Accessible Public Charging – what you need to know

Washington residents are increasingly purchasing electric vehicles (EV), with over 63,000 EVs registered. But not everyone has access to affordable electric vehicle charging. Foundational standards that facilitate an accessible, reliable and standardized experience will protect consumers and ensure the widespread transition to electric vehicles. 

Today, when filling up your car with gasoline, you know how much you will pay, and with what method, either cash or card. That’s because the gasoline fueling system is standardized. Yet there are no such standards in place for EV charging. And although EV charging is different, the experience should still be understandable, reliable, and accessible.  

Currently, the absence of standards means every charging experience can be very different and confusing. Consumers may unknowingly pay hidden fees, subscribe to memberships, or have to download certain apps before charging. They often experience inconsistent payment methods like having to use proprietary key fobs and cards. All this raises numerous consumer protection and equity concerns, putting Washingtonians at a disadvantage.

What does this policy do?

Washington State policymakers are considering legislation that would require the state to adopt a simple framework to protect consumers, standardizing the EV charging experience so that consumers can know what to expect when they charge their vehicles. Specifically, SB 5192:

  • Directs the Department of Agriculture to adopt standards for the sale of electricity sold as a vehicle fuel and electric vehicle fueling systems that ensure you receive the fuel you pay for.
  • Requires all costs at a publicly accessible charger to be clearly labeled to promote competitive prices and ensure consumers know what they are paying.
  • Directs the Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, and Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to determine minimum payment methods that are convenient and accessible to all. Payment methods may include credits cards and mobile payment options, and consumers will be able to access charging without the need for a membership with each charging provider.
  • Adopt standards for EV charging stations to promote reliable, accessible, and competitive markets as well as reduce the risk of stranded assets.
  • Allows the Department of Agriculture to establish reasonable fees and penalties on EV charging providers to cover their costs and enforce these standards.
  • Requires reporting on EV charger location, status, and payment methods to better understand the EV charging landscape, and support long-term planning in Washington.

Who is most impacted?

People who don’t have access to charging at home currently have the least access to reliable, and affordable public charging. These are often low to moderate income households, renters, folks living in apartments, and high-mileage drivers like those of Uber and Lyft. Supporting greater access to EV charging will help ensure more equitable access to EVs and their economic and health benefits.

New Labeling Requirements for Public EV Charging Infrastructure

When a person goes to a charging station, they should know what to expect. Pricing should be clear and transparent. This bill would allow the state to require multi-language labeling and price transparency to EV drivers.

Payment Method and Data Privacy Requirements

Paying to charge your vehicle should be as easy as paying for gasoline. An EV driver should not have to call an 800 number, download the app, or pay a membership fee to re-charge. Today, charging an electric vehicle is equivalent to having to use a different mobile application and payment method every time a customer refuels.

Through this bill, drivers would not need a membership, account, or subscription to start their charging session. It would also require charging providers disclose if they are collecting and selling your data.

New Reporting Requirements for EV Service Providers

Reporting on station location and data can help us map charging stations so that people know where they are. Requiring the station or charging provider to report information to the state will help with long-term planning and reliability and build overall trust in the charging network.

Leading by Example

As Washington adopts accessible public charging policies, the state can be an example of how a streamlined EV experience can make a positive difference for drivers. In 2013, California passed Senate Bill No. 454, which created the Electric Vehicles Charging Station Open Access Act. This act ensures people have multiple payment options that work for them. It has removed the need for a subscription fee or membership fee to charge an EV in California. It requires two general options for payment and has streamlined the EV charging experience since. We are confident that if similar policies pass in Washington, it will have positive impacts on residents, and EV drivers will be protected.

The Benefits

We need a system that supports you and other drivers throughout the charging experience. EVs are lower cost to maintain and operate and, they put out zero tail pipe emissions and air pollution, protecting communities and folks living near major highway corridors. This bill is an opportunity for Washington to pave the way for a cleaner and more accessible energy future.

Link to accessible public charging bill: SB 5192

The first hearing is scheduled in the Senate transportation committee, for Tuesday, January 26, at 4 PM.  

This page will be updated with more information throughout the 2021 legislative session

Updated: January 25, 2021