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California

Tempers Sore When It Comes To Finding Plugs For Their Electric Cars In California

SAN FRANCISCO — There is hope that some day will be a completely electric vehicle that runs without needing any gas, but to do so there needs to be more places to charge them.

Of all the states, California has set the most ambitious targets for cutting emissions in coming decades, and an there

Important pillar of its plan to reach those goals is encouraging the spread of electric vehicles.

But the push to make the state greener is creating an unintended side effect: It is making some people meaner.

The bad moods stem from the challenges drivers face finding recharging spots for their battery-powered cars. Unlike gas stations, charging stations are not yet in great supply, and that has led to sharp-elbowed competition. Electric owners are unplugging one another’s cars, trading insults, and creating black markets and side deals to trade spots in corporate parking lots. The too-few-outlets problem is a familiar one in crowded cafes and airports, where people want to charge their phones or laptops. But the need can be more acute with cars — will their owners have enough juice to make it home? — and manners often go out the window.

In the moments after Don Han plugged in his Nissan Leaf at a public charging station near his Silicon Valley office one day this summer, he noticed another Leaf pull up as he was walking away. The driver got out and pulled the charger out of Mr. Han’s car and started to plug it into his own. Mr. Han stormed back.

“I said, ‘Hey, buddy, what do you think you’re doing?’ And he said, ‘Well, your car is done charging,’ ” Mr. Han recalled. He told him that was not the case, put the charger back in his own car and left “after saying a couple of curse words, of course.”

Such incidents are not uncommon, according to interviews with drivers and electric vehicle advocates, as well as posts from people sharing frustrations on social media. Tensions over getting a spot are “growing and growing,” said Maureen Blanc, the director of Charge Across Town, a San Francisco nonprofit that works to spread the adoption of electric vehicles. She owns an electric BMW and recently had a testy run-in over a charging station with a Tesla driver.

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