Kaveh Kamooneh says he was just trying to get a little juice while he watched his middle-school-aged son play tennis. Instead, he was arrested.
Kamooneh plugged his Nissan Leaf into a 110-volt outlet at Chamblee Middle School in Georgia, according to local news reports. Shortly afterwards, a police officer told him he would be charged with theft.
The all-electric car, which takes about 22 kilowatts for a full charge and would need about twenty hours to fill up from a 110-volt outlet, used about 4 cents of power during the twenty minutes it was plugged in, local utility Georgia Power told NBC News in Atlanta.
The police department and the school system stand by the arrest. According to the police department, Kamooneh “made no attempt to apologize or simply say, 'Oops,' and [that] he wouldn't do it again. Instead, he continued being argumentative, acknowledged he did not have permission and then accused the officer of having damaged his car door.”
Clearly, issuing the warrant was not just about electric-vehicle charging. The police department’s statement goes on to allege that Kamooneh wasn’t watching his son play tennis, as his son does not even attend that school, and was instead taking lessons himself despite being banned from using the school’s courts.
But back to car-charging. Although this a relatively bizarre case, the issue of access to charging is an important one for current and potential electric vehicle drivers. Ideally, people can find enough Level 2 or DC fast chargers that plugging in to 110-volt outlets anywhere and everywhere is not necessary.
The question of where those chargers are and who has access to them is just as important. One study has found access to fast charging is key to the adoption of EVs. The majority of charging is happening at home, anyway. For Nissan Leaf drivers without a 240-volt, Level 2 charger, it would indeed be challenging to simply find charge stations all day long if they were not provided at work.
If and when electric cars become a mass-market item, the issue of charging becomes more acute. Surely stores, restaurants and schools don’t want customers fighting over a 110-volt plug on the side of the building, even if the cost to the location is minimal. But many are also hesitant to shell out for the cost of a charger without knowing it will bring in some business.
In California, for example, the NRG charging network is simply putting in the infrastructure for 10,000 EV chargers, but not actually putting in the chargers until the location owner asks for one.
Even with some cities and states installing charging networks, for drivers like Kamooneh, it might not come as quickly as they would like. In the meantime, Level 2 home chargers will have to do.
And for those plugging in without permission, if you're approached by a police officer or angry business owner, maybe open with, “Oops, I won’t do it again."