Take this news story from Georgia as an exhibit A on what I mean.
Electric car owner Kaveh Kamooneh was arrested at his home after police filed a report on a complaint of stealing what amounts to 5 cents worth of electric power that he used to recharge his vehicle, according to reports.
While picking up his 11-year-old son from a Saturday tennis game at Chamblee Middle School in Chamblee, Georgia, Kamooneh plugged his car into an exterior power outlet of a school building. The electric car, a Nissan Leaf, had been plugged in about 20 minutes, which was estimated to be enough time to absorb about $.05 worth of power.
Moments later, a Chamblee police officer told Kamooneh that he would be written up on the spot for electricity theft.
About 11 days after the officer wrote him up — and after the department confirmed he hadn't asked anyone's permission — a pair of deputies arrested Kamooneh at his home. According to public records, he spent some 15 hours in the county jail before his release.
Chamblee police, perhaps feeling a little defensive for throwing someone in jail over a nickel's worth of juice, told media outlets that a crime is a crime, and stealing is still against the law.
The first thing I thought after reading this story was you probably wouldn't see something like this happen in a northern state like, say, Minnesota. People there are much more used to having to plug their cars in there, albeit for a different reason.
In interviews, Kamooneh compared his "offense" with sipping water from a public water fountain. Granted, a drinking fountain is only meant for sipping from — but how about people who fill up their mugs or water bottles? Maybe they're taking more than the property owners meant. How many cents could it cost to fill an empty bottle?
If you want to compare apples to apples, just consider other, smaller battery-powered devices. People often top off their laptop or smartphone batteries at electric outlets that they don't pay the bills for. In fact, some venues and businesses provide charging kiosks for customers just as a service. The only difference is size, and an electric car is obviously bigger and more power-hungry than an iPhone.
Drivers are adopting electric vehicles slowly but steadily — and they're doing so despite the fact that in many places the charging infrastructure is not yet there. A situation like the one in Georgia illustrates this problem perfectly, and it makes you wonder. How understanding are people going to be toward those who leave gasoline behind and fuel their commutes and trips with electricity?
Will people figure a few cents is just a few cents, or will people start to get more territorial about their power? I think in a lot of cases, electric vehicle owners will look out for one another while on the go, but what about those who aren't early adopters?
Kamooneh's unfortunate run-in with the Chamblee police is an extreme case, sure. But I'd be willing to be we will see more stories like this. Business owners and property managers could be set for clashes with power-seeking EV drivers — at least until we establish some electric vehicle etiquette for better relations between EV drivers and everybody else.