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Getting a Charge

Last week, I bought a new plug-in hybrid Chevrolet Volt. I previously drove an all-wheel-drive Ford Edge because I was doing a lot of work in Pittsburgh, and the winter drive through the mountains from Washington, D.C. can be challenging. With that consulting contract winding down, I was primed for something much more economical but didn’t want to sacrifice comfort.

I looked at several hybrids and a couple of diesels, but the Volt seemed like the best option, especially because General Motors has spiced up incentives. With current tax credits, a $40,000 Volt can be purchased for well less than $30,000. After a week of in-town driving, I hadn’t spent a dime on gas, because I recharge every night. On the round-trip to Pittsburgh, I averaged almost 40 miles per gallon (mpg). The Volt handles much better than my Edge did, and because it’s a hatchback, luggage space for my wife and me was more than adequate.

The transition hasn’t been without its challenges, though. Places to recharge other than home are almost nonexistent–I couldn’t find a charging station in any of the parking garages I used. Charging seems like a great service for the growing number of customers with plug-ins, and it could be a money-maker for garage owners and operators. Why not reserve a small number of spots (next to handicapped spots, close to elevators?) for plug-in drivers? Why not advertise that your garage is “plug-in friendly?”

I’m convinced that many (if not most) of us will be driving something other than conventional, gas-powered vehicles within 10 years, especially if car manufacturers are going to meet federal corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Plug-ins such as the Volt seem to make a lot of sense because most trips are less than 50 miles and they can extend their range by switching to gas when necessary. Charging kiosks will, admittedly, be expensive to install, but the payback should be reasonable, and even with a surcharge for profit, most plug-in drivers would rather spend a couple bucks on a charge than $60 filling the tank.

Industry analyst Lisa Jerram estimates there will 150,000 public charging stations in the US by 2020. This looks like a great opportunity for folks in the parking industry.

About Dave Feehan

Dave Feehan is president and CEO of Civitas Consultants LLC and former president of the International Downtown Association. He is a member of IPI's Accreditation Committee and a frequent contributor to various professional journals. He is working on a new book, Design Downtown for Women - Men will Follow.


  1. Paul Wessel says:

    Enjoy your Volt, Dave. Among other things, I’ve been impressed with how zippy EVs are to drive.

    On public charging, there are lot more charging stations out there than people know of. For instance, according to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, a collaboration of the Dept of Energy, Clean Cities and the EV industry, there are 37 public and open charging stations in the District of Columbia itself. Check out the database at

    A number of apps, like Chargepoint, Plugshare and Recargo, help you find EV charging stations (typically drawing from the DOE database) and many parking apps now show the availability of EV charging stations too. Also, in-car navigation systems are increasingly integrating searches for EV charging stations.

    Finally, under the Green Parking Council’s Green Garage Certification program, garages will be recognized for their environmentally friendly practices, including offering EV charging. Look for the GPC Certified Green Garage plaque outside garages and there’s a good chance you’ll be able to juice up your car there. (For more info, see

  2. Henry Wallmeyer says:

    You make a lot of great points Dave. IPI’s Consultants Committee, as part of IPI’s involvement with the US Department of Energy’s EV Everywhere Workplace Charging Challenge, is working with the DOE to create an Electrical Vehicle Standards Outline that will be used as a standardization tool to guide parking professionals in the design and operation of garages and parking areas to accommodate and promote the use of EVs. And until we do get charging stations installed in more garages, the DOE has a web site that identifies the locations of charging stations all across the country:

  3. It certainly has been a “chicken or the egg scenario.” The lack of charging stations has impeded the purchase of electric vehicles. And parking facility operators/owners were not providing charging stations until more electric vehicles were on the road. However this is changing.

    This came to me courtesy of my friend Tom Soo Hoo of IPD in Alameda: The 2010 California Green Building Standards Code California Code of Regulations, Title 24, Part 11 has mandatory and voluntary provisions about this. Under the Non-Residential Mandatory Provisions (Table there is a requirement for about 8% of the parking to be designated for “LEV (low-emitting vehicle), FEV (fuel-efficient vehicle) and carpool/vanpool spaces.” Electric vehicle charging spaces (EVCS) would fall into this category. No mandatory requirement for electric vehicle charging stations anymore.

    Now the Code has these recommended voluntary provisions:
    – LEV/ FEV/Carpool/Vanpool spaces, 10% for Tier 1 and 12% for Tier 2 facilities.
    – Number of EVCS is based on the number of spaces per floor: 1-50 spaces, 1 EVCS. 51-200 spaces, 2 EVCS. 201 spaces and above , 4 EVCS.

    And where TCS International can help, our parking guidance technology can separately count and identify the EVCS and/or LEV/ FEV/Carpool/Vanpool spaces. This makes them much easier for the operator to manage and for the parker to find.

  4. Janice Legace says:

    Just wondering….I can understand placing handicapped spots near elevators and in close proximity to final destinations, but why the insistance on placing EV charging stations next to handicapped spots? They will be underutilized and will serve to taunt and tempt motorists. I feel it would be far better to place EV charging stations in less tempting areas.

  5. Liliana Rambo says:

    Dave, I am glad you wrote about your experience of being a new owner of an electric vehicle. I am considering purchasing one. You will be glad to know that the Houston Airport System is in the process of installing 39 Electric Vehicle charging stations, 24 will be installed at IAH and 15 at Hobby. I know these installations do not serve your immediate needs but we are listening to our customers and answering their plead.

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