Nissan LEAF Owner Arrested For Electricity Tells His Side Of The Story – And Where We Go From Here As A Community

DEC 27 2013 BY KAVEH KAMOONEH 74

On November 13, 2013, around 7 pm, I arrived home to find a police patrol car awaiting me. I was arrested in front of my two young children and my astonished wife and neighbors. I spent over 15 hours in jail. My alleged crime: stealing 5 cents of electricity for my electric car 11 days earlier from a publicly accessible outlet at a local middle school while watching my son play tennis.

*Editor’s Note:  Our thanks to Kaveh for taking the time to recount his story and pass along his first hand prospect of not only the events, but how we (as a wider community) should perhaps view and react to these kinds of events in the future.  You can check out our original report on the “electricity heist” here.

A diligent reporter from the local NBC affiliate, Doug Richards, got wind of the story and aired it on December 3. Within a few hours the story went viral, generating much discussion and even a couple of songs satirizing the police action on YouTube. Judging from the many write ups on the various sites and the posted comments to those stories, the general public overwhelmingly thought that I was the victim of over zealous policing. An internet poll showed that the margin in favor of that sentiment was better than 9 to 1. In a CNN segment, one of the two legal commentators suggested that civil rights charges be brought up against the police. The other, who is usually there to give the other side of the story, thought the police response was “absolutely absurd” (here). The solicitor responsible for prosecuting the charges reportedly laughed when my lawyer asked her what she was going to do. She dropped the charges.

Faced with the public backlash, the police chief, a day after the story went viral, issued a statement (here) claiming that my arrest on theft charges wasn’t really so much about theft, but more about me trespassing and having sassed up the officer on the scene. I had been previously told, according to his statement, not to come to that location and that I did not cooperate with the officer on the scene. I disputed all the material claims in the chief’s statement (here). Many of the subsequent media reports (e.g. here) contained both the police chief’s claims and my denials, leaving the readers to decide.

...and then it went viral

Things have a way of changing with something goes viral… (via NBC 11 Alive)

There were a couple of exceptions though. Faced with contradictory claims and without any further evidence, a few reporters simply took the police chief’s claims on face value and reported that I am a liar, ignoring that the only material claim in the case shown to be false so far is the police’s representation of the value of the electricity to the judge while obtaining my arrest warrant. They told the judge that I took $10 to $25 of electricity. Nothing unusual though, right? After all, there are a lot of bad journalists out there. But when you consider that the two most egregious offenders of this journalistic sin are reporters from sites devoted to green energy and EVs, an unexpected pattern emerges. (See the two articles here: CleanTechnica.com and AutoBlogGreen. Then compare them to the report in the conservative Heritage Foundation blog here, which calls the police “simple minded”.)

Similarly, in one of the very first reports on the incident (here), a spokesman from the local EV club, when asked about the incident, could only remark that I should have asked permission before I plugged in. He apparently didn’t hear what had been reported earlier in the same segment that the incident happened on a Saturday morning while no one from the school was there. Nor was his reaction like that of many others who, upon hearing the story, noticed that other uses of the school facilities impose comparable costs on the tax payers but don’t seem to require similar permission.

Reading the posted comments corroborates the same pattern. Commenters who identified themselves as EV drivers were quick to disassociate themselves from my “misbehavior,” ignoring that the only known transgression was that the officer on the scene had, by his own admission, entered my car and gone through my check book, apparently to find out who the owner was. I was no more than 60 feet away on the tennis court, my license plate and VIN were visible from outside the car and looking through the check book with my name on it did not end his searching my car. Marcopolo, a commenter on one of the sites and a self-identified EV driver, expresses satisfaction that the general public has shown “tolerance” of EVs, and goes on to comment:

caption here

“…our goal of electrifying our personal transportation system is a worthy one.”

 

I believe it’s very important for EV drivers to ensure EV’s [sic] maintain a good public image. It’s the general public who sponsor much of the supporting infrastructure. As an EV driver, I try to ensure that I share the highways with as much goodwill as possible, remembering that much of the infrastructure is paid by other peoples tax dollars, including a taxpayer funded rebate on the price. [See here in case you think I am making this up.]

 

Marcopolo is so apologetic of the values he expresses as an EV driver that I am afraid one day soon he may just melt away from embarrassment as he’s driving his EV down the highway. S/He goes on to denounce my “arrogance” and “feelings of superiority.” Marco must know me personally!

Admittedly Marcopolo isn’t typical, but the pattern is clear: EV drivers are more defensive and spineless about the values they’re promoting than the general public is about those same values. Most people appreciate that given the indispensability of cars in our lives, EVs present the best solution we have for mitigating their devastating environmental impact.

When the editors of Inside EVs asked me to write something about my experience, I expected to contribute a little something to the conversation about the benefits of EVs over gas powered cars or maybe say something about the conceptual issues surrounding theft and consent. But it has become clear to me that we, in the EV community, need to first have a conversation amongst ourselves about what we stand for and how best to promote those values. Here are a few thoughts.

  • First, our goal of electrifying our personal transportation system is a worthy one. We should promote it with pride. Marcopolo is of course right that a self-righteous, holier than thou attitude will put off those we’re trying to persuade. But we should not confuse confidence with arrogance. The former will help us engage the pubic in the discussion. By driving EVs we are promoting values that if widely adopted will benefit everyone equally, not just us. We shouldn’t expect everyone to thank us, but we don’t owe them an apology either. We should try to persuade them to go lease a Nissan Leaf though.
  • Secondly, this is not a light matter. It is not a matter of taste or personal preference like the choice between two different model gas cars. There is a right and a wrong, and we urgently need to make the right choice—for our kids’ sake. EVs have a longer history than gas cars. Now that battery technology has brought their mass adoption within reach, we need all the help we can get to overcome this last hump of public inertia in favor of gas powered cars. Like all other industries and technologies, to get to Warren Buffet’s investments, we need government subsidies. Current subsidies for EVs pale in comparison to those for oil companies. That’s not even counting the externalities for which the public pays, such as clean air and mind bogglingly high military spending, much of which is arguably to create or maintain business opportunities of our oil companies. The difference between subsidies for EVs and those for oil companies is that while gas cars harm everyone a lot, EVs harm a lot less. The tax paying public gets a great deal back for EV subsidies and most, but not all, people recognize that. Our job should not be to apologize for the subsidies, but to convince others of what a good deal the public is getting and to push for more subsidies. The tax payers who paid the 5 cents to top off my EV got a much better deal than they do from the gas cars who pull up there every weekend to use the school facilities.
  • Thirdly, past movements for change have had leaders with different ideas about how to get their message across. While it may be a stretch to call EV enthusiasm a movement, we are involved in bringing about a change in attitudes and habits and so we need to talk about strategies. There are always going to be the timid, the middle of the roaders and the radicals. The civil rights movement had its Booker T. Washington, its King, and its Malcolm X. The anti-apartheid movement had its Buthelezi, its Mandela, and its Pan-Africanist Congress. While all these strategies may play a role in advancing to the goal, it is the middle of the roaders to whom we usually give the most credit for bringing about the desired change. We are going to neither apologize nor bomb our way to an internal combustion engine free world. Let us hold our heads high and politely persuade our way there.

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74 Comments on "Nissan LEAF Owner Arrested For Electricity Tells His Side Of The Story – And Where We Go From Here As A Community"

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insideevs, thanks for sharing this exclusive and for giving a private citizen who’s been thoroughly villified in the press, a chance to speak for himself.

It’s our pleasure to allow others to speak for themselves through our platform here. Often times these individuals are not granted access to a media outlet for various reasons, but that’s not the case at InsideEVs. We’re here for everyone, including those who don’t have an independent channel of their own in which to get their words out.

Hear, hear! Kudos also from me, and hat tip to Kaveh for the very thoughtful and necessary article. I witnessed first-hand when working on the battery degradation issue last year that the EV community can tend to inflight-in and self-blame. All the while, those making such statements think that they are doing everyone a favor by continuing to act as radical fundamentalists. While this might hsve been necessary in the early days, as Kaveh says, it’s the middle-of-the-roaders, who act deliberately and out of conviction, who will have the largest impact on public perception and the advancement of EVs.

Everyone gets a subsidy in some form. Most of us get subsidies for our home ownership, for example. How can anyone say that subsidies for EVs are in some way ‘bad’? I usually bring up the tax incentives for small business to buy huge SUVs. My dentist drives a Suburban.

It is interesting that you chose violent and charged movements to make your point. What about the earth-day movement of the ’60s and subsequent creation of EPA? A lot of people that grew up then are our political leaders now. I think it’s more relevant to this discussion.

Kaveh, thanks for posting your side of the story and starting the “conversation amongst ourselves [EV supporters] about what we stand for and how best to promote those values.” Kaveh, I would like to ask you for your thoughts on fellow Leaf owner Steve Coram plugging into a light post overnight at a Ford dealer to charge his Leaf. The link below is Steve’s story in his own words. On a freezing light, Steve took his family on a trip to see Christmas lights in a neighboring town. The Leaf that wasn’t fully charged and ran out of charge on the way home. Steve pulled into a closed Ford dealer and found that the dealer had blocked access to the L2 charger with a row of pickup trucks. Steve decided to plug into a 120 volt outlet on a light post at the Ford dealership. In the freezing temperatures the Leaf battery wasn’t gaining much range. After a half hour, Steve called his mom to pick up his family and called Nissan Roadside Assistance to give him a tow home. After a while of sitting alone in a freezing car he changed his mind, cancelled the tow, got a ride… Read more »
Thank you Sven for that interesting story about Steve. My initial and unconsidered reaction is that Steve should have offered to pay the probably 60 to 70 cents to the Ford dealership the next day. WE don’t know if he did or not. The offer to pay whether honored or not by the Ford dealership would absolve Steve of the charge of theft. One question here is that of necessity, which surely work into our conception of theft. Depending on how cold it was and how long it took the Nissan service to get there and whether there were kids in the car all come into play. I guess you’re asking about the case where it’s clear that there is no necessity, right? I think there is difference between public funding of electricity for EVs and private funding for EVs. I am working on another paper in which I discuss that in more detail. Very briefly, I think it has to do with whether consent is reasonable to expect. I want to argue that it is so in the case of public funding, but not in the private case. Meaning the it is reasonable to expect that the public would… Read more »

Kaveh Kamooneh, Number 16 of the EV- Guidelines is dedicated towards you. It states that an EV owner must not steal Electricity. No “War Charging” EVgLs dot com

@Loboc +1

He said lots of fine words, but I did not see anything about why he thinks its ok to steal electricity. Except that he is an EV owner and is saving the world, so cut him a little slack.

Have you ever jaywalked? If you did, were you put in jail for it? If that happen to you, wouldn’t you be upset that the punishment didn’t fit the crime?

That’s exactly what happened here. He isn’t denying that he stole 5c of electricity, but it’s plainly obvious that stealing 5c of electricity was not worth a night in jail and public humiliation.

The appropriate action in this case would have been for the cop to use the license plate to find his phone number, call him, and tell him not to park there any more. That would have been the end of it. Even a parking ticket would have made more sense.

Don’t be a weak apologist.

I’ve never been arrested for jaywalking, but I have been pulled over for speeding, and each time I’ve admitted fault and paid the fine without complaint. My problem is not so much “did the punishment fit the crime”, I agree with you on that point. My problem is the underlying vibe that pervades his piece (and which is shared by some contributors on this and similar sites) that EV owners are obviously better than the other 99% of drivers, and therefore deserve special treatment. The fact is, they are already getting special treatment; access to HOV lanes in some states; $7500 off the top of their car’s price at taxpayer’s expense and more in some states; a free ride on highway maintenance costs by avoiding gasoline taxes (and complaints when states try to recoup those costs through other means). And, oh yes, the right to call other people names who don’t agree with you. Just a bit more superiority and entitlement coming through there, John.

Rick, that’s exactly my point. You been arrested for jaywalking, and you been arrested for speeding. You got proper and just punishment in both cases. If you had been thrown in jail for either of those offenses, you would surely be bent out of shape about it.

By the way, since jaywalkers aren’t routinely arrested and thrown in jail for 15 hours, should we conclude that they are getting special treatment? Maybe you think they should, since they’re avoiding gas taxes and having their sidewalks subsidized. The horror! The horror!

This entire episode has not been about special treatment for EV drivers (you imagined that) and it’s definitely not about avoiding gas taxes (also imagined). It’s about a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime.

Actually, Mr. Kamooneh does dispute the use of “steal” in its various forms.

If the school has, say, a water faucet on its grounds, would using it amount to “stealing”? It would be a matter of degree, right? Drinking or filling up your bottle with it is perfectly ok in a sane world. Filling up a supersize inflatable pool – maybe not.

Similarly, the plug was open and apparently, by a reasonable interpretation, available to the public for incidental non-excessive use. Labeling this as “theft” stems from ignorance of how much juice EVs can draw on a trickle-charge, as well as from ignorance-driven hostility to EVs.

Plugging in a Leaf will draw a current of 10A for as long as it can charge. A Volt would draw at least 8A. In both cases that significant sustained current is more than enough to be dangerous in case of fault. So, simple consideration for others says don’t charge without permission.

On top of that the charging imposes an additional cost, and there’s no implication that an external socket that is likely there for maintenance or school use is intended for public use.

Finally, my biggest problem with this kind guerrilla charging is the answer to the question: does the driver need to charge? When a driver doesn’t need to charge, they’re not doing any kind of public good that could possibly excuse the theft.

I am not an electrician myself, but have asked one. He says to me that our local code requires that all delicate equipment, including kitchen equipment, smoke detectors, etc. be on separate circuits. So, according to my certified electrician friend, there is little danger in case of fault if the building is wired according to code. On your second point: there is no indication that the socket is for public use, nor is there any indication that’s it’s not for public use, much like the water spigot close by (notice I am not saying water fountain). The police does not bring charges against water drinkers who take water after running around the school track. On your third point: I am not absolutely certain whether I would have had enough charge for the whole day. But I don’t see how if the driver benefits, the public doesn’t. Those two are not exclusive of each other, are they? Suppose Bob donates $5 to feed the hungry and feels really good about himself for doing that. Does his feeling good about himself make his act of donating money any less good? That I got some benefit does not mean that the public as… Read more »
Assaf, I drive a PHEV, I have had water from public faucets, I have charged my phone phone from publicly placed outlets, and I still call this petty theft. So I don’t think that your interpretation is correct. I think that in general the solution is a public that acts responsibly and a police force that responds reasonably. And I believe that generally that is what happens. Though in this case it did not. The police reaction was off the charts and Mr. Mr. Kamooneh began charging before he had permission. Resulting in – the police department digging in their heels, Mr. Kamooneh having to explain an embarrassing, perhaps over the top inconvenience, while a mass of onlookers indignantly chooses sides. My conclusion; conflicts, bad feelings, mistakes, disagreements do occur and injustices are at times meted out. It’s not the end of the world, and EV charging conventions and expectations will be sorted out over time. Would it be great if the police dept. apologized and made things immediately right, Mr. Kamooneh stopped whining and asked permission like a true gentleman, the school district immediately issued a policy that embraced community, a clean environment and stressed fiscal responsibility? LOL, good… Read more »

This piece is not about the conceptual issues raised by my case surrounding theft and consent. Rather it is an attempt to open up the conversation amongst EV enthusiasts. As I mentioned above, in a reply to Sven, I am working on that as well. I do appreciate there is so much interest in that topic.

I am sure you’re not going to be surprised to hear that I don’t think there is theft here. It’s not that I think there is a small theft and on a cost-benefit analysis we should not prosecute Rather, I think there is no theft here to begin with. My position has to do with when it’s reasonable to expect an owner to consent to the appropriation of his or her property. The answer has to do, on my view, with not just the value of what is taken, but also whether the taking benefits the owner. What you seem to mock about saving the world does figure into those kinds of considerations.

Thank you insideevs for posting this. I, of course, completely disagree with the author about his theft of public electrical service. While the arrest was not warranted, a fine surely was. If the police had not overreacted, you can bet the prosecutor would have pursued the fine.

Alas, this whole situation has made all parities look petty. Time to move on.

Again, I have said very little about “theft of public electrical services” here. I don’t blame you for not agreeing–I haven’t argued for it here. Again, this piece here is just about how the attitude of EV drivers is different from the general public. It’s not a piece about whether taking electricity for EVs is wrong or all right.

I do, however, want to say that nothing I have said here means that we EV drivers are better than the 99% of those who drive gas cars. All we are saying is that EVs are better than gas cars. That my car is better surely doesn’t mean that I am better.
I do agree that we should be careful not to let people confuse that elementary distinction.

Mr. Kamooneh, thank you for your reasoned and measured response. I don’t want these discussions to escalate into insult laden arguments. That accomplishes nothing. Regarding your response to Sven, I do take issue with your assertion that “gas cars provide no benefits to public as a whole”. Private personal mobility is a huge public benefit, regardless of how it is fueled, because the public would otherwise have to absorb the entire cost of all mobility. Are EVs better than ICE cars? Certainly in some ways they are. In other ways they are not. Your driving an EV is a choice, nothing more, and undoubtedly one you have a right to. But that does not mean that I, as a taxpayer, should be required to financially support your choice, regardless of how miniscule my contribution is. My concern is that, inherent in some of your statements there seems to be a belief that you are somehow doing the rest of us a favor by driving an EV, and therefore the public should be willing to pay for your electricity.

Rick, you make a great point. I see this debate differently. We are still at the beginning of the EV adoption curve, and there are numerous growing pains and teething issues. The scenario Kaveh encountered, and the experience he made highlights some of these challenges. I appreciate that he wrote an article about how the EV community behaved and reacted in response to these events, instead of focusing on how this particular issue could be addressed better in the future. I think he is right to point out that without a common goal and cohesive action, it will be difficult to proceed. On the other hand, if the early adopters and fast followers act resolutely, and with a common goal in mind, no issue will be too big to get properly addressed, which in turn will pave the way for others. In terms of who should pay for the electricity, I agree with the premise that fundamentally drivers should bear the cost of fueling their vehicles. That said, often there are no provisions and mechanisms in place to facilitate that. And to corroborate the point Kaveh made, there is clear public interest in promoting sustainable transportation. We all, as a… Read more »
I agree with you Rick that personal mobility is a great benefit. When I said gas cars provide no benefits to the public as a whole, I did not mean that they provide no benefit at all. Surely they do. I have bought gas cars in the past because I, like you, think they have some benefits. But those benefits are only for the driver (and those who benefit by the driver’s mobility). What I was saying is that given the situation we’re in, i.e that our lives are such that cars have become indispensible to our lifestyles, wide adoption of EVs benefits the public as opposed to the alternative of gas cars. Now there are more beneficial alternatives such as public transportation, trains, bicycles, walking. But I am assuming that those are not options a lot of people will adopt. I do disagree with you, however, when you say that driving EVs is a choice if by that you mean it’s simply a matter of personal preference. I do think, as I say in the piece, that there is a right and a wrong here. Now if that’s what some of the commenters here have in mind by “arrogance”,… Read more »

If you ever used the restroom at your child’s school, or other public building, did you “steal” some toilet paper to wipe your ***? Or maybe you also “stole” some water and soap? Did you “steal” electricity or natural gas to heat the water as well?

Think about it.

GSP

Even though I do consider it a theft. I’m not sure a fine is warranted, or even a letter of warning. Until the school district defines a policy for use of the outlets. For example cell phone yes car charging no. Car charging and cell phones yes, but only during office hours etc.

Until that point, there is a great deal of discretionary territory on the part of the police and the users that can result in conflicts and misunderstandings that result from undefined expectations.

Since I first heard this story I have wondered what Mr. Kamooneh’s position would be if every EV coming past his house just happened to plug into his home charger and start using his electricity at their convenience. Methinks he shows no contrition which means even jail time hasn’t fixed his attitude. Too bad ’cause I will always believe he was in the wrong. That is not to say the local police acted stellar in the situation.

Wow, way to show solidarity to a fellow citizen. I do hope that when you get chucked in jail for a night or two in a humiliating manner for jaywalking or using a water faucet you thought was public, and then when you try to defend your good name the police starts spreading slanderous lies about you –

– that you get better responses from other citizens, than sanctimonious lectures on why you don’t express “contrition” and haven’t yet “fixed your attitude”.

Indeed, we should all apologize to the police and mend our ways whenever it throws us in jail on inflated charges. Way to go, American Freedom!

Assaf, +1

Well, I don’t think he’s in the wrong, so contrition isn’t necessary. The cops committed the only crime and I don’t see them being contrite.

If someone came to my door, and plugged in without asking, assumedly at some part of the day I would see this person either at the beginning or end of charge. If he was honest and said he’d only plugged in for 3 hours, i’dsay a $1 was fair. Not far from me farms have UNATTENDED roadside fruit stands when they tell people to serve themselves but leave the baskets behind and pay the requested amount. It depends on the general honesty and wholesomeness of the local population.

There’s nothing to prevent the school from putting a little donation box next to its outlets (have the kids make them in WoodShop) and have people put in 50 cents an hour or whatever.

I see the prominent mention of Marcopolo as an “EV driver” and if you are a Autobloggreen regular (as I am), you will see he is not really an EV fan or advocate (even though in virtually every post, he makes the point to say that he is, which to me only makes him more suspect). He is more of a concern troll. Here’s a link if you are unfamiliar with the term (a user whose actual point of view is opposed to the one that the user claims to hold … the goal is to sow fear, uncertainty and doubt within the group): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)#Concern_troll If you are a regular you will see that Marcopolo is almost without fail the first one to defend oil companies when there are negative articles about them or if commenters criticize them. He’s also very good at sowing doubt in the success of EVs while feigning support (his main argument seems to be that they’ll likely be niche vehicles indefinitely). As for the rest of the points, there is the point of about the use of public resources (drinking fountain analogy), but at the same time I do agree with the viewpoint that we… Read more »

JakeY,

Very good points. Thanks.

GSP

Jake, you nailed marcopolo perfectly. 🙂

yes all the regulars at green autoblog know that he is just a pretender

Jake, if I had to choose to have a beer with you, Assaf or Marco, I would choose Marco in a heartbeat. Concern Troll, my A**. He lives in the real world, as do I, where we pay for the vast majority of items we take and we don’t assume we have the right to take something until the cultural norms have grown around the practice. If we as electric car owners/leasers work this right, people will come to understand that using the juice from a normal outlet is pennies to the hour. BUT WE ARE NOT THERE YET! And trying to push the public into understanding how useful it would be for us to be able to plug our Volts/Leafs/FFE’s in is something we should be leading the public to, not attempting to push them to. You may think that the difference is a slight one, but it is real nonetheless. I thought when I read the article that the police officer was a jerk and I still think that, but given the gratuitous bit** slap on someone who didn’t happen to agree with Assaf, it would appear that the officer isn’t the only jerk in the equation. In… Read more »

I could see the day when my county will print up stickers to place above outdoor outlets that state, “Outlets are for public use, please restrict usage to 1 hour per day.” Or something to that effect.
And if we get there it will be because we as electric car owners explained how little that electricity would cost the county and how much the citizens of that county would benefit from encouraging electric cars sales and use, not by us self-righteously demanding the right to plug in like it is a civil right or something.

“In closing, sure I would like to plug my Volt in when I am at the library or other public place, but until we get non-electric car owners to understand how inexpensive that charging would be, we will be doing ourselves a long-term dis-service by assuming we have the right to do.”

Way to ignore the rest of my comment (which has essentially the same viewpoint as yours)! I’ll repost it here:
“As for the rest of the points, there is the point of about the use of public resources (drinking fountain analogy), but at the same time I do agree with the viewpoint that we shouldn’t expect people to see it the same way (that is the easiest way to alienate people) and to ask for permission where possible (and offer to pay afterwards if that wasn’t an option).”

As for the point about Marcopolo, read his whole comment and also some of his other ones. I think you will find he is quite patronizing when talking about EV fans. I’m certainly not the only one that has that impression of him (there’s three others that agree with me).

Jake, my rant started when I saw your oil company comment. Exxon/BP/Shell aren’t perfect but they have been a huge part of the reason that the West is as wealthy and healthy, as it is. Their product does emit carbon dioxide and particulate matter, but more importantly their incredibly inexpensive products heat our homes in the winter (up north) and propel ICE vehicles that make our way of life possible. From the cereal you eat in the morning to the chicken you had with supper, it was all shipped to you inexpensively and rapidly using petroleum based fuels. “Big Oil” pumps oil out of the ground in places tens of thousands of miles from you, ships it to Louisiana in huge, multi-million dollar tankers, the crude is then refined into scores of different boutique blends of gasolines due to each state frequently having its own blend, then that Big Oil tanker truck hauls the gasoline to a gas station near you, where you can fill up for less than $4 a gallon at a gas station so clean you might be tempted to have a breakfast burrito on your way to work in the morning. And if you have a… Read more »

I guess I just don’t see things the same as you in terms of oil companies. It’s not so much the profit margins, but also our military involvement and ecological damage when things almost inevitably go wrong (like BP’s offshore oil incident for example). It’s a necessary evil at this point (much like coal), but the faster we move away from them the better (and I think most people buy EVs for the same reason).

And as an EV fan, I do still hold a grudge against them for using patent encumbrance to eliminate NiMH as a viable battery chemistry for EVs. And if you see the whole controversy over the ethanol blend, it’s easy to see they are pulling the same shenanigans fighting against biofuels.

And this is why EV drivers come off a bunch of entitled, sanctimonious a-holes: I am busy saving the planet here, so I get to live by different rules. Around work, the Prius was referred to as the Pious for that reason.

Most first graders learn to not take things that don’t belong to them without asking permission. Its a simple rule and no matter what fancy words folks try and wrap around it, its just rationalizing bad behavior.

Can I walk into a school, find an empty office and make long distance phone calls–the phone was accessible and they are probably only paying a few cents a minute, right? If I leave my lunch on my desk, is it OK for a co-worker to snag my sandwich because he is hungry–not prob?

And no, stealing electricity from a school is not an act of civil disobedience on par with Mandela, MLK, etc – get real.

O

Actually his point is the opposite of what you’re arguing… That he was NOT treated like everyone else, because he had an EV. I highly doubt a person would have been arrested for charging their phone or laptop there.

And I’ve said this many times, but I’ll say it again.. Whenever I fly, I see a dozen people in every airport terminal charging their electronics at outlets not labeled for public use. Yet I’ve never seen one of them arrested or even bothered for doing so.

OK, lets extend the proper analogy–say the school had a gas pump onsite for fueling the vans and buses they use to cart kids around. Is it OK to use that to top off you tank because 1) its accessible, and 2) its a public school and its really your tax dollars anyway and 3) its only a couple of gallons of gas?

O

For starters, a couple of gallons of gas of equivalent cost would require the Leaf driver to charge at that outlet for over 20 hours.

But by your line of reasoning, no businesses should install chargers because they don’t install gas pumps.

Obviously the accurate distinction is on what is being used by opportunity, and what is the accepted norm with respect to those services. A drink from a spigot, some electricity from an outlet, are generally considered acceptable in public places.

If you truly believe what you’re saying, will you call the police the next time you see people charging electronics in an airport?

Most importantly, the distinction is that one is of inconsequential value, and the other (gassing up a few gallons) is not. Is for this same reason that the IRS considers charging privileges at employer locations as non taxable, because the value is not of significance according to their definitions.

If I don’t have to pay taxes on free workplace charging for hours of every day over a while year because the IRS thinks its of little value, why would charging at an outlet for a mere 15 minutes be a jailable offense?

Will you dial 911 the next time someone takes a drink from a water spout at a public place and compare it to them using that same spout to fill their swimming pool?

Clarkson, I agree that we as electric car drivers SHOULD be able to plug into public outlets since it is our tax dollars that pay to build and support these institutions. And that public places don’t charge people to plug in their phones or computers.
But the fact is that while everyone knows that an hour of cell phone charging costs pennies, they don’t yet realize that about electric cars. Look at someone charging a cell phone and then look at my Volt plugged into a wall outlet, they don’t look comparable. And in point of fact, the Volt will draw more than a cell phone any day. And if we get up on our high horse and demand this right to plug in our cars, we will look like “rich” losers and that sort of demand will be counterproductive at best.
If we talk this out and lead the public to a logical conclusion we will get to public acceptance a lot faster than if we demand it.

I’m in agreement with you Ziv, and I don’t think that drivers should assume (or demand) that an outlet can/should be used at any private or business location. I think a school is a bit more of a gray area.

Regardless, I think the main point I am stuck on is that the punishment here does not fit the “crime” if one should even call it that.

I agree with you whole heartedly! There is no way that a police officer should have gone to Assaf’s/Kaveh’s home and arrested him in front of his family. It is just wrong on so many levels.

There are many Tacit agreements in our daily life. When you go into a store, you may handle a product, as long as you do not greatly disturb the packaging, even though you have not as yet purchased it. You are not accused of stealing it until you leave the premises. Some of these things are judgement calls. You may take as much Ice as you can consume at a McDonalds during one visit, free of charge. However, I’ve seen people fill their styrophome chest with ice from this same McDonalds. Its a judgement call by both the customer and proprietor as to what is incidental, and how much boarders on theft. One would like to think the public school system where he lived would be Magnanomous enough to allow incidental, trivial usage of their facilities without causing a fuss. This would ultimately save the school system money. Here’s what I mean: Suppose people claim the school needs an OFFICIAL charging Docking station. Suppose the school says we don’t have the $6000 in this year’s budget to purchase and install the unit? Allowing some ev drivers to incidentally trickle charge on the existing 110 volt outlets around the vehicle in… Read more »

I’m really not pleased. This article suggests someone trying to redirect blame for their behavior by attacking others.

I particularly note that while arguing that BEVs are beneficial (and I strongly agree) nowhere does the author indicate that they really needed to charge, and nowhere have I read or heard a quote that they needed to charge. When a BEV driver doesn’t need to charge, a daytime charge (even at the weekend) at 120V is not of public benefit.

ItsNotAboutTheMoney, can you please be specific about where in the article do you see blame attribution or attacking others? Unless you mean fellow EV enthusiasts, who I accuse of being spineless.

I agree with you that needing to charge is a relevant consideration. I am not certain, as I think I said before, whether I absolutely needed to charge or not. I would have probably made it, though I must admit I am not above range anxiety especially when I have my kids on board.

I also agree with you about the distinction between daytime and evening charging, which may help utility companies manage peak demand. But the public benefit I had in mind wasn’t that so much that. I was just thinking about the usual points about lowering gas consumption and cleaner air, etc. Here’s a public benefit we don’t often think about: the distribution problem. Tens of people lose their lives in America annually because we tolerate large tankers going at highway speeds around us filled with highly flammable liquids. Contrast that with the distribution of electricity.

Do we know how many times the charging or other offenses had occurred? It just seems like the police were trying to get even for previous behavior. I know legally it should not make a difference but the behavior seems odd.

All of these questions can and should be answered as a matter of policy. If the McDonald’s has a policy of ice into McDonald’s cups only, then problem solved. Unless of course someone still decides that they have the right to fill their ice chest…because they are saving the world and (making their community and the world better by getting ice in defiance of the owners policy) have to have ice to do it.

Well, if anyone has any doubts about whether or not Mr. Kamoohen acted arrogantly to the officer on the scene. His tone in this article makes the answer rather clear.

Indeed.

Hahhaha.

A great point!

Now, we all know why he is “arrested”.

LOL! That was my thought as well, John!

Mr. Kamooneh,

Thank you for having the courage to stand up for your rights, while raising awareness of plug-in vehicles, in spite of the very public nature of this debate.

Taking a principled stand against bullies, be they from outside our community or from within our ranks, is a just and honourable cause, and one for which I personally applaud you. I also hope your willingness to speak about this, helps others find their own voice to add in support of EVs.

Your eloquent and balanced defense of your actions speaks volumes about your character and integrity, and leaves this reader wondering about the motivations and/or critical thinking abilities of those who are taking a hard line against you.

I hope your actions, and subsequent sharing of your story, will help many others from all walks of life find their way into an EV or plug-in.

Thank you for your kind words, TeV.
Like you say, I too hope that this bring more public awareness of EVs and to make more people aware of what John Hollenberg is saying below.

I think the biggest problem here is the lack of knowledge the police showed about the value of electricity taken. If the electricity was worth $10-25, that would certainly make this a reasonable case, akin to stealing 2-6 gallons of electricity. However, the police estimate was off by a factor of 100; we don’t know if this was due to ignorance or if the value was inflated to make their case. If they knew the paltry value of the electricity taken and presented that to the judge when seeking to obtain a warrant they probably would have been laughed out of court. There wouldn’t have been an arrest and 15 hours in jail.

Could it be that the “biggest problem here is the lack of knowledge” of why his fellow EV drivers were insisting, DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT PERMISSION?

Now that he has had to explain the situation (which could have been avoided) to his wife, children and neighbors, he has no choice but to stick by his assertions of his rights. And to defend himself against those who wronged him. Any other action opens him up to legal vulnerability and just as importantly, to cognitive dissonance. Dissonance can lead to blindness of our mistakes, and the higher the price we suffer through (embarrassing arrest in front of wife and kids) the higher the level of dissonance.

No, Jeffhre, I only find myself having to explain it to some EV drivers like yourself. My wife, neighbors and friends, like over 90% of the public, find this no more problematic than the other cases you site above, i.e. charging cell phones, drinking water etc. where you say permission is not required.

Thank you Kaveh! It seems like we are being distracted from the point of the article. The author is asking EV drivers to look at the larger debate over EVs and do some soul searching about our message and whether it is unified. Meanwhile, many comments are successfully steering the discussion to whether this particular incident was warranted or not. My thoughts on his three big picture ideas are: 1) “The transportation system SHOULD be electrified.” I usually emphasize my own person benefit I get from my Ford Focus Electric such as a lower monthly auto budget, less out of pocket maintenance expense, etc. I honestly shy away from the “saving the planet” argument because so many of my friends write off EVs because of this stance. But Kaveh has a powerful geo-political argument regardless of climate change since most of our foreign policy is based on securing our access to energy in unstable parts of the world. 2) “The move to EVs is moral and deserves public money.” The libertarian in me wishes there were no government subsidies for any industries (rural and urban). In the mean time, the EV market deserves AT LEAST as much government support as… Read more »

I totally agree with your point about the effectiveness of taking the low cost of operating EVs angle, rather than sermonizing about their environmental benefits.

I often tell people that leasing a brand new Leaf costs the same as whatever car they’re driving. I pay $295/ month for the lease, $40 or so extra on my electric bill (I can just see the posts about how that’s because I take power from public outlets often) and $0 for oil changes etc. When you count the depreciation, gas and repair costs on their car, they are usually paying more. So I make the point that for less costs they too could be driving a new car. Then I try to get them in my car for a test drive so they can see how fun it is to drive an electric car with its great acceleration. I am waiting on a commission check from Nissan soon.

I believe that we should lead by example and promote the benefits of EV’s, but the more that we demand the more that people will be turned off… I agree the best way to get people excited about EV’s is free rides. By driving nearly all the time at lunch with my co-workers, I get a daily chance to promote EV’s, and at the same time I am reducing not just my own gas consumption, but theirs as well. I have swayed many co-workers opinions about EV’s, just by giving them a ride. Demanding that EV’s are a moral issue and that the infrastructure should be electrified has an unattractive level of arrogance and equates to demanding that people eat their vegetables, exercise more and quit smoking. All good ideas, but when sold improperly can have a negative affect. I agree that promoting EV’s to help improve energy security seems to be more effective than saving the planet. Plugging in at a tennis court public outlet will never promote EV’s in a positive manner in my opinion, with permission or without.. Such behavior presents a negative image about EV’s making them appear weak and limited. Who wants to own a… Read more »

There’s a simple solution to public trickle charging – someone needs to develop the EV Bank/sign combination.

Think of a piggy bank, combine it with a sign stating okay for EVs to plug in, put a coin slot on the side and have the signage suggest an appropriate donation – say 25 cents per hour or as appropriate based on local electric utility rates. I would bet most of us EV drivers would be more than willing to honestly pay at least what we consume. Don’t have appropriate coins with this time? Put in extra next time to even up.

Rough cost to make a sign with coin slot? Maybe $20 to $40 each?? Thoughts? Who is going to make it and market it?

You can buy signs for EV parking online for 20 bucks, so why not? Though installing a vandal proof coin box and tasking someone with collection and book keeping tasks could be far more taxing to the school. Why not just wait to ask if it’s OK before proceeding in any case?

Why didn’t they simply charge you with trespassing if they didn’t want you at the school? It sounds like the police handled your situation the same as someone who drives off with $50 worth of gas without paying. A school in my town installed three 110V charging posts for EVs and invited the public to use them. Some cities praise you for using their outlets and in Georgia they arrest you. I’m an EV owner and taxpayer. I have no guilt about hooking up to to a public building a few hours a year.

Noel, I guess one reason is that the claims the police chief makes about me having been told before not to come there are completely false. I have not had any conversations whatsoever with anyone at the middle school, nor, prior to this incident, with any Chamblee Police officers. Never. I have no idea where the police chief gets his information, just as I have no idea how they got the $10 to $25 estimate on the value of the electricity. They had 11 days to figure that out and they seemed not to have cared enough to spend 15 minutes to figure it out. I paid for that irresponsibility by spending a night in jail and having to spend hours discussing with my kids that the police are not always bad. Now the chief seems to not care enough to see how his officers came up with this stuff about prior warnings (& accusation of car door damage & me asking the officer for his driver’s license & on and on). Now I am paying for that irresponsibility with my reputation as a business owner. I have asked that the chief to publicly retract his false comments, but so… Read more »

Every single American driving a gas car is getting a $6 per gallon subsidy. Add in the cost of desert policing, wars, ad the economic effects, oil company subsidies, land giveaways, energy grant studies for oil products, and that $6.00 is only heading up. No sympathy for the old gas hogs. We need EVs to get us off Middle East terrorist funding oil. Period.

Dear Mr. Kamooneh, I am so “defensive and spineless” as a PHEV driver that I absolutely believe that you could and should have waited until Monday morning to ask permission to use the outlet. I believe that what you can interpret as spineless may also have an alternative interpretation…as simple common courtesy.

In fact I am so so “defensive and spineless” that if someone were to say that to me in person, I fear that I may need anger management courses to help me avoid any negative or regrettable actions. Though I do not support the actions of the local constabulary, clearly there is room for misinterpretation here, and an EV driver having both perspective of EV benefits and time to consider the context, could easily choose take the high road and exercise such courtesy.

Dear Jeffhre, I agree with your last point about “an EV driver having both perspective of EV…”. I clearly didn’t have “both perspectives.” I do usually ask as a matter of courtesy when possible, but did not think it was required, when not possible. It never occurred to me that such a trivial amount would concern anyone. Obviously I was wrong about that and will, as you suggest, take that more into consideration in the future. The point of this piece is not that however. It’s, rather, that most of the general public don’t seem to have that perspective either. In fact, it seems that more EV enthusiasts like yourself feel that permission is absolutely required than the general public. Similarly few among the public take Dave’s point #2 below to just be true simply because the police say that it is. (And I do hope that’s not me just whining again!) This difference, if true, is quite surprising? I mean I would have expected it to be the other way around, wouldn’t you? While the public in general seems to think that the publicity surrounding this story has benefited the public acceptance of EVs, many EV drivers like Dave… Read more »

Sorry, but the guy was wrong. He made two mistakes:

1. Plugging into an outlet, that was clearly not designed for the purpose of charging electric vehicles and without explicit permission.
2. Getting confrontational with a police office (You will lose every time when you do this)

This guy has hurt the EV movement with his behavior, giving the general public a bad opinion about EV owners in general.

Some EV owners have a sense of entitlement that just because they are trying to reduce pollution and save the planet that they should automatically get special privileges and lower taxes. The government builds public charging stations and offer tax breaks to EV owners as an incentive, not an obligation.

Are you the self appointed overlord of EV etiquette? Even if people perceive Mr. Kamooneh negatively, his unfortunate experience has helped EV sales. The public learned how cheap these cars are to fuel. I’m an EV and CNG owner and not very concerned about reducing pollution or saving the planet. These alt fuels are domestic and 2x-5x cheaper than gasoline. I’ve saved thousands of dollars using alt fuels the past few years. As a taxpayer, I don’t feel guilty taking $5 per year of electricity from a few public buildings.

you know, I bet people like Omar, Jeffhre, Dave and company have no problem stealing when no one is looking. I know from personal experience that those who are ready to cast the first stones are usually the biggest sinners. Huffing and buffing about the sins of others makes them feel good about themselves and their guilty consciences. I mean why else would someone say in all caps: DO NOT DO THIS WITHOUT PERMISSION when we’re talking about 5 cents distributed over tens of thousands of people to make sure you can get your kid home safely? I mean what the f***? Is this real? I bet Jeffhre is a klepto and spends his weekends at the mall stealing trinkets and stuff. Omar probably takes rems and rems of copy paper home from the office.

Hello, Kaveh. Someone just passed this piece along to me and I see that you didn’t like my initial coverage of the story. I’ve updated the article on CleanTechnica, but few will ever see that, of course. So, if you would like to post an original piece on CleanTechnica about this whole debacle, I’d be happy to publish it, even if you choose to be critical of my initial post. As I noted to the person who passed this along to me, I wrote my piece for the many EV drivers who read our site, trying to offer good lessons for behavior and consideration that would keep them out of unnecessary trouble. That was the intent of my 3 points in that piece. I figured our readers would implicitly agree that being jailed for 4 cents of electricity is completely absurd, so that wasn’t the focus of my article. And that sensational point had already been made all over the internet. I wanted to simply offer our unique readers something useful. (If I had been writing for a general audience, I would have written the story in a very different way.) However, with your statement that you were not actually… Read more »

I think this is very very import topic.
First issue is polce action. It was based on suspect of commiting not existing crime tipe using leagaly unrestricted access to the public infrustructure (outlet). In case such crime would be regulated by legislation responce was totaly unpropprtional to the possible damage. Therefore Kaveh Kamooneh is 100% right without any exemptions.
Second issue – future exiating public and private infrustructure usage for EV charging. This US government time to step and make a decision based on Kaveh Kamooneh case. Why not utilize existing infrustructure promoting EV paradigm? IT REALLY COST NOTHING WHEN GIVING BIG BIG BENEFITS.
More over US government shall oblage private entities ( i.e. motels, hotels) acceas to existing outlets for night charging or even equip such outlets for slow night charging. They could be with time relay for offpeak hours only but could be use for other periods on comercial basis. New comercial instalation or office buildins should have day time charging posibility like currently there are regulations on lavatories and other things. That qould be real imput from the government. Sorry for possible errors – i am using smartphone.