Austin considers protecting owners of electric vehicles

February 20, 2014
Chevy Volt charging station

Austin is looking to prevent motorists with fossil-fuel cars from parking in front of charging stations like this one. From .

It happens regularly in Austin: owners of electric vehicles (EV) pulling up to a charging station on public property and finding it occupied by a gas guzzler. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but there are only 72 spots in the city where EV owners can charge up.

“Cars that are habitually in the space, people have left notes, but there’s no future in that,” Michael Chamberlain, who drives an EV, told the press.

For now, EV owners have no recourse, but that may be about to change. Last week the city council passed a resolution to look into the matter. It may become illegal for drivers of so-called “normal” cars to park in dedicated EV-only spaces. Soon lawbreakers could be issued tickets or have their cars towed.

The potential changes would be in line with city and state policies that aim to support alternative fuel vehicles (AFV). Already there are a host of regulations and incentives that encourage EV ownership and alternative fuel usage. Anyone who buys an AFV or EV, for example, can receive a rebate of $2,500 from the state, and in the capital, Austin Energy, the country’s eighth largest publicly owned utility, offers a 50 percent rebate towards the purchase and installation costs of electric vehicle supply equipment.

Allocating charging stations on public property to EVs has been part of the city’s efforts, which appear to be working. In 2010, Austin had just 144 EVs on its streets. Today the city counts roughly 1,000, says Karl Popham, a spokesperson for Austin Energy. Sales have increased 300 percent annually.

But the city may need to do more. Other types of spaces that are designated—in Austin, those for the handicapped or for Car2go and Zipcar users—carry some kind of threat to anyone who would park there illegally. If you slide into a Zipcar-only spot, for instance, and you’re not parking a Zipcar, then Austin police can issue you a $30 citation.

The city’s consideration of new laws for EV-only spots has the support of at least one “normal” car motorist. “The whole purpose of that spot is to encourage people to use electric vehicles,” says Austin resident Ric Sternberg.

Charging stations at privately owned locations such as Wal-Mart or Whole Foods would be exempt from any laws passed by the city. How they manage their EV-parking spots is managed is up them, said the council.

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Category: Green Parking, Regulations

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