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Charging your electric car at JBLM restricted by current laws

Northwest Guardian

Published: 12:01PM May 29th, 2014

As people become more environmentally aware, the popularity of electric vehicles grows. According to the International Energy Agency, worldwide sales of EVs doubled between 2011 and 2012, with the U.S. leading the world in sales and stock.

However, some policies and laws have not kept pace with evolving vehicle technologies. Department of Defense policy, for example, has not been updated to allow the sale of power from EV charging stations on places like military installations, officials in the Directorate of Logistics’ Environmental Division on Joint Base Lewis-McChord said.

Because of this, the only individuals allowed to recharge their EVs on the installation are those who live in base housing and plug in at home where they already pay for electricity. Otherwise, there is nowhere on JBLM where privately owned EVs are allowed to recharge, and there is no plan to change that.

“There is nothing afoot to install commercial charging stations on base,” said Paul Steucke, DPW Environmental Division chief on JBLM. “It’s not that I don’t have sympathy; I applaud those with electric vehicles. They are changing the culture, and we absolutely want to encourage that, but we’re restricted by rules.”

Although there are a handful of plug-in stations being installed on JBLM with places to swipe a credit card, they are for government vehicles only and are not set up to accept private payment; instead they require codes from authorized users.

Because of this, Steucke said that some have opted to bring their own extension cords and plug in to outlets. Using an outlet to charge your privately owned EV is considered stealing government property, even though there are no charging stations on JBLM.

“We are sympathetic, but can’t condone stealing power,” Steucke said.

Terry Austin, a sustainability coordinator at DPW, said that some rationalize powering up their vehicles by equating it to charging their phones at work, a common, widely accepted practice.

“Charging your phone and your vehicle are vastly different by order of magnitude,” Austin said. “It crosses a line.”

So why can’t the military set up free charging stations? “That would still be giving away government property,” Steucke said. “It would be free fuel, and there is currently no legal authority for that.”

Steucke and Austin said they would love to set up stations where people could swipe their credit cards for a charge, or even create a program for free charging stations, but without changing the laws and regulations, there is nothing they can do.

“I encourage people to lobby the politicians in their area,” Steucke said.

Chris Ward, an Army and Air Force Exchange Service spokesperson, said the Exchange has looked into setting up charging stations, but there was not enough demand to warrant their installation on JBLM.