DeLune and his ilk, the 1%, thinks very differently than the 99% — those whose cars are powered entirely or partially with fossil fuels. The 99% drive pretty much worry free because gas stations are pretty much everywhere. But the 1% act differently. They download popular smartphone apps to pinpoint the nearest charging station, and still they nearly always worry about whether they have enough power. On the freeways, in the HOV lane, they are less likely to exceed the speed limit because it drains the battery faster. The result is they slow HOV-lane traffic and are drawing the ire of the gasoline-powered HOV lane occupants, not just those who never liked the free pass battery-powered and hybrid vehicles got in the first place.
Competition is fierce for these free charging spaces because they are thinly spread among convenience stores, malls, parking garages and lots. ChargePoint, one of the larger charging networks, has grown from 5,254 ports at the beginning of 2012 to more than 15,000 now. A person starts charging a car on that network every 10 seconds. Compounding the availability problem is that even some chargeable hybrid owners take advantage of free power, making it even tougher for the battery-powered cars. Getting something for nothing is probably a universal human trait.
Now however, a solution might be in sight: Nothing new, just the price system. In the past year, ChargePoint says the number of free ports on its network shrank from 80 percent to roughly two thirds. And a further decline is likely. Pasquale Romano, ChargePoint’s CEO told the Register, “If you talk to me in six months, it’s probably going to be 40 (percent).” The number of charging stations could grow faster if their owners were able to offset some of the costs, break even, or even make a profit.
And Tesla is coming to the rescue of its affluent owners. It’s building a network of proprietary charging stations that will only serve Tesla vehicles. A bonus is that wait times for a full charge are drastically reduced — to about a 150 mile range in 30 minutes, something that could take as much as 10 hours at a low-power station. The hoi-polloi driving cheaper electric cars will have to seek other solutions. And Tesla owners will be back in the HOV lane, so to speak.