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Study Finds Lack of Uniform Signage Poses Obstacle to Public Charging Networks

¶Motorists tend not to dwell on a traffic sign’s quality until they are forced to, such as after missing a poorly marked highway exit or getting a parking ticket in a spot where the violation is unclear. Drivers of electric vehicles face additional challenges as they hunt for charging stations or designated parking from city to city, a problem reported on recently in The Times.

¶A lack of uniformity among these signs may ultimately limit the usability of the public charging network, according to a new report from Ecotality, the electric-vehicle infrastructure company. The report is based on Ecotality’s experience managing the EV Project, a federally financed electric-vehicle infrastructure program.

¶Since 2010, Ecotality has installed about 8,000 public and private charging spots, primarily in San Diego, the Pacific Northwest, Arizona and Tennessee, according to Jonathan Read, the company’s chief executive. The company also expects to place chargers over 18 metropolitan areas in six states and the District of Columbia, he said in a recent telephone interview.

¶In each of the regions, Ecotality has assembled an advisory committee to deliberate on topics like signs with representatives from government agencies, utility companies, commercial property owners and E.V. advocacy groups.

¶The challenge, as described in the report, is that unlike the federally mandated markings for handicapped parking, local municipalities generally make their own decisions about signs relating to E.V.’s. And because many public charging spots are on private property, such as at shopping malls or retailers’ parking lots, property owners tend to choose signs based on their own motivations.

¶Property owners with charging stations tend to fall into two camps, according to the report. Some owners consider the type and placement of signs as an opportunity to publicize their commitment to zero-emission vehicles. These parties favor highly visible signs. Others, however, want to ensure full use of their parking spaces by all types of passenger vehicles and consequently prefer what the study calls “less vigorous signage.”

¶The study’s authors also observed a variety of methods for penalizing drivers of internal-combustion cars who park in spots reserved for E.V.’s.
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