‘Man Bites Dog’ – JVH Right About ‘Free’ EV Charging and Parking
John Van Horn
It is so seldom that my predictions come true that when it happens, it’s truly a “man bites dog” story. In this case, the topic is electric vehicles (EVs) and “free” parking and charging. It deals with Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), and was reported Jan. 4 in The Wall Street Journal (“LA Yanks Plug on Free Parking for Electric Cars”).
For those of you living in enclaves and not reading Parking Today, let me bring you up to speed. I believe that if you want to buy an EV, you should go for it, but that it isn’t up to the government to subsidize your transportation.
I have noted that giving free parking to electric vehicles, or worse, free electricity, would cause a score of problems, not to mention substantial costs to the parking facility owners and public relations problems when things went bad.
This brings us to the article in the WSJ and LAX.
LAX, it seems, has been giving free parking in its most expensive lots ($30 a day) to EVs and hybrids. This came about more than a decade ago, when California mandated that car manufacturers develop EVs. Then it was basically forgotten.
However, of the approximately 40,000 electric vehicles in the U.S., a quarter of them are in Southern California, the WSJ reported, and many of those folks fly out of LAX. Therein turns the tale.
The airport has 38 charging stations and says that chaos ensues around them. People hook up their cars to charge and then leave for a week. Others then try to use the stations by unplugging the cars and using extension cords to charge their vehicles. Complaints about not being able to charge – for free, mind you – are legend in the EV community, and they are demanding e-valets to move cars around the chargers, for free, of course.
LAX officials realized that if 100 electric vehicles and hybrids show up, they lose $1 million a year in revenue, and the numbers go up and up. They simply can’t afford to give away free parking. “But the airport announced on its website … that electric-vehicle drivers will have to start paying normal parking fees in March, and began leaving warning fliers on parked electric cars,” the WSJ reported.
The result is that EV owners are very angry – many bought their cars simply for the free parking:
“That was a huge reason why I bought the car in the first place,” said Jack Luu, a 35-year-old Santa Monica, CA, postproduction company executive, whose car qualifies for free parking for up to a month at a time in two of LAX’s most convenient – and costly – short-term lots.
Other than that, he said his ride is “expensive, underpowered and not really all that green,” because it can run just 12 miles on electricity before switching to gas.
The WSJ article goes on to note that many localities, including the city of London, have revoked free EV parking and caused major PR problems.
Many of California’s new electric-car owners said they, too, were counting on the free airport parking, the article said. I just love these two:
Alan Howard, an LA dentist, who said he has been able to find a charging spot only once since he bought a Nissan Leaf last year, said that making electric drivers pay for parking isn’t the answer.
“I love it free, but they need to have some kind of system,” he said. “Maybe a valet who can move the cars around.”
Jack Sheng, an e-commerce-company owner, who bought a Nissan Leaf last year, said electric vehicles should be able to park free in all eight lots, not just the two with charging stations.
“If they’re trying to get people to drive ‘green’ cars and reduce the pollution, shouldn’t the policy be applicable to the whole terminal?” said Sheng, miffed that he had to pay to park recently while picking up a friend from an international flight.
One is “miffed,” another “loves it free.” We only bring it on ourselves. I’m not particularly happy in being “right” about this. It’s not great wisdom or high science. It’s just, as one pointy-eared science officer might say, “logical.”
John Van Horn is Editor of Parking Today. Contact him at
Article Abstract from February, 2013