Electric Road Rage


A new type of aggressive driver behaviour is occurring amongst electric car owners. Automologist MAC writes about this new phenomenon.

With all the talk about the need for civil society to swap to cars powered by green electricity, it would start to appear that there is an increasing rage amongst those who have already converted to electric-powered vehicles, particularly when it comes to charging them at the already overburdened charging station network.

The US of A has traditionally enjoyed the reputation for enjoying their gas-guzzling cars, but it is there where the take-off of electric cars has been amongst the fastest but the charging infrastructure lagging behind. There are so few charging points that squabbles about access and other motorists hogging them has already gained a name: "charge rage".

Operators of rapid charging bays, such as Ecocity, would have us believe that for now, the US charging network is coping; although, there are some sites that are overwhelmed, where rage will occur apparently, especially if the bay is occupied by a Tesla for two hours. Or worse still, if someone ICE’s the bay.

ICE-ing is EV-owner speak for the time when an internal combustion engine car blocks access to the bay. Whilst this may result in abuse, from most of the stories that I have read on the web about this phenomenon, it seems that drivers of EV’s usually resort to leaving notes or delivering an icy stare when the offending ICE driver returns. Timorous bunch, aren’t they?

In the UK, the number of charging points, according to Zap-Map, stands at 10,727, or one for every seven cars; it does sound like a reasonable ratio, until you start to add in all the plug-in hybrids, that is. But it gets worse when you consider the length of time that a car needs to spend at the charger; you see, only about 50% of all of the chargers are fast chargers, which can top your battery up to about 80% in 30 minutes, but take about three or more hours for a full charge, which is not really fast compared to filling a tank of petrol. Worse still, almost a quarter of the chargers out there are the slow type, whereby it will take about eight hours to get an 80% charge, which is not much use really. Less than one percent of all cars sold in developed markets are EV's or hybrid cars, so you'd be forgiven for believing that two fast chargers at a motorway service station would suffice, unless, that is, there are four cars waiting to use them; after all, there is a limit on the amount of coffee you can drink.

The simple reason for the slow development of the charging infrastructure is the cost. To install a rapid charger, you would probably need to fork out somewhere in the region of US$30,000. So, of course, you want to be reimbursed if you put one into your establishment. But then, the hemp-trouser-wearing owners of these cars seem to think that being charged for a top-up is a bit of an imposition.

So, how does it look for Malaysians? Well, I think it can be best described as "not good". Petronas, the nation’s largest petrol station chain, currently has ten charging points nationwide where you can top up for free, but as announced, the creation of 66 more charging bays nationwide by the end of 2017 is underway. This will give Malaysian EV drivers a total of 300 points where they can go to charge up, which probably is not enough to eliminate range anxiety here. But worse, in my local shopping centre where there is an EV charging point, I note that it now has a permanent guard stationed there, presumably to stop ICE-ing, and I wonder when the cost of the guard will become prohibitive.

Read also: Malaysian Roads to Go Electric



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