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Tip of the ICEberg: Questions about EV charging stations

By Mark C. Ode | Jun 14, 2024
ev charging area
As I travel around the country doing workshops, I have observed an interesting phenomenon in electrical vehicle charging stations in many commercial parking areas.

As I travel around the country doing workshops, I have observed an interesting phenomenon in electrical vehicle charging stations in many commercial parking areas. As you may have noticed, many EV charging stations offer more convenient access to stores, office buildings and other structures than normal parking spots. They often have signs restricting parking to only EVs.

Compare these to disabled parking spaces, which are usually next to EV charging spots. Disabled parking spaces have signs restricting their use to people who have either permanent or temporary disabled placards or plates on their vehicles, and the signs clearly indicate that if a person with neither parks there, it’s a violation of law and can be punished with a fine. Even so, I’ll occasionally notice a car parked in a disabled parking space without any of the right placards or plates. 

The phenomenon

What has amazed me recently are the number of EVs parked at EV charging stations without an actual connection to the charger. The vehicles are obviously electric—Teslas, Bolts, Leafs and so on—but appear to be parked there more for the convenience of being close to the entrance than actually needing a charge. 

There’s also the question of plug-in hybrid vehicles. My wife’s Prius, for example, is a hybrid and has a charging port with a portable cord. It takes about 4 to 5 hours to charge at 120V for an approximate driving distance of 25 to 28 miles, and then has an internal combustion engine (ICE) for any remaining mileage. I am not sure if the Prius, which is not totally electric, could park in any of these charging spots, even if it were plugged into the charger. I would need clarification on the law before actually using one of these spots. If she were to park there, would she be taking the place of a vehicle that truly needs to be charged? 

More than 20 states have laws that permit only EVs to park in these spaces, and a fine can be levied on gasoline-powered motor vehicles parked there. A word has even been coined for gasoline­-powered vehicles parking in EV spots—“ICEing.” 

Many of those states have a $350 fine (at minimum) for parking a gasoline-powered vehicle in an EV charging station, but I am aware of no fee for EV owners parking in those areas without actively charging their cars. 

In some parts of Australia, the fine for gasoline vehicles in EV spots can range from $369 to $3,200, but these same fines also apply to people who park their EV in those spots without plugging the vehicle into the charger. 

Code questions

Now that we have discussed parking at charging stations, let’s look at Article 625 in the 2023 National Electrical Code for specific coverage of receptacles in EV charging stations. Ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection for personnel is required by Section 625.54 for all receptacles installed for the connection of EV charging. 

Since the text does not differentiate between dry or wet locations and does not specify a voltage or amperage, the requirement is for GFCI protection for all receptacles. In addition, 625.56 requires all receptacles installed in a wet location for electric charging to have an enclosure that is weatherproof with the attachment plug cap inserted or removed. An outlet box hood installed for this purpose must be listed and identified as extra duty. In other words, heavy duty, to protect against damage and abuse more than a normal cover would. 

If another product, type of enclosure or assembly providing weatherproof protection for the receptacles is not using an outlet box hood, then extra duty is not required. In 625.60, AC receptacle outlets used for electric vehicle power equipment off-board charging must be listed; rated at not greater than 250V, single-phase; and not larger than 50A maximum. 

Section 625.60(C) states that “Electric vehicles provided with receptacle outlets for power export must be provided with overcurrent protection integral to the power export system and the overcurrent protection must have a nominal rating sufficient for the receptacle it protects. The overcurrent protection must also be sufficiently rated for the maximum available fault current at the receptacle and shall be included in the interactive equipment evaluation.”

It’s obvious there are real questions surrounding EV charging stations, in regards to parking laws and ensuring the charging system is safe, that may require further coverage and clarification. 

stock.adobe.com / Aquir / Mark

About The Author

ODE is a retired lead engineering instructor at Underwriters Laboratories and is owner of Southwest Electrical Training and Consulting. Contact him at 919.949.2576 and [email protected]

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