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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Oregon Convention Center Making EV Charging Work


A few weeks ago, I went to the Oregon Convention Center for Comicon. I would have taken the MAX, but I knew they had charging there and wanted to drive my electric car. So they earned my business that day and parking revenue by having charging infrastructure.

I parked on the lower level at the EV charging station area. It was early and this area (along with most of the lot) was empty. When I returned in the afternoon, the lot was nearly (if not completely) full. There was a Chevy Volt next me me and two gas cars in the other two EV spots. There are only two EVSEs there; they are between spots so they can be shared. However, in this case, the Volt and my car were near one of the EVSEs and the two gas cars were near the other EVSE. This meant that the Volt could not plug in, it was ICEd.

I snapped a couple of pictures of the gas cars with my phone and stuck the images up on twitter with the #youcantparkhere #youdontplugin public shaming hashtags and some text saying where this was. Little did I know that these tweets would get the convention center's attention. I just talked to the Sustainability Coordinator at the Oregon Convention Center, Erin. They saw them and they were not happy about it. The  Convention Center put those spots in to support EVs, but they are, understandably  also trying to make money and fully utilize the parking structure.

Erin told me that they met with ECOtality to discuss this and find a solution. They are now making some changes to their EV parking layout. Currently, on each level they have 2 EVSEs and 4 EV parking spots. They are planing on moving the EVSEs to an assigned specific spot, rather than between two spots. They will clearly mark each spot as plug-in vehicle only with a ground stencil and a wall sign. This means there will only be 2 EVSEs and 2 EV parking spots on each level now. So EV will have less dedicated parking, but they will *not* direct gas cars to park there when the lot is near capacity as they have been doing in the past and likely did the day that I snapped those pictures. This removes some of the flexibility to share the EVSE (depending on the cord length), but it also means that the EV spots will not be ICE overflow.

I like the fact that they have charging there. As I said, it is how they earned my business that day. I also like the fact that they are trying hard to make it work. Erin also said that they want to have an open dialog with the EV community to discuss these issues. You can tweet them at @oregoncc if you want to discuss this or other issues. Let them know if you have ever used their charging stations and what you think.