Why GM's push to add plug-in hybrids to California's AB475 is causing problems

Many California plug-in vehicle proponents have a love-hate relationship with GM, born out of the EV1 experience (see "Who Killed The Electric Car?" if this is news to you) and the trend continues with some disagreement over a bill (AB475) that will, if passed, amend Sections 22511 and 22511.5 of the California Vehicle Code. Why does this matter?

Chelsea Sexton, an occasional AutoblogGreen columnist, wrote up the details on her personal blog, but the gist is that there is a problem with the until-now small plug-in vehicle community and the way they've been treating one another at charging stations. Basically, with a limited number of chargers around, sometimes EV drivers had to be creative to get their juice. As Chelsea writes:

We've learned through years of trial and error that infrastructure use is maximized and cost minimized by installing chargers between two or four parking spaces where feasible. Drivers then share chargers by unplugging a fully-charged vehicle and plugging the next one in, without having to wait for someone to move his car. It also helps with ICEing [a gas car parking in a charger space], the very issue this law is meant to address. Rather than waiting for that vehicle to be moved or towed, the plug-in simply takes the next space.

The problem is that the current version of AB475 prohibits unplugging someone else's vehicle makes it illegal to be unplugged while parked in a charge spot (sorry, Chels). The original form of the bill did not include this provision, but GM apparently pushed to modify the language to include plug-in hybrids (like the Chevy Volt) in the law that had just been written for pure electric vehicles. The law used to be that a sticker was required to show that it was OK to park in a charger space, but the change would make it so that a vehicle is OK to park there while plugged in. You can see how this is a problem with charger sharing.

So, Chelsea has, with others, been working to make sure that charger sharing would survive, but:

I have now been told that charger sharing is bad and needs to be literally outlawed, that installing chargers/EVSEs between spaces is irresponsible, that it needs to be made illegal for anyone to unplug someone else's car for any reason, and should be punished the same as slashing someone's tires or breaking their windshield, and so on...additionally, the language of this version appears to be fuzzy enough that gas cars would actually be able to legally park in these spaces.

Thus, Plug In America now opposes AB475 "because it will hurt the consumers who it was designed to help and will not accomplish its stated goal. This, in turn, could reduce the demand for the next generation of clean efficient vehicles which run on clean domestic electricity." PIA's legislative director, Jay Friedland, adds that "The bill is now bad because it not only wastes resources by disallowing EV charger sharing, but potentially prevents current Volt owners from being able to charge." (Read PIA's full statement after the jump).

So, it looks like the laws are trying to stop what once was an accepted action in a small community. Now that new plug-in vehicle drivers are entering the picture, things may be changing. The funny thing is, one of Chevrolet's slogans is "Its more than a car, it's a community." Hmm.
Show full PR text
August 17, 2011
Assemblymember Betsy Butler California
State Assembly
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Location: Senate Floor
Re: AB 475 (Butler) Vehicles: offstreet parking: electric vehicles (As Amended 6/21/11)
Position: Oppose Unless Amended

Dear Assemblymember Butler,

Plug In America drives change. We are working to accelerate the shift to plug-in vehicles powered by clean, affordable, domestic electricity to reduce our nation's dependence on petroleum and improve the global environment. As the organization representing the millions of potential future consumers of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles, we respectfully oppose AB 475 as amended on June 21, 2011.

Plug In America enthusiastically originally endorsed AB 475 at introduction (February 15, 2011), which would have simply added plug-in hybrids to an existing EV parking law. Unfortunately, the current amendments to AB 475 will actually make it more difficult for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to share charging infrastructure. We now oppose this bill because it will hurt the consumers who it was designed to help and will not accomplish its stated goal. This, in turn, could reduce the demand for the next generation of clean efficient vehicles which run on clean domestic electricity.

Please contact our legislative advocate, Kathryn Lynch, at (916) 443-0202 with any questions.

Jay Friedland Legislative Director

Brian Putler, Deputy Legislative Secretary, Governor's Office
Jonas Austin, Senate Floor Analyst
Edward Morley, Policy Consultant, Senate Republican Caucus
Kathryn Lynch, Legislative Advocate
Plug In America

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