With electric vehicles looking to grab a double digit share of new car sales in Australia within months, and with thousands of new EV drivers on the roads, it seems a good time to revisit and update how newcomers t can navigate the new world of EV charging.
The key point of recharging EVs versus refuelling ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles is that the ‘refuelling’ generally happens when the car is not in use, rather than having to add time and distance to your trip to ensure refuelling is included.
As a result, on those occasions we use public chargers we are often leaving our car to ‘do its thing’ whilst we do ours. This can result in friction with other users if we accidentally inconvenience others by taking up space at an inappropriate charger, or forgetting to get back in time to let others use it.
Society inevitably comes up with sets of norms to deal with social situations (think the parable of Moses and the Ten Commandments as one example) and the arrival of EVs into our transport lives is no exception.
Below is a summary of the evolving set of norms (sometimes mandated through laws) to smooth the inevitable friction of how to share the public EV charging space.
1. Minimise the time you spend at a DC charger
The key to EV charging is that the petrol station model of refuelling within all trips will die with the ending of ICE vehicles. Instead, EV charging will happen mostly when the vehicle is parked at home, the workplace or when shopping using AC (portable or fixed) chargers.
DC chargers provide quick charging solutions (some are now down to around 10 – 15 min for an 80% charge), but they will always be in ‘short’ supply (especially in suburban areas) as compared to the current petrol station model.
DC chargers should therefore be left to long-distance drivers, plus those who do not have readily available AC charging options … and the odd person who forgot to charge their EV before heading out for the day.
To make the best use of DC chargers and minimise any delays to yourself or others when using them, you should:
- Only use DC fast-chargers when necessary.
- Charge to 80% only. (DC charging speeds ramp down significantly after reaching 80%. This results in the DC charging time from 80 – 100% being roughly equivalent to the 0 – 80% time).
- For EV owners without access to home charging, DC charge when the charger is less likely to be needed by commuters and/or travellers. (For instance – not during the morning or evening weekday commuter peaks or on public holidays).
2. Choose the right power level charger for your car and needs
Where there are several chargers available at a site, some may offer higher or lower power choices. For example, many DC charger sites offer 50kW and 250kW options from different units.
If your vehicle does not do the higher DC charge rate, leave the higher power chargers for those cars that can charge at these speeds. Also – if you can charge at the higher rates but you intend a longer break than the charging time – make sure you come back to move your EV away from the charger once the charge is complete.
The same applies to AC chargers – if your EV can do no more than 7kW on an AC charger, where available, choose the 7kW charger rather than a 22kW three phase AC charger.
3. If you do need to queue for a charger, ensure you do so legally
Where all EV charging positions are taken at a charging site, make sure you queue in a way that follows the local parking restrictions and ensure that you:
- Do not park in restricted zones
- Do not block driveways
- Do not leave the vehicle when in the queue.
4. Report damaged chargers
As EV charging sites are generally unattended, faults and damage may not be immediately noticed or rectified by the owners. If you find a damaged or inoperative charger, report it to the owner via the contact number or website on the charger to make sure it is attended to as soon as possible.
5. Do not unplug other EVs when they are charging
Without knowledge of the owner’s intentions, or knowing the correct disconnection procedure for a particular EV, you can cause ill feeling with the EV owner and/or damage the vehicle charging socket by attempting to disconnect a charging lead without permission.
Therefore, do not unplug another car unless you have that permission. If really urgent – find a power point and use the emergency portable charger that comes with the car.
On the other side of the coin – do your best to help others in these early days of the EV transition where there are limited public charging options.
If you are using a public DC or AC charger – you have a number of options to ensure a quick swap to the next vehicle. These include:
- Park in a way that allows a second car to access the charger so they can queue more easily.
- Stay within sight of the charger (for example, a coffee shop across the road). If someone pulls up, pop over and have a chat and arrange the best way to make the change-over.
- Stay with the vehicle if you can, or at least return by the time your EV charge reaches the minimum threshold you need. If someone pulls in and you already have ‘enough’ charge – why not let them in and take off a bit earlier yourself?
- Leave a note on your car or attached to the plug. This may be as simple as ‘the lead will be released when charged – feel free to swap over then’, ‘I am at the café across the road’ or ‘the charge will be finished by XX time, if you need to charge urgently, call 04XX YYY ZZZ’.
6. Do not park in EV charging spots unless charging
Some early EV charging spots were sometimes labelled ‘EVs Only’ without any reference to only parking there when charging. However this signage is changing to ‘EVs only whilst charging’ and some jurisdictions have even introduced fines to any car parked in an EV charging bay (EV or ICEV) if they are not charging.
7. Do not run charging leads across public areas
Electricity supply regulations generally require that power from an address not be provided outside of the property boundary. In addition to being an electrical hazard, electrical leads across footpaths are also a trip hazard.
If you do want to run a lead out to the kerb for EV charging, check local by-law and electricity supply regulations first, plus it should only be for an emergency.
Where legal to do so, you must also provide adequate mechanical and trip hazard protection, such as shown in Figure 1. You must also protect all exposed plugs from the weather either by a proper rated enclosure or with the use of IP56 or above rated connections (figure 2).
Figure 1: Power lead safety cover. (Lead fits in under the yellow section)
Figure 2: IP56 electrical power lead plug and socket.
8. Do not use any power outlet for charging without prior approval
Power outlets are ubiquitous in our modern world. Many public buildings, parks and the like have them scattered around and readily accessible. The same goes for many businesses.
However, EVs draw significant amounts of current and can create noticeable increases in electricity charges for even one charge, depending on the type of electricity tariff the installation is on.
Owners of street accessible outlets will feel rightly annoyed to find an EV parked and charging using their power if not given permission to do so.
If looking for a power outlet in a region where there are yet to be any public EVSEs, it is best to use one that has already been nominated for EV use.
Plugshare (plugshare.com) is the best source of this information. Even if the outlet is on Plugshare, always do the courteous thing and ask for permission before plugging in.
Typical Plugshare outlet listing. Image: Plugshare.com
9. Have some idea how much to pay an outlet owner for EV charging
As electricity kWh costs vary widely, the cost of an EV recharge may be very little, or a significant amount. Options for reimbursing an outlet or AC destination charger owner include:
- A flat payment of between $10 to $20.
- A calculation based on the kWh rate, time plugged in and the kW rate at which the car was charging. The formula to use is shown below:
kW being drawn by charger x hours x kWh cost (in dollars)
Example: a portable charger draws 2.4 kW and is plugged in for 4 hours during an afternoon BBQ visit to a friend. Their electricity kWh cost at that time is 33c/kWh.
Payment: 2.4 x 4 x 0.33 = $3.16
10. Reach out to new EV drivers
Many EV drivers on Australian roads today are new to the EV world: By the start of 2022 there were only 44,000 EVs on Australian roads. 18 months later, there were 126,000. This means there are a lot of new Australian EV drivers that have yet to recharge their EV outside of their home!
So if you are an old-hand at EVs and see a confused EV owner (perhaps trying to work out why the Type 2 plug on a public AC charger won’t fit into their Japanese import Type 1 AC charge port) – take the time to stop and help them. I am sure they will appreciate your effort, and society will be just that little bit kinder as a result.
Bryce Gaton is an expert on electric vehicles and contributor for The Driven and Renew Economy. He has been working in the EV sector since 2008 and is currently working as EV electrical safety trainer/supervisor for the University of Melbourne. He also provides support for the EV Transition to business, government and the public through his EV Transition consultancy EVchoice.