Grandmothers and Cars: Things You Can Plug Into a Wall

At the age of six or seven, I watched the movie “The Electric Grandmother.” It was a film that would shake me to my core.

The 1982 horror movie masquerading as a “touching” made-for-TV special is about a family of children who learn to cope with the death of their mother in the most heartwarming and logical of ways: they go to a factory and order an electric (read: android freak) grandmother to serve as a new mother figure.

A few days later, a tomb is lowered from a helicopter onto the family’s front lawn. Inside is the made-to-order grandmother, who must plug herself into a wall outlet every night and sit in a rocking chair until she is fully charged. The two boys love her immediately but the little girl is unnerved. I can’t ever imagine why.

Watching this freak show as a child, two things struck me: 1) I would never be able to look at a wall socket (or my grandmother) the same way again, and 2) there was no way something of this magnitude could ever run solely on electricity.

Nearly twenty years later, I was right about the first thing, semi-wrong about the latter.

While I am unaware of any factories that sell electric grandmothers—at least not in the Northern Virginia area—more and more electric cars are making their way onto roads. And as I discovered while writing the article “Communities ‘Drive’ Renters’ Eco Habits” for the May issue of units, some apartment management companies are unveiling (and marketing) electric-car charging stations in anticipation of these vehicles’ potential growing popularity.

Broadstone Grand Avenue, a 280-unit gated community in Austin, Texas, managed by Alliance Residential Company, installed an electric vehicle charging station in March. The ChargePoint station is available at no charge (for the time being) to residents 24/7 and to the public during leasing office hours.

The community—it should be said—does not hire helicopters to drop electric cars from the sky. This ain’t Hollywood. But for those who do own (or wish to own) these eco-friendly vehicles, the community’s charging station is another reason to rent rather than buy, as it costs approximately $2,000 to install a charging station in a home garage.

The car-charging stations are particularly attractive for apartment management companies because the manufacturers often will provide, install and manage the stations for free. Typically, the station manufacturers reimburse the community for the electricity cost and may even give them a portion of the revenue. It’s not a bad deal, considering the father in “The Electric Grandmother” didn’t receive a penny for his suddenly skyrocketing utility bills.

With other apartment management companies such as Equity Residential installing car charging stations in markets throughout the country, it’s clear the apartment industry is embracing forward-thinking initiatives.

That being said, I better never see a rocking chair and an extension cord in a clubhouse.

For more on electric-car charging stations, check out my article in the May issue of units, which mails May 8.