Public Charger Etiquette

With the relative scarcity of public EV chargers, etiquette around their use becomes somewhat important so that all EV drivers can take advantage of them. Unfortunately, as with most things, not everybody sees this shared resource as something they should be sharing!

Space Hogs

The most egregious abuse of the few charging spaces has to be occupying them and not using the charger. I have encountered EVs using free charging spaces without bothering to plug in:

I have also, on more than one occasion, been unable to get into a charging space because it was occupied by an ICE vehicle, like this one:


Many times we have arrived somewhere to find the EV spaces are occupied and many hours later, when we leave, the same cars are still in the charging spaces. Now, maybe they were sufficiently drained that it would take many hours to charge them on a 6kW charger, but more likely they were already fully charged, and just occupying the space. Some, like the little Fiat 500e, have visible charging indicators that make it easy to confirm this.

Even when the space charges for the electricity used this can be a problem since, once they are full, EVs communicate with the charger to stop them so they can sit there for free once they reach 100%.

Non-Essential Charging

This is only really a problem in the free spots, and I get it, everybody likes a free charge. But if the EV already has enough charge to get you home, that free charge counts as non-essential. This is even more the case with the plug-in hybrid vehicles, where they have an on-board generator or can use ICE propulsion, making charging less essential.

Making it Better

Fixing the issue with space hogs is something that can only really be done with enforcement from the parking lot owner. There are no technical solutions there. The others issues potentially do have technical solutions, though they may not be immediately available. To some extent, all of these issues are social problems, but lets look at some ways to perhaps encourage better behavior.


The overstaying issue can be countered a number of ways, but the simplest would be to have the charger notify the owner of the vehicle that the car is fully charged and request they move it. The charger itself could indicate this state via colored lights too, allowing other EV drivers to see whether a space is likely to free up soon or not.

Paid chargers (and some free ones) already know the user and communicate charging status via mobile phone apps. The ones that do not have registered users, such as those from Volta Charging, would need to implement an NFC and/or app based switch on their chargers too.

Perhaps a simpler alternative (in that it doesn’t rely on technology so much) would be to simply place a time limit on the spaces. After a couple of hours connected, the charger simply switches off and lights a big red light to say the car has overstayed.

Hang Tags

My EVSE here at home (an eMotorwerks JuiceBox Pro 40) came with a hang tag that could be hung from the charge connector when at a public space to indicate whether the charge was essential or not. On the face of it, this seems like a great idea. In practice though, it really doesn’t make a lot of difference as there is usually only one physical spot next to the charger anyway. Even if the car in there is indicating that it would be OK for another EV driver to take the cable, for example, if they needed a charge to get home, the chance of being able to park close enough to the charger to plug in is very slim.

If the charger has user accounts, having a button in the app or on the UI when starting a charge to indicate whether the charge is essential or not, coupled with a notification when somebody who needs to charge arrives at the space might make this work. It does assume that people won’t abuse the mechanism though just to move people out of the space when they didn’t really need to charge.

Longer Term

Longer term, the only way this is fixed is by having more charging spaces. As the number of EVs on the road rises, the limited number of public chargers available today will rapidly become insufficient (even though most charging will probably be at home). Unlike ICE vehicles, going to a specific location to charge is impractical. But I can see opportunities for charging rows at malls; tens of chargers in the parking lot that are paid.

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