Beverly Hills Policy Change Follow-up

 

   


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Sunday April 15, 2018 Beverly Hills Policy Change Follow-up Two weeks ago I reported on the change that the City of Beverly Hills had made to their charger policy banning plug-in hybrids from using the city owned chargers.  I wanted to see the impact that it made on charger utilization and so I have been monitoring some of the charger locations to see how the change impacted charger utilization.

 

The reason for the change appears to be that pure EV drivers have been complaining that they could not get a charge when they  needed it because the chargers were being use by plug-in hybrids so the response was to ban plug-in hybrids from using the chargers.  They also added charging fees that would offset the cost of electricity and also make it very expensive to stay longer than 2 hours at the charger. 

 

The new policy went into effect on the morning of April 2 including new signage and flyers posted by the elevators warning of the change.  I visited one of my favorite charging locations about 8:30 on the first morning.  This would be the time that I would normally pick up my car after charging.  This location is one of those that has been updated from the old J1772 plus 110v outlet to the power sharing units with two J1772 connectors.  Three of the charging bays were in use but all three had PHEVs charging there.  The forth slot, which is also designated a disabled slot, was vacant..

 

Later that day I checked out a couple of other spots and I found only 1 EV, a Tesla actively charging.  I did come across a Honda Clarity Electric that was connected but apparently was full as there was no active charging.  There was a BMW i3 with range extender (not a battery only electric vehicle) charging and in all the location I checked there were available chargers.

 

Over the following two weeks I gradually saw the number of Plug-in hybrids diminish but these were not replaced with battery only  electric vehicles, they were replaced with empty charging bays.  PHEVs continued to charge at the chargers in ever diminishing numbers.  For the most part the ones remaining were those that were considered Range Extended electric vehicles like the Chevy  Volt and i3 REx although Yesterday afternoon I did see a Pacifica Hybrid charging at the Beverly Hills public library.

 

What I did see was BEVs continuing to treat these chargers as convenient parking spots.  On several occasions I came across one that was either not connected or connected but either full or on a timer so they were not actively charging.  Last Friday I checked out the charging station in the city owned lot next door to Whole Foods and both  charger slots were occupied by Teslas but neither if them were connected to the charger.  It was really frustrating driving home on Friday night with the gas engine running, knowing that there were loads of unused chargers and chargers being blocked by BEVs, but I wasn't being allowed to charge my car.

 

During the whole time that I was monitoring the chargers I did not see a single car with a traffic citation leaving me to wonder if I just hadn't been there at the right time, or if it was that the chargers are now fee based that was keeping people away.  In the past Beverly Hills traffic enforcement had never bothered to police the chargers which lead to a lot of abuse.  What I didn't see was hoards of BEVs using the chargers now that they are not being blocked by Plug-in Hybrids.  In fact I saw almost as many BEVs blocking chargers as I did actually charging.

 

While I am sure that the chargers no longer being free has an impact on the number of people using them, I do see people using more expensive charger options.  For example at Westfield's Century City they charge 96 cents per hour which for a typical PHEV is about 30 cents per KWhr v 25 cents per KWhr in Beverly Hills yet their chargers are almost always fully occupied.  Yesterday I visited Bristol Farms in West Hollywood.  The EVGo Level 2 chargers there are $1.50 per hour.  There was a Chevy Bolt charging there with one charger available, and a BMW i3 was using the DC fast charger. 

 

It looks to me like those BEV owners who were complaining about not being able to charge were really thinking that they deserved a free charge more than the PHEV owner.  It all depends on what your objectives are for having public chargers.  If it is to maximize the number of electric miles driven then clearly shutting out the cars that most need the charge is counterproductive.  If your objective is to be a lifeline so that battery only electric vehicles can have somewhere to charge if they stray beyond the point where they can get home, then the Beverly Hills new policy makes sense, but you are basically penalizing half of all Plug-in drivers because a few drivers made bad choices.  With the latest cars having ranges of well over 100 miles, and the ability to fast charge, then this seems to be a throwback to 1997 when range was limited and public infrastructure was rare. 

 

So what should Beverly Hills be doing.  First they should get rid of the stupid rule that bans plug-in hybrids from charging at their charging stations.  This will increase electric miles driven which benefits everyone.  They need to be more active in policing the chargers making sure that if there is a vehicle parked in the charging bay and not connected it gets ticketed and/or towed.  If they are really concerned about lack of charging for battery only electric vehicles they should consider adding some DC fast chargers.

 

They should leave the price structure in place.  Based on 4 miles of range per KWhr and gas in the area at around $3.39 per gallon, 25 cents is the equivalent of the cost to fuel an ICE car that gets 59 mpg which is about a wash for my Prius Plug-in but better for most people.

 

As for me, I've been burning more gas than usual but I have also being spending less than usual too since I no longer feel an obligation to do business in Beverly Hills.  Over the last 2 weeks I have spent approximately $100 less in Beverly Hills than I normally would have.  Some of this has gone to businesses in West La and West Hollywood, and some have just been reductions in spending from things like making my own lunch instead of buying lunch in Beverly Hills.  This all provides me with some savings that will offset the extra cost of gas.

 

Well, I am off to do some shopping in West LA where I anticipate spending around $150 - $200, about half of which would have been spent in Beverly Hills had charging been available for me there.


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