Hello, and welcome to our latest round of “Ask Doug,” your favorite weekly feature where you ask Doug various automotive-related questions, and Doug spends roughly 45 seconds on Google trying to find the answer before presenting it to you as if he knew it all along.
If you’d like to be a part of “Ask Doug,” you can be! Just write me a message on my Facebook page, or send me an email at OversteerDoug@gmail.com, and I’ll be happy to look at your message and scoff while printing a letter from someone else.
Anyway, this week’s question is all about electric vehicles — specifically, where you should charge them. It comes to us from a reader I’ve named Roderick, who I’ve decided lives in Illinois. Roderick writes:
I was reading something about electric cars the other day that said that around 95 percent of electric-car charging is done at home, with one of those wall chargers you have to get an electrician to install in your home garage. But what if you live somewhere like an apartment, where your only choices are an underground garage or parking your car on the street? I seriously can’t figure this one out.
Roderick, you’ve asked an excellent question, and I think you’ve tapped into one of the biggest limitations of electric vehicles: They’re really only for people who have their own garages. And in many big cities across our great nation, very few people have their own garages. See the electric cars for sale near you
Here in Philadelphia, I don’t have my own garage. In fact, I only know about two people who do. My friend Peri, who lives in Atlanta, doesn’t have a garage — even though he owns a Toyota Land Cruiser and a Porsche 911. My friend David lives in New York and pays hundreds of dollars a month to park his car in a public garage, which isn’t ideal for charging. My friend Jim, in Colorado, lives in a charming condo in downtown Boulder and parks in a parking lot. I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea.
And so, Roderick, like you, I’ve often wondered: What exactly do you do if you don’t have a garage? How do you charge an electric vehicle?
This problem also vexed the City of Philadelphia, where I live, and so they thought about it, considered it, mulled it over and came up with a plan: If you own an electric car, you can get an electric-car-only parking spot installed in front of your home. I’m serious. If you have a Nissan Leaf, you can suddenly get private parking directly in front of your house. If you’ve ever seen “Parking Wars,” that A&E show about the Philadelphia Parking Authority, you probably know how amazing this is.
There are two problems, however. First, the parking spot isn’t just for you. It’s for any electric vehicle. I’ve toyed with the idea of getting a Nissan Leaf and parking it, randomly, in electric-vehicle parking spots commissioned by other people, just to upset them.
And then there’s the bigger problem, which Roderick has asked about: charging. Having an electric-vehicle parking spot in front of your house doesn’t really help you charge your vehicle.
To solve this problem, some people have installed chargers in front of their electric-vehicle parking spots. Because these chargers are personal to them, they’ve also installed lockboxes. So, there’s an electric-vehicle parking spot, free for any electric vehicle, but it really “belongs” to one person, and there’s a locked charger next to the spot hooked up to someone’s home electricity. I cannot possibly fathom a way for this situation to have been managed any worse.
Unfortunately, there really isn’t a better solution. If you rent an apartment, you might be able to convince your landlord to install an electric-vehicle charger, but you might not. Put one in yourself, and you lose charging privileges when you move, as well as the money you spent on it. Park in a garage that doesn’t have assigned spaces, and your charger could be used by anyone. Street park, and you’re completely screwed — unless, of course, you live in Philadelphia and can get an electric-vehicle parking spot placed in front of your house.
So here’s my solution, Roderick: Find a free public charger, and leave your car there. Then, every time you plug it in for the night, take an Uber or a taxi home to your apartment. If you forgot something in your car, well, you’ll soon become Uber’s best customer. Welcome to the future of the automobile. Find an electric car for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.
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