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Woman shaken after EV charging feature stopped her from driving away from potential danger


An electric vehicle driver in Vancouver is sounding the alarm after a troubling confrontation in a parking garage on the city’s Downtown Eastside.

Before meeting friends for dinner on Monday night, Colleen Nitta decided to charge her ride inside a lot near East Hastings and Columbia streets, where she says a stranger tried to force his way into her car.

The 37-year-old told CTV News that she was inside her locked vehicle, trying to pay for the electric fuel, when she saw a man enter the parking garage by foot and pull a charger out from a car parked in front of hers.

When he started approaching her vehicle, she immediately called 911.

“While I was on the phone, he started trying to open my driver's side door. Then the backseat passenger door, the trunk…He kept forcefully trying to get into my vehicle without saying a word,” recalled Nitta.

She wasn’t able to drive away, since electric vehicles can’t be operated while they’re in the process of being charged.

Nitta decided to set her car alarm off in hopes of scaring the man, but says he just walked over to the corner of the parking lot, sat down and stared at her instead.

She says she was too panicked and unfamiliar with the area to tell police her exact location.

“I didn’t realize this at the time…because I didn’t think to look down at my phone during the incident, (but) the Google Pixel has a safety feature for when you call 911—it will show you the exact address right on the screen,” said Nitta.

Eventually, a security guard arrived and told the man to leave. “As the man walked out of the garage, he made a point of turning around to smirk at me,” Nitta said, adding she was uncontrollably shaking and crying at that point.

Sgt. Steve Addison of the Vancouver Police Department confirmed officers were sent to investigate the incident.

“The suspect left prior to our arrival,” said Addison in an email Tuesday.

Now, Nitta says she’s speaking out in hopes of helping others avoid similar fates.

“I highly recommend that you always lock your doors when you are driving downtown and that you don’t hesitate to call 911 and set off your car alarm should anyone ever try to approach your vehicle,” she said.

Nitta is also urging EV manufacturers to figure out a way to give drivers the ability to discharge the plug from inside the vehicle, potentially through an app, in case of an emergency. 

Vancouver Electric Vehicle Association member Jacques Courteau, a wheelchair user, has been reviewing the accessibility of chargers for years and highlighted problems with where they tend to be located.

Since power is the priority of these stations, he says there’s not as much focus on convenience or safety as there could be.

As a result, EV drivers often have to charge up in the back of parking lots or in remote areas with poor visibility and lighting.

“For those who have concerns for their safety, it is best to charge an electric car in a busy area, or at a charger where there is someone who can assist if need be,” said Courteau. “It is time that those who design charging station installations pay a lot more attention to safety issues, and especially those raised by women.” Top Stories

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