We made a big deal of it several years ago with “vampire” or leaching electronics that continued to pull power out of the wall when turned off. Now there is a story about a guy plugging his Nissan Leaf into the outlet of a middle school for half an hour, stealing about 0.5KW of electricity. At the rate the school pays, that’s probably even less than the $0.05 that is being reported. Now it is probably more than what the average guy with a laptop or cell phone charger would consume in months of similar usage, but hey, we’re assuming he didn’t do this every day, right?
The vehicle is a Nissan Leaf: It has no backup method of propulsion. There is no gasoline engine. It is possible that he was going to be stranded at the school, possibly even with his kid, if he didn’t charge up his vehicle.
The guy forgot or was not able to charge it at home or work. His fault.
Charging a vehicle requires significantly more power than a laptop or cell phone. If there are a dozen outlets around the school/building on the same circuit and more people get this idea, then there is the possibility of blowing a breaker, perhaps disrupting something on the inside of the school/building that is also on the same circuit. There could be other consequences to just siphoning some power. There is not a limitless supply of it at every outlet since most were wired with the thinking that not every outlet would be required to provide a full 15 or 20 amps or whatever the car required for charging.
Longer range vehicles. The Leaf starts at ~100 miles/charge depending on how you drive it. It declines from there. If your daily commute is 90 miles, it would be a poor choice of vehicle. In fact, if your daily round-trip commute was 45 miles it may still be a poor vehicle. What happens three years from now when you get stuck in a traffic jam in the middle of summer with the air conditioning on?
Charging stations. Parking lots should come with these by default. It isn’t as if there is some magical specialized electrician that needs to install these things. The outlet he used was a standard 110 volt. Put a meter on it and charge a dollar per hour no matter how much you use. Sounds like a great way to make the money back on the wiring, power, and then some.
Turn off outside outlets when not in use by use of an inside switch. Who thought having an unsecured electrified outlet on the outside of a middle school was a good idea in the first place?
Be human. Come on, really? Tell the guy to stop doing that and leave it alone. What this guy did wasn’t endangering anyone’s life. That same police officer ignored probably a dozen people texting while driving as he was on his way to the school to arrest this guy. Why not enforce actual laws that are there to protect life. Tell the guy to do some community service, or to donate to the school at the very most. Imagine you are stuck somewhere and you have a choice of calling a tow truck or plugging into an available outlet for 30 minutes. I’m sure the guy would have been willing to pay something less than the tow truck expense for the use of that power.
Acknowledge the greater problem:
There are penny pinchers everywhere. This type of scenario is going to happen more and more any time someone thinks they can get a free ride. People congregate around unsecured outlets in malls, airports, and many places where the outlets were initially put in for the convenience of maintenance people and other reasons – not for charging cell phones. This is just an evolution of the same idea. Some people will choose to not charge their phone at home and will instead charge it at work. They may save next to nothing by doing this, but in their mind they are getting something for nothing, and that’s always better than paying for something themselves, right?
The greater problem is people’s willingness and in fact anxiousness to get something for nothing.
I would say that the best solution for this is to install metered charging stations with a fixed cost. People are used to paying $2 for drinks that cost $0.02 to produce. People would pay a dollar for an hour of charging. In the mean time, if you don’t take basic steps to secure or deactivate external outlets in public places, then be prepared to pay as people charge up. I also think we need to get some of our humanity back. Now the guy may or may not have needed the charge to get home, but assuming he did, why not give him a break?