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Lawmakers weigh penalties for blocking charging stations

Signs prohibiting parking by non-electric powered vehicles at marked charging stations are clearly displayed at the three individual units located near the Lacey Sears store.Proposed legislation asks to have parking fines levied against non-electric vehicles which park at charging stations similar to those issued for infractions in handicapped parking areas. (STEVE BLOOM)

A proposal in the state Senate threatens penalties for anyone parking a vehicle at an electric vehicle charging station without being connected to an electrical outlet.

If approved, the infraction would carry a $250 fine — the same penalty for parking illegally in a disabled spot.

Owners of electric vehicles say they often encounter gas-powered vehicles needlessly blocking charging stations. They call it getting “iced” — a play on the acronym for the internal combustion engine.

Kevin McMahon of Maple Valley has put more than 13,000 miles on his electric car since 2011. In that time, McMahon said he’s been “iced” multiple times — sometimes when the car’s battery was nearly dead.

“I’ve stopped at Fred Meyer to use their charger because my navigation system said the charger was available,” McMahon said. “But when I got there, it was blocked. Rather than wait there, since I have no idea how long the spot’s going to be blocked, I have to go to the next one.”

McMahon said the problem is compounded in some areas, such as Marysville, that have only one station in the whole city.

More Washingtonians may face those frustrations as electric-vehicle ownership grows. According to the state Department of Licensing, approximately 4,300 plug-in electric vehicles were registered in the state last year — more than twice as many as the previous year.

Jeff Finn, a member of the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association, said he thinks the proposed law would go a long way in raising awareness. He said he thinks there would be fewer issues if drivers realized blocking a charging station is no better than parking in front of a gas pump.

The proposal would require the charging station parking spot to be indicated with a vertical sign and the pavement marked with green paint.

Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, is the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5849, which was heard Tuesday in front of the Senate Transportation Committee.

Similar to other parking infractions, violations of the electric-charging station law would be policed by local law enforcement.



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