Every plug-in vehicle has the right to access charging stations

Does an electric car owner have priority over a plug-in hybrid owner to use electric car charging stations? We see this question come up all the time, a Chevy Volt owner, or Plug-in Prius owner, or other PHEV owner, being told they have less right to use a charging station than does a battery electric car owner. The reasoning is that the plug-in hybrid owner can drive on gasoline and therefore doesn’t need to charge as badly as does the electric car owner.

That is one of those seemingly rational points that is compelling but is probably the wrong stance to take.

Consider that

  • A plug-in hybrid electric car is a step in the right direction. At least the PHEV owner has committed to being able to plug in and skip using gasoline some of the time.
  • That PHEV owner may be trying real hard to keep gasoline use to a last resort and is keen to get as much charging in as possible.

It is a hard call, though, and I have actually experienced being able to talk a PHEV owner into letting me charge because the PHEV owner recognized he could just drive on gasoline. In Charging station etiquette – effectively sharing limited electric car charging resources, I wrote the following:

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Plug-in Hybrid car owners have a right to use charging stations: Any car that can be plugged in is an electric car, and is a step in the desired direction. There’s an ongoing argument among electric/PHEV owners over whether PHEV’s “count” as electric cars. And some would even deny PHEV owners access to charging stations. However, by choosing a car that can be plugged in PHEV owners choose to avoid gasoline for some of their miles. The greater good is served by encouraging PHEV owners to drive as many electric miles as possible. There is a question of priority. Given two cars, a BEV and a PHEV, both needing to charge which should be given access to the charging station? It’s probably the BEV car, maybe.

Charging station etiquette – Green Transportation .info

There’s a tendency for battery electric car owners to look down upon plug-in hybrid owners. Maybe the choice to own a PHEV is seen as a cop-out, or a weakness? I’m not sure, since I see most PHEV’s as a pragmatic choice for some people. The Plug-in Prius with its pathetic electric range, well, I have little patience for that car, but that’s beside the point. The point is that PHEV’s are electric cars because they can be plugged in.

But – when I wrote that, I couldn’t bring myself to definitively say battery electric cars and plug-in hybrid electric cars have equal priority at the charging station in all circumstances.

My case happened in 2014 shortly after we’d moved to Santa Clara. At the time this was a charging station desert, with there being a single Blink station at the public library. We’d gone to the library to charge the car, and had managed to arrive there when the station was available but a Honda PHEV owner was there at the same time. We discussed it, and the PHEV owner recognized I had a greater need than he did, and he allowed me to use the station.

By contrast I’ve seen lots of Chevy Volt owners who eagerly look to maximize driving on electricity, and completely avoid using gasoline.

A rule of thumb may be that the owners of PHEV cars with shorter electric range, 10-20 miles, haven’t made as strong a commitment to driving on electric as do owners of PHEV cars with longer electric range, 40-80 miles. Maybe. Possibly.

The bottom line is that electric car charging station infrastructure is limited. The EV market is not mature enough that we can be assured of finding a charging station wherever we go. We must therefore share the limited resources, rather than seek to greedily hog them. That means being sensitive to many considerations.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

About David Herron

David Herron is a writer and software engineer living in Silicon Valley. He primarily writes about electric vehicles, clean energy systems, climate change, peak oil and related issues. When not writing he indulges in software projects and is sometimes employed as a software engineer. David has written for sites like PlugInCars and TorqueNews, and worked for companies like Sun Microsystems and Yahoo.

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