The ICEing on the cake

Last night I needed to get some dinner and rather than eat the fast food options here at my hotel I thought I would see if there was an option for me to eat and charge. It was convenient that the Best Western in Peterborough has a ZeroNet charging station and the pub there was recommended to me and so I thought I’d give it a go.

I had a little power left from my trip to Swaffham but not a great deal and so it was a bit of a risk. I might get there and not be able to charge for some reason and then that would leave me a bit low for the trip to the Nissan dealer today to rapid charge before my trip to Preston but I reasoned that even if I couldn’t charge I should have enough… just.

When I arrived at the hotel it was clear that it had a big car park and the first problem was to find the charging station. Not so easy in the dark and when it could have cars in front of it. People must have thought me potty just seemingly aimlessly driving around a hotel/pub car park but after 3 or 4 times around I spotted the charging station… this is what I saw…

The charging bays were occupied by non-electric cars. People with EVs call non-electric cars ICEs which stands for Internal Combustion Engines (petrol or diesel) and when a charging bay is occupied by an ICE it is called ICEing. These charging bays were well and truly ICEd.

To make matters worse, this is the sign on the wood railing you can see in front of the cars…

mmm. a fat lot of good those signs did.

I have picked on this particular incident and this location simply because it happened to me last night. Best Western is not unique in having its charge bays ICEd. In fact, in almost all public access charging locations I have even charged at ICEing occurs and not just occasionally. It is so common that I now expect to see ICE cars in charging bays when I roll up to a charge station. As if EV owners don’t have enough to contend with what with limited range, slow charging, RFID cards, charging station failures and one of the worst ICEing!

I say it is one of the worst because it actually is nothing to do with electric cars. You cannot fully understand the frustration, not to mention anger, that EV drivers feel when they need to charge to get home and they cannot because their charge bay is ICEd. The power is just over there… 5m away. But you cannot get t it. Grrrrr!

So what to do? At a lot public locations there isn’t much choice. If it is in a public car park you can wait… could be hours! You can find another location to charge but often there isn’t one in range. Or you can do as I tend to do and just not charge. Great if you have the range remaining to get you home but that is often not really an option when driving a 100% battery car. When you need to charge you need to charge or else you are looking at a flatbed recovery and several hundred pounds and hours of delay.

Last night I tweeted the operator of the charge station to let them know it was ICEd and they tweeted back that EV drivers have priority and I should ask the management of the hotel to get the cars moved. I appreciate the sentiment and it is nice to know that if push really came to shove, and I was desperate for the charge, that the management might help. But this is a Spa hotel. What if the owners of the ICEs were in the spa? They aren’t going to be found that easily and even if they were they might not be out of the spa for 30+ mins.

I don’t want to pick on last night’s events or on ZeroNet. ZeroNet is not unique in having its charge bays ICEd. As I said earlier, it happens to every public access charge bay.

So what can be done.

The problem is that once an ICE car in in the charge bay the game is pretty much over until they move. We all know people never obey signs. It is all very well putting up a sign and signs are important as it helps educate and it reinforces the rights of the EV driver to use the charge bay but a sign won’t stop ICEing.

Saying EV drivers have priority and saying that management will get the cars moved on request might work in some locations but in most places it is not easy, or even possible, to find the owners and get the car moved and even it it were possible it could take a considerable amount of time… time you might not have.

The biggest no-no for me though is approaching the ICE drivers yourself. You can always ask them to move if they are there at the time you arrive but you do so at your own peril because drivers hate being told where to park and you will almost certainly get verbal abuse at best and a real threat of physical violence at worse if you take it upon yourself. I now will never approach an ICE driver myself if they are in a charging bay.

There are two satisfactory solutions to the ICEing problem that I can see. The first and preferred is to have so many charging stations that if one is ICEd then you simply use another. Unfortunately, at most locations there is generally only 1 or two charging bays and it is a real struggle to get proprietors to install any at all so I think we are a long way off that happening. The second is the one I think that could be more easily swung is physically restricting access to EV owners only. Not “priority” because at the moment, with so few EVs around, there will always be ICEs ahead of EVs and so if EV drivers have “priority” ICEing will still always occur. No, we need EV ONLY bays and they need to have some kind of physical access restriction. This might be as simple as a cone at the front of EV bays. A cone means that a ICE driver has to physically move the cone and that is psychologically much more of a barrier. OK, people can move cones and that might happen but if there is just a sign people can always just drive in and claim they didn’t see the sign. With a cone they cannot claim not to know they are doing something they shouldn’t.

I have heard the argument that as there are so few EVs around at the moment that establishments cannot afford to totally dedicate bays to EVs only. They would be empty most of the time. This is true but in my opinion, if an establishment wants their investment to be used by EV drivers then they must make the commitment to allow us to do just that. Putting in charging and then not allowing it to be used seems pointless and totally against the rationale for installing it in the first place.

So I call on everyone that is involved in installing charging infrastructure to make it possible for EV drivers to use that infrastructure once it is operational. Don’t let ICE cars use those bays and have some physical restriction… a cone or barrier… to actually keep the bays clear.

I think ICEing is going to be around for a long time and is actually one of the biggest problems with EV ownership yet it is one easily preventable in a way that shows support of EVs. Seeing a bay reserved and coned off for EVs only is a strong message to ICE drivers.

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