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For Free Public Charge Sites; An Idea to Encourage Others to Plug In Your Car

tps5352

Active Member
Supporting Member
I only recently started using free J1772 (AC; ~32-amp) charging sites around town. (Emphasis on the word "free.") ( Note: These are locations with more parking spaces then charging cables. Or maybe some chargers are busted.) Whether going to a movie or my local gym, it's great receiving a supply of electrons for 2-3 hours. So much so, that with my normally modest driving needs I've been able to almost eliminate most at-home charging.

With this has come the need to learn proper charging etiquette--specifically whether or not to disconnect an adjacent car that seems finished. Because sometimes it's not.

As numbers of free-chargers are usually limited, and some cars (surprisingly, Teslas) and individual charging devices may not always reliably/clearly indicate to people other than the driver if and when charging is complete, I've learned to be appropriately cautious. However, I've found that at least where I live people are often nice and will plug you in when they are finished if you give them the opportunity.

Some folks use post-it notes. But I developed this little reusable sign:

Audrey - 3.jpg

At my local full-service packaging/shipping store I had it printed out (two-sided; same whimsical image on both sides; black to stand out against my white car; at roughly half the size of a standard piece of paper) and laminated in clear plastic. I then used their paper punch to make two holes on the upper corners (indicated in the image). I found some soft, flexible nylon cord (shoelace would do) to tie on.

So now, if I pull into a stall and the chargers are in use, I:
  • open my charge port,
  • insert my Tesla J1772 adapter,
  • hang the sign on the adapter, and
  • go about my business (e.g., shopping, exercise, movie).
So far so good. More often than not, a nice person returning to their car will take a minute to plug me in. Since wind can blow the sign off, I weigh it down with (four old-time) wooden clothespins. (Any small clamps would suffice). I make a point of saying hello to other people charging, also. Appropriate levels of interaction probably helps. And naturally, if I am done and I see a car waiting to plug in, I will do so if I can safely attach the plug. (Which is not always the case. Charge port doors that only open with the key-fob present are both good and bad.)

Just thought I would share what so far has proven to be a friendly way to share the charging love among electric and plug-in hybrid drivers where I live. (Obviously, this might not work in more 'troubled' areas. Appropriate caution should be exercised.)
 
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I think the OP inserts it and leaves his vehicle. It stays locked to the car.

Tesla drivers at my work must do that to get in the queue for J1772 so that others or our attendants plug them in once nearby vehicles finish.

For all other vehicles, the signal to plug me in is to leave your charging door open.
This imply that you have been able to park your car next to the car currently using the free charger.

Unless there are two EV spots reserved for each free charger,
or unless there is an attendant and you leave your car key (I mean Tesla card)
to te attendant allowing to move both the car using the charger and then your car,
I don't see how someone else could plug your car.
 
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tps5352

Active Member
Supporting Member
Yes, that’s right, cwerdna.
  • At least two parking spaces share one charger.
  • I leave my J1772 adapter “locked” in the charge port. (I hope it stays there.)
  • Sign may be unnecessary, but just a ‘cute’ reminder.
  • Other brands of cars do not need a J1772 adapter and may not be able to leave port door open?
I am relatively new to public charging, so I’m not sure how it works everywhere or in all circumstances. (I’m in Davis, California.) Also, this wouldn’t be possible at paid, CCS1, or Supercharger sites, I assume.

For parking where there is an attendant, if there was charging could it be left in valet mode? (Is that possible?)
 
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  • Other brands of cars do not need a J1772 adapter and may not be able to leave port door open?
As someone at work (in California) who had virtually every make of EV/PHEV sold in the US show up before COVID, VERY few EVs/PHEVs have self-closing charging doors like Tesla Model S and beyond. Almost every make and model lets you leave the charging door open and it will stay open.

As for reachability, at posted at Chevrolet Bolt & Bolt EUV - Page 206 - My Nissan Leaf Forum about the downside to my former Bolt's driver's side front fender inlet location vs. Leaf along w/crude diagram at . There's more explanation in that post.

Essentially, all 10 spots in my Leaf, I could pull nose into. On Bolt, I had to decide based on what was available whether to pull nose in or back in. A and B are dual handle CT4000 (https://www.chargepoint.com/products/commercial/ct4000) units at work. So each unit can charge 2 cars at a time and can reach 4 to 6 parking spaces. With former Leaf, nose in, cable from A could reach spaces 1 2 3 4 5 and 7. B could reach 2 4 and 5 thru 10.
 
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tps5352

Active Member
Supporting Member
As someone at work (in California) who had virtually every make of EV/PHEV sold in the US show up before COVID, VERY few EVs/PHEVs have self-closing charging doors like Tesla Model S and beyond. Almost every make and model lets you leave the charging door open and it will stay open...

Let me ask this of the experienced drivers:

Some (most?) electric cars I've seen at public charge locations indicate whether the car is actively charging with a (often blinking) light located somewhere visible (e.g., at the charge port, on the dash, etc.).

While Tesla cars similarly have a lit "T" (e.g., Models 3 and Y) or colored light encircling the TPC port opening (Models S and X), I was surprised to learn that these lights normally shut off when the owner walks away with the "key," even though the car continues to charge. This means that another driver cannot tell from the Tesla itself whether it is actively charging.

Now the public Level 2 wall connector (e.g., ClipperCreek is popular in my area) should have a light indicator, but I've found that with use these may be 'burned out,' though the connector itself continues to function.

So again, other drivers can not always tell when a Tesla car is actively charging; correct? Am I missing something?

Unless I am somehow sure that a Tesla next to me at a Level 2 site is done charging, I will no longer unplug it and use the cable. Instead I use my sign and hope that the Tesla driver will plug me in when they return.
 
On the first part yes, but there can be plenty of confusion. Kias (for sure Niro EV since I drive one now), I believe Hyundai BEVs, FCA EVs and PHEVs (at least the 500e and Pacifica Hybrid aka PacHy) and Leafs have a progress indicator. They have 3 or 5 LEDs to indicate how full they are while charging (e.g. 1/3, 2/3 in final 3rd or 20% increments for the 5 LED cars).

Page CH-33 of https://owners.nissanusa.com/conten...sanLEAF/2013/2013-NissanLEAF-owner-manual.pdf is Leaf's convention. '11 to '17 Leafs have 12 "fuel bars" for its "fuel gauge" which is why it talks about the segments.

Older Fords had a round inlet and a 4 segment ring indicating how full. Gen 2 Focus Electric added CCS1 support so the inlet area was no longer round so they went to a "bar graph" by the inlet.

For blinking vs. not, even GM didn't follow its own conventions and I can't speak to Hummer EV, for example.
gen 1 Volt and Spark EV: solid green = charging, flashing green = done
gen 2 Volt (2016 to final year) and Bolt EV: flashing green = charging, solid green = done

I've talked to GM drivers who are confused by this and GM old EV/PHEV drivers who are confused by Leaf's indicators since there will be one light blinking if charging. Some GM drivers don't know about the flip flip and incorrectly make assumptions about whether some other GM car is done or not.

On the newer GM vehicles, the number of blinks before the pause indicates how full they are. See page 241 of https://my.gm.ca/content/dam/gmowne...9-chevrolet-bolt-ev-owners-manual-english.pdf.

As for looking at a Tesla itself to tell if it's charging, there seem to be no surefire way. There's no guarantee the light on the outside will stay on/indicate anything nor that any screen on the car will be on to indicate charging, full or whatever. Best to look at the EVSE's status, if it's working.

When I use to use free public L2 charging and walk away for an extended period of time, I'd carry http://www.evchargernews.com/chargeprotocolcard.pdf and a paper clip. I still might have one of these in my car. Some people have a preprinted sign and also put up something like https://www.amazon.com/BAZIC-WILL-RETURN-Clock-Sign/dp/B00275EB2O.
 

tps5352

Active Member
Supporting Member
On the first part yes, but there can be plenty of confusion. Kias (for sure Niro EV since I drive one now), I believe Hyundai BEVs, FCA EVs and PHEVs (at least the 500e and Pacifica Hybrid aka PacHy) and Leafs have a progress indicator. They have 3 or 5 LEDs to indicate how full they are while charging (e.g. 1/3, 2/3 in final 3rd or 20% increments for the 5 LED cars).

Page CH-33 of https://owners.nissanusa.com/conten...sanLEAF/2013/2013-NissanLEAF-owner-manual.pdf is Leaf's convention. '11 to '17 Leafs have 12 "fuel bars" for its "fuel gauge" which is why it talks about the segments.

Older Fords had a round inlet and a 4 segment ring indicating how full. Gen 2 Focus Electric added CCS1 support so the inlet area was no longer round so they went to a "bar graph" by the inlet.

For blinking vs. not, even GM didn't follow its own conventions and I can't speak to Hummer EV, for example.
gen 1 Volt and Spark EV: solid green = charging, flashing green = done
gen 2 Volt (2016 to final year) and Bolt EV: flashing green = charging, solid green = done

I've talked to GM drivers who are confused by this and GM old EV/PHEV drivers who are confused by Leaf's indicators since there will be one light blinking if charging. Some GM drivers don't know about the flip flip and incorrectly make assumptions about whether some other GM car is done or not.

On the newer GM vehicles, the number of blinks before the pause indicates how full they are. See page 241 of https://my.gm.ca/content/dam/gmowne...9-chevrolet-bolt-ev-owners-manual-english.pdf.

As for looking at a Tesla itself to tell if it's charging, there seem to be no surefire way. There's no guarantee the light on the outside will stay on/indicate anything nor that any screen on the car will be on to indicate charging, full or whatever. Best to look at the EVSE's status, if it's working.

When I use to use free public L2 charging and walk away for an extended period of time, I'd carry http://www.evchargernews.com/chargeprotocolcard.pdf and a paper clip. I still might have one of these in my car. Some people have a preprinted sign and also put up something like https://www.amazon.com/BAZIC-WILL-RETURN-Clock-Sign/dp/B00275EB2O.

Excellent, thank you. I'd like to leave "Helpful," "Informative," and "Like" icons.
 
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How to quickly glance connected car to see if charging done - My Nissan Leaf Forum has a guide dating back to 2013. As I said, the entry there for Volt is correct but only for gen 1 ('11 to '15 model years). For '16 to final model year, it was the reverse.

https://www.kiatechinfo.com/files/328/5879/2022 Niro EV OM.pdf on page 1-26 has Niro EV's lights and for the purposes of charging status are identical to Leaf. If the link doesn't work, go to Manuals and select Niro EV, 2022.

At my work, we also kept a similar guide but it hasn't really been needed ever since COVID hit. Office attendance and charging usage is WAY down vs before. And, we now have attendants to go around unplugging finished cars and plugging in waiting ones. They go by the displays on our CT4000 EVSEs and by plate in Slack (someone wrote a bot to ping the driver from the plate but it has some issues/limitations).
 
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  • Informative
Reactions: tps5352
You know what would be really useful? If we made a small inductive loop in the hangers for these signs, responsive to a certain current amount (no idea how to tune that! I only know vaguely how to do that with voltage), that powers a small LED. "If I'm on, I need electrons" or something like that. The landscape of chargers, cars, and apps is too nebulous so something clear and unambiguous would go a long way for your idea.
 

tps5352

Active Member
Supporting Member
You know what would be really useful? If we made a small inductive loop in the hangers for these signs, responsive to a certain current amount (no idea how to tune that! I only know vaguely how to do that with voltage), that powers a small LED. "If I'm on, I need electrons" or something like that. The landscape of chargers, cars, and apps is too nebulous so something clear and unambiguous would go a long way for your idea.

Interesting. Meanwhile, I don't understand why Tesla has the indicator light (that shows that the car is actively charging) turn off when the driver (with key-car or key-fob) moves away from the car. Don't we want others (who could potentially disconnect the charging cable) to know our cars are actively recharging?
 

Earl

Member
Jan 22, 2014
693
967
USA
This used to be a big problem, before EVs had long range and fast charging was available.
Here's a blast from the past over 20 years ago when EV1 drivers did similar things to share the very scarce public charging infrastructure:
those original Inductive paddle chargers displayed the state of charge on them so folks knew how much charge a car had.\
Today, other than trying to grab free charging, there's little point and that tends to be a self-limiting pursuit:
I would like to caution, that over-using free charging tends to lead to the end of free charging. If a store or entity offers free charging, they generally intend it for the use of those who support them. It is seldom provided because someone wants to spend money putting in a charger because they want to give you free electricity. Its fine to use them while you support their establishment or when you need it on occasion but if people start using it regularly, they'll undoubtedly figure it out and often either start collecting payment or lock it up.
 
  • Informative
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This used to be a big problem, before EVs had long range and fast charging was available.
Here's a blast from the past over 20 years ago when EV1 drivers did similar things to share the very scarce public charging infrastructure:
those original Inductive paddle chargers displayed the state of charge on them so folks knew how much charge a car had.\

FWIW, just prior to COVID we stayed at a hotel in Oxnard CA that still had a free paddle type charging station. They also had a free J1772. I mentioned to the front desk that the paddle station was useless for any modern EV. To my knowledge they still haven't replaced it with something usable. (Not a big deal as the Oxnard Supercharger is just across the freeway.)

I have very mixed feelings about free charging. As with anything "free", it lends itself to abuse.
 

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