Back when I was researching all of the perks of owning my own electric vehicle, I came across a decal that is given out by the California DMV. It is intended to ensure that the vehicle that’s taking up the “EV only” parking/charging spot is actually an electric vehicle. I thought that I might as well get the decal, just to be on the safe side. After $17, one sheet of paperwork, and a couple of weeks, my decal arrived in the mail. I must say I was underwhelmed. It looks more like a kid’s sticker than an official designation.
There are two things that I would like to discuss. One is that I am apparently the 662nd EV to get this decal in CA. I keep waffling back and forth between this being a lot, or a little. I’m curious what the number will be after the Leaf, Volt, Circuit and the other EVs hit the road. Will people even bother getting this decal? I suppose time will tell.
The second thing I want to discuss is more of a rant about public policy. It’s basically how EVs and hybrids get lumped together into incentive based legislation. Let me start with an example. In an effort to get people to adopt more fuel efficient vehicles and such in LA, the city made parking free at every parking meter for EVs and hybrids. Amidst all of the recent budget problems the city decided to rescind that privilege. I wonder how many EV owners there are in LA vs hybrid owners. In reality, hybrid fuel efficiency is only 10% better than old, small engine vehicles such as the Geo Metro and much worse than new diesels that will be out on the market soon. EVs, on the other hand offer a much greater increase in effective MPG than the hybrids, or other combustion based vehicles. A typical value for EVs is 250Wh/mile. Which if you convert to what that would be in gasoline it relates to a 144MPG. If the goals of the city involve cleaner air, then EVs should be given a greater incentive than comparably lack-luster and dirty hybrids. I don’t think it’s maximally effective to incentivize technologies that are only a marginal improvement. But of course, I’m highly biased.
I recently got this letter in the mail. (Click to see a semi-readable version.) Recently there was a change of California laws. The DMV is stating that I no longer need my ZEV sticker to park at an EV-only parking spot. To confess, I never actually put it on anyway, so this doesn’t really effect me. But, it goes on that I have to actually be plugged in to the charger or I risk being towed.
At first this seems like a reasonable law. If I’m not charging, I shouldn’t hog the charging parking spot. Fair enough. But, it’s common for EVs to share. I can plug in, but leave a note saying that it’s okay to unplug me after, say, an hour. Someone else drives up and unplugs me to plug themselves in, and everyone is happy. At least that’s how it used to be. Now I might be towed if someone else comes along and thinks that I’m just hogging the space, when actuality I was just sharing the juice. The law was written at the behest of GM lobbyists, who are pushing to get their Plug-In Series Hybrids into the EV spots. But, the vagueness of the law is such that it doesn’t say that I need to actually be charging a battery pack to park in an EV spot. I could run an extension cord out of the trunk and charge up an electric razor and qualify. It’s a poorly worded law, and I hope these negative things don’t come to pass. Time will tell.
I frequently park my car at the Santa Monica Civic Center. The city of Santa Monica has a fleet of EVs and Compressed Natural Gas vehicles, which they use for running around town, doing whatever city bureaucrats do. I’m usually the only non-city owned vehicle in those spots. I can’t help but notice that the EVs are never plugged in, and the CNG cars can’t even plug in. Almost the entire Santa Monica green fleet is in violation of the CA laws! It hasn’t been a problem, as I have always been able find a spot for myself. But, now I have options!