Angry Girl

Sunday 11th March 2012

It was a lovely day, again, so we decided we’d take a drive to Princeton. The back roads along the river are great and make for interesting driving.

Most of the parking in Princeton is either on street parking with parking meters or garage parking. We realised we didn’t have any quarters with us and, as there are only a small amount of free Sunday spaces available, we thought we’d try a parking garage with a charger, to test it out. We didn’t need to charge but thought it would be a good experiment to try now whilst it wasn’t a necessity.

We used the ChargePoint app to locate a garage nearby. We found Chambers Street Garage off of Palmer Square. Driving in, we took our ticket and saw the space ahead of us. A huge SUV was parked in the next space, actually it was parked diagonally over the line into the EV space; we’d been partially ‘ICEd’. Luckily, the owners, a couple of guys and a woman, were at the back of the car, the engine was running so we figured they were just arriving or leaving.

Michael politely asked if they could move their vehicle over so that we weren’t forced to park ours into the path of other vehicles – it was an end spot. He said (not asked), “Why should we.” So Michael left it at that and proceeded to park in the EV space. But then, the same guy who didn’t want to move his SUV, said that we had to tell the attendant that we wanted to park here and get their ChargePoint card. This seemed odd, why should the guy parking his car know about the charge spot? Michael got out of the car and was confronted with the side exhaust of the SUV blowing straight into our car! He asked them if they would mind switching off as it was a tight space – there was no where for the exhaust gas to go but in our car!

One SUV guy left his friend at the car and went around to the front of our car, Michael was a little puzzled and asked the SUV guy who he was? The SUV guy confessed that he was the weekend manager of the garage and so knew what he was talking about. He then produced the garage card and without giving Michael enough time to digest what was going on, swiped the garage card. “We have our own card, we don’t need yours.” said Michael, “It’s a ChargePoint unit and they can bill me directly”. The guy was adamant, the cost for charging was an additional $3.00 on top of the parking charge. To be fair, this was a reasonable deal, especially if you are charging all day. We were only going to be an hour but we were okay with that – this was an experiment and we appreciate that there are costs involved in maintaining the EVSE. Although, for simplicity and consistency, it really should be charged through the individuals ChargePoint card rather than the garage charging it themselves after the fact. This leaves a great deal open to interpretation.

We were just about to leave the garage and go for a wander around Princeton when Michael, wanting to get his stuff out of the car, again asked the SUV guy to switch off his engine. As a courtesy – something to help the environment as well as the guys pocket. Michael also reminded the guy that it’s illegal in New Jersey to idle your car for longer than three minutes – he could get into trouble. It had been a lot longer than three minutes plus, the car was full of children bouncing around – idling car and kids playing without any adults inside the car – not a great mix right?

The SUV guy took offense to this and asked us to “mind our own business” and “no it’s not illegal to idle” and “he works with the police all the time and they’ve never told him that!” and so on. Michael assured him that it was illegal and how harmful it is to leave your car idling, for everyone and even the car. The guy was adamant that he wasn’t doing anything wrong and started to get rather (read very) angry with us. He was not prepared to listen so I suggested to Michael that we should take the car and go elsewhere. SUV guy then stopt us and told us that we were no longer welcome, that we could not charge here and that we had to leave! There we were trying to help clean up the air a bit, save the guy from a ticket and we get told to leave. There was no politeness, just “get out now”. I’m speechless (which is unusual for me), how dare he speak to us that way? I do have to say that he hadn’t been very polite from the moment we arrived. I’m guessing that he knew that we were right, he just couldn’t or didn’t want to admit it. We unplugged the car and I tried to give the adapter back to SUV guy but he wouldn’t take it. I went to place it back but, because of the ridiculous angle of the EVSE, it made it impossible to see where it should go back in. Not wanting to hang around, I careful placed it on the ground.

— EVSE —

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment or EVSE is the proper name for what we usually call the ‘Wall charger’. In reality, the thing that actually charges the car is inside the cars electronics – the thing on the wall is responsible for safely controlling the flow of power to the cable and for making sure that there is actually a car on the end of the wire first. There is now, effectively, a standard for the conversation between the car and the wall box and the shape of the connector to ensure that, all being well, any electric car can be charged up at any EVSE. That standard is SAE J-1772, or ‘J-plug’ as it’s sometimes called.

There is another standard for hi-speed charging where the box on the wall, or more likely, the box at the side of the wall as these things are the size of a refrigerator, is actually a charger. This is called CHAdeMO. The ActiveE doesn’t support CHAdeMO which is a bit of a shame as the NISSAN LEAF and Mitsubishi i do and can charge their batteries to 80% full from empty in minutes rather than hours.

— Back to the garage —

We got in the car and left, but not before taking note of his number plate and a picture of the EVSE. We left the garage and Michael pulled over to the side of the road to call The Department of Environmental Protection. The chap on the other end was very happy to talk to us and took all the details. We’re not sure what happens now but we intend to find out. I hope SUV guy goes away and looks up Anti Idling in New Jersey, I think he’ll be surprised by what he finds!

If you want to read more about New Jersey’s Anti-Idling program, check their website at

Ironically, we were able to find a free parking space on a side road a moment away. As we got out of the car, four University students walked past, one of them said “That’s such a cool car”, to which Michael replied, “It’s a plug in.” “Wow, that’s even cooler” came the reply. That reminded us why we like Princeton.

Princeton is a great town to walk around with some lovely shops, it’s well worth a visit if you are ever down that way, just don’t go to Chambers Street Garage – there are some grumpy people there!

—> Fast forward to Wednesday night: On Monday we emailed both ChargePoint and Palmer Square Management regarding the incident; charge configuration and hapless manager. Coulumb responded in seconds (quite literally); they’re going to reach out to the garage to make sure that they’re using the EVSE in the most straight forward and simple fashion but, Palmer Square Management? Crickets.