Where can a girl get a charge?

Written by on December 16, 2013 in Cars and Chicks, Perspectives, Trends - 25 Comments

Krystyna Lagowski Ford Focus EVIf you’re an eco-friendly gal, the best way to go shopping is with an electric vehicle like a 2014 Ford Focus EV. So when Black Friday loomed on my horizon, I was very grateful that I had the Focus EV to tackle my rounds.

Inside and out, the Focus EV is as sweet a ride as all its Focus cousins, but with the advantages of an electric vehicle. The cabin is roomy and plush, with push-button ignition, a generous touchscreen and comfy seats. But wait! When you turn on the ignition, there’s nary a sound – complete silence. That is, until you pass a gas station, at which point you’ll hear yourself laughing. And on the dash, multiple readouts show how much battery power you’ve got, how efficiently you’re driving, and so on. The gear shifter is the same as any other Focus. It’s all simple, serene, and stylish.

Enjoying the smooth and quiet ride, my first stop was the Eaton Centre, where I knew the bargains would be fast and furious. As the Sheraton Centre was close by and had a couple of electric vehicle charging stations, I pulled in to the postage-stamp sized lot in front of the lobby. There were about 30 cars on this tiny speck of land, most of them in motion. That included taxis. No wonder the parking valets looked stressed.

But the real shocker came when the fur-hatted valet told me I’d have to pay a $48 flat fee to park and charge my car! That’s a lot of clams for about 20 cents’ worth of electricity. What was I paying for? The prime real estate at the corner of Queen and York Streets? I could have paid $2.50 per half hour at City Hall. But – I needed a charge. So I coughed up.

It should be noted here that only the Hydro utility can demand payment for the actual electricity, which is peanuts. Most organizations that ask to be paid for charging are usually trying to recoup the cost of the installation, which, according to Plug’n’Drive, may be from $5,000 to $10,000.2014 Ford Focus EV charging at Sheraton Centre

The guerilla valet squad quickly cleared away a non-electric SUV which was parked in front of the charging station, and I plugged in. It took me three minutes to walk over to the Eaton Centre, which was teeming with bargain-hunters. While in Sephora, trying on a new shade of lipstick, I was approached by a young TV reporter, who mistook me for an actual shopper. Her pitch was that having already spoken to some younger women, she’d like to get my take on Black Friday. When I seemed hesitant, she sweetened the pot – “you’ll be spending lots of money, right?” How she mistook me for a wealthy woman of a certain age, I’ll never know. I leveled with her, confessing that I was a journalist like herself, on assignment. And walked away from the lipstick, but quickly.

Back at the Sheraton, I was let off with a $15 fee, since I’d only been a couple of hours. As I was unplugging, a number of people approached me and peppered me with questions about the EV. How long did it take to charge? How far could it go? Was I nervous driving it?

As I finally drove away, I checked the dash – and there had been absolutely no charge! When I got home, I called the Sheraton, and they were most apologetic. Fortunately, I’d had just enough hydro to get home and plug in.

On Sunday, I headed up to Yorkdale Mall. This mall is notorious for its chaotic and lawless parking lots, where it’s every driver for herself. As I pulled into the underground parking lot, it was easy to spot the Yorkdale Green Zone electric vehicle parking. Signs clearly stated “Electric Vehicle Parking, only while charging.”

Yet – there were four non-electric vehicles squatting in the spaces – a Toyota Camry, a BMW, a Ford SUV, and a Mercedes SUV.

I found a non-charging parking spot for the Focus EV, and darted up the stairs. The mall was lousy with security guards among the shoppers, and I asked one of these Yorkdale staffers what was going on. After all, I had a Ford Focus EV, and should be able to charge my vehicle in an appropriate spot. The guard told me that they would ticket the offenders, but that was all.

Yorkdale is also home to Canada’s only Tesla store, so I dropped in and asked them where their customers charge their vehicles. One of the Tesla product specialists explained that they had five charging stations dedicated to Tesla in the same parking area as the Yorkdale Green Zone. And apparently, they didn’t have problems with non-Tesla vehicles mooching the spots.Tesla charging station

I went downstairs and saw the Tesla charging spots, clearly designated “Tesla” in bold letters. Black stanchions marked the area, which may be why there were three Tesla Model S cars and two empty spots – yes, empty. How did they do it?

The next day, I called Yorkdale Mall and left a message with their marketing and public relations people. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear back. This is the same mall that had declared in February 2013 that environmental leadership is a priority, and that all electric vehicle drivers should be able to plug and charge their vehicles at their convenience. Incidentally, Yorkdale charges $2.00/hour for parking at the charging stations.

According to Plug’n’Drive, there are approximately 1,500 connectors at 1,000 stations in Canada. There’s no law regulating the use of chargers, so vehicles can’t be towed. Is the Green Zone at Yorkdale just a greenwashing opportunity?

I hope not.

Fuelling the EV

25 Comments on "Where can a girl get a charge?"

  1. Cassi December 17, 2013 at 3:17 am · Reply

    I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a electric vehicle charging station in person. Without vehicles hooked up to it I doubt I’d even know what it was.

    That sucks that their charging station didn’t work but at least you made it home OK!

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 18, 2013 at 2:52 am · Reply

      Cassi, I’ll bet you could spot an EV charging station pretty easily – they’re usually very clearly designated, like the ones in my video. And I’m sure you’d be much more discreet about not parking there, either : ))

  2. Jeri December 17, 2013 at 4:01 am · Reply

    I saw a few charging spots in Charlotte, but now that I’m back in Idaho, I’m sure the local farmers would be ready to blow up any such devices that might crop up outside of the Boise city limits. Someday, I hope I can go electric, but it’s going to be awhile before doing so will be convenient and affordable.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 18, 2013 at 2:55 am · Reply

      For sure, Jeri, these aren’t always welcome! I have a feeling you’re right about the farmers in Idaho 😮 Eventually we will all have a choice about what kind of vehicles we drive, whether electric or gas, but it will be a long haul. Until then, I’m going to fill up at home!

  3. Doreen Pendgracs December 17, 2013 at 2:13 pm · Reply

    Interesting how the world of e-cars has created a whole new set of challenges! Desperate parkers stealing the charging spots! How dare they? All kidding aside, thanks very much for educating me about the world of electric cars. I live in the country and do a tremendous amount of driving, so an e-car won’t work for me at this time, but maybe in the near future … Cheers & Season’s Greetings!

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 18, 2013 at 2:59 am · Reply

      Hey Doreen, so glad you finally made it! There are a lot of misconceptions about electric cars, and truth be told, a LOT of education to be done. People have to get used to the notion that there are other options besides gasoline cars, and change takes time. Think of all the money you could save on gas – it only takes about $1.00 to “fill” an electric car. However, until they extend the range, people who do a lot of driving – like yourself – can’t take advantage of that. So it’s a Catch-22.
      Happy Holidays ( and lots of choco) to you too!

  4. Patricia Weber December 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm · Reply

    My guess is until the electric and hybrid cars become more commonplace, there are going to be issues. Now, do those squatters get fined? Geez. Did they not know these were special parking places? Are they maybe dual purpose spaces, like handicap too? I hope so because that is just plain rude otherwise.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 18, 2013 at 3:03 am · Reply

      Patricia, if it’s private property – like it was at Yorkdale – all they can do is issue a ticket which is an impotent way of dealing with the issue. After all, the drivers of these cars were customers of the mall, and probably spending up a storm. So imagine how cheesed they’d be if there were repercussions. Anyways, in Ontario, it’s not illegal to park in a spot designated for EVs – just ignorant. Let’s hope this will change in the future.

  5. Susan Cooper December 17, 2013 at 7:33 pm · Reply

    I am seeing more and more charging stations go up in California. It certainly makes these kind of electric cars more attractive as long as you can find a spot and the fees aren’t to high… LOL. I will say that car is attractive.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 18, 2013 at 4:05 pm · Reply

      Susan, California is at the forefront of the EV world! It’s because of your very strict emission laws. So you’re less likely to have the problems I had, which is good. Now, if the rest of the world would wake up! And yes, it’s a very good-looking vehicle – basically looks like all its Ford Focus cousins : ))

  6. Arleen December 18, 2013 at 7:56 pm · Reply

    I think anything it takes a while to adjust. When I got a Diesel SUV, everyone said aren’t you afraid that you will not be able to find Diesel gas? It has never been a problem. I also have bluetech for emissions which you have to fill every 10000 miles if you don’t the car will not run. Just like charging you have to be aware.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 20, 2013 at 2:58 am · Reply

      Arleen, I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m guessing you have a Benz? Not a lot of diesel SUVs around, and the Bluetec gave you away. I understand that Bluetec maintenance gets expensive, too! Good for you for choosing diesel, it’s a lot cleaner than it used to be, and can give gas a run for its money …

  7. Pamela Heady December 18, 2013 at 10:11 pm · Reply

    I guess because other drivers see an open space they’re entitled to it regardless if it’s labeled as an EV, compact or handicapped spot. It irks me to see those people not following the rules. What do they achieve by that?

    Anyway, interesting story on your parking and shopping adventure. I am interested in going hybrid/electric too and I like Fords. It’s nice to know the Focus EV is like it’s other cousins! Happy Holidays!

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 20, 2013 at 3:01 am · Reply

      Until there are, as my mother used to say, “consequences,” people will park wherever they can. Human nature and all. Glad to hear you’re going the hybrid/electric route, Pamela. There’s so much choice out there. The Ford vehicles that I’m familiar with are all pretty solid.

  8. Niekka McDonald December 18, 2013 at 11:58 pm · Reply

    We have electric vehicle charging stations throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area and they are free. Our company actually recovers the cost from out tenants in the shopping centers we own. I want to buy my daughter a Ford Focus I thing it will be a good first car for her. I’m not sure about and electric one because I can just picture her stuck somewhere because she doesn’t charge her car.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 20, 2013 at 3:13 am · Reply

      Your daughter will do well by a Ford Focus. It’s one of the best selling vehicles out there. Wonderful to hear that you have free EV charging points in Dallas/Fort Worth – I wouldn’t think that oil country would be so receptive to the notion! Interesting that your company is involved in this initiative … Thanks for the comments!

  9. Oksana Frewer December 19, 2013 at 3:48 pm · Reply

    Just had a look in the Internet: here in France there are about 6000 charging points and they are growing day by day, but I personally haven’t seen any at the moment.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 20, 2013 at 3:04 am · Reply

      Wow! That’s a lot of chargers. France is doing better than Canada, and it’s a much smaller country. But then Europeans have always been ahead of the game, with more laws to encourage smaller engines, less pollution, decreased greenhouse gases, etc. Thanks for letting us know. WIth any luck, we’ll be catching up soon!

  10. Meredith Wouters December 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm · Reply

    Wow, I never appreciated until now how easy it is to get gas from a gas station. Who knew going green would take so much green (and energy)? I’m glad to find your blog, and I love it’s name! 🙂

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 20, 2013 at 3:08 am · Reply

      Aw, thanks for dropping by and your kind words. Yeah, the whole gas station vs charging station is a sticking point for electric vehicles. In Canada, it’s been largely left up to the private sector, which doesn’t have a lot of incentive because they can’t charge for the electricity. Sort of a Catch-22. Hopefully, that will change soon!

  11. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque) December 19, 2013 at 10:22 pm · Reply

    Thanks for this article. All electric vehicles haven’t been much on my radar and I don’t think I’ve seen any charging points here in Philly, but that’s probably because I hardly do any driving so I’m hardly ever looking for a parking space. So, I’m not going to be an early adopter. Our gas/petrol driven Toyota Camry is a 2003 and only has about 70,000 miles on it, so we won’t be upgrading for a while. I’m glad that dedicated environment aware people are blazing the trail for us.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 20, 2013 at 3:11 am · Reply

      Gosh, that’s pretty low mileage – sounds like you don’t do a lot of long distance driving. I’m sure there are charging stations in Philly, but if charging isn’t top of mind, you’re not likely to notice them : )) We need more dedicated environment people, as you say, to get a good network of connectors up!

  12. Michele Harvey December 22, 2013 at 8:24 pm · Reply

    I can’t imagine paying $48 to park my car, regardless of the circumstances. I am interested in learning more about electric cars since I know very little about them. Anything that’s good for the environment and economical is the way to go. I don’t drive very much since I am not the best driver and since my car is old but has little mileage, I’m hoping not to replace anytime soon. Interesting post.

    • Krystyna Lagowski December 23, 2013 at 11:19 pm · Reply

      Michele, you’ll be reading more about electric cars as they become more popular. And as the availability for charging – hopefully – broadens. If you don’t consider yourself to be the best driver, you may find that an electric car will be a good choice since it offers you a lot of feedback about your driving habits, ie how much energy you’re using as you drive, which makes ALL of us better drivers!

  13. Becc December 30, 2013 at 6:09 am · Reply

    I think you just gave me an idea of my next business venture!

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