chargers, and that they are working! I appreciate that. They have installed cabling for four more. My concern is that for some EV drivers, they are not convenient enough to promote use. You have to bring your own cable, download yet another app, and walk a distance to the store entrance. There is no shade provided. Yesterday, when the photos were taken, it was 37 degrees. I parked in the shade between two diesel SUVs, then later posed quickly for the photos.

Paying for charging is not a concern. For me, the biggest turnoff is that I would have to purchase a type 2–to–type 2 cable (around a AUS$400 purchase). Some cars come with these cables, but Teslas do not — and that is 80% of Australian EV purchases. Although there are spots reserved for the elderly, the disabled, and drivers with children, none of these are equipped with EV chargers. Is this another case of discrimination against less abled EV drivers? Perhaps all EV charging spots should be a little wider?

Let’s talk shopper dockets. If I spend AUS$30 or more, I get 4 cents off my next fuel purchase. When these 4¢ vouchers for petrol were first introduced, petrol was about 60 cents a litre. Four cents was a good discount! Now as petrol sells for over AUS$2 per litre, not so much. Surely drivers, and supermarket management, must be reconsidering their relevance? Perhaps they could be linked to the chargers and EV drivers could get 4 cents off a kWh? Is it worth the effort when electricity is so cheap anyway?

Charging spot, Woolies Mount View, Queensland. Photo courtesy of Majella Waterworth.

The range of responses on Facebook also highlighted the range of charging options. One person charges their EV for free locally, and was not aware that other retail venues charged. One very thorough reader researched PlugShare to show the availability and costs of his local charging infrastructure.

Most respondents were grateful for any charging they could get, and were happy if the charging spots were located at a distance from the doors — “less chance of ICEing and less chance of door dents.” One brought up the need for “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CEPTED),” meaning that EV charging stations needed good lighting and passive observation — to not be put in “the darkest back part of the car park.”

No matter how inconvenient the parking spots for EV chargers are, there will always be one that is ICEd (blocked by a fossil fuel–powered vehicle) — just for shits and giggles I guess. More responses:

  • “I don’t think it’s discriminatory. They’re not required to provide charging at all. Where they do, it’ll work for some and not others. Sure, there could be more consistent standards around charging but this will happen in time. Most charging is retrofitted to an existing space and better facilities will be developed with newer development.”
  • “My local shopping centre installed a wonderful big solar panel shade system over the main car park. Not a charger to be found. I wrote to them, offering to help them with what charger would be best, but received no reply. Wasted opportunity.”
  • “Don’t forget the taxpayer subsidies that get given to fossil fuel companies, to the tune of $13 billion annually, and the 50% petrol tax cut that was given to petrol car owners.”
  • “It’s a great topic to cover David Waterworth. Using the word ‘discriminatory’ is also a great way to communicate the intent, and solicit comment. Particularly at this time when more charging infrastructure is needed, car park owners need to start factoring in more than just a token number of car spaces. The number of EV customer deliveries in Australia is only increasing, as more become available. To label an article yet to be written as ‘click bait’ is a little presumptuous.”
  • “As for the discriminatory part, there are a lot of service stations inside shopping centre carparks, with stores offering fuel discounts for petrol buyers. No such discounts on charging rates for EV drivers. From what I have seen, being a regular at Caddens, ICEing is from those types of people who are looking for an argument, get very aggressive when asked why they are blocking a charger. The types that think by blocking an EV charging spot they will stop the future and save everyone from the EV menace.”

Fast forward to the year 2030, and the world has changed. In Australia, 90% of all new vehicle sales are electric. Shading over shopping centre car parks is no longer cloth, but solar panels. Most shops offer level 2 charging in order to attract the shoppers with electric cars. Low-speed chargers are ubiquitous, free, and convenient, even for those less abled and those with small children. Charging spots don’t get blocked by ICE vehicles any more, as there is plenty of parking to go around (except at Christmas).

Thanks to the business owners who are taking the first steps and doing something positive to promote EV ownership. We know it’s not perfect, but it is a beginning.

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Written By

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].


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