EV Chargers: Why and how your community should install them
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By Ellen Ryan |

February 22, 2022 |

Updated March 2, 2022

5 minutes

Electric vehicles (EVs) pose a chicken-or-the-egg problem: Drivers need to live where they can plug in, but apartment buildings don’t want to install charging systems before they know there’s demand.

Guess what? There’s demand. The time is now.

Why Install EVC?

With 1.5 million EVs on the road, J.P. Morgan has predicted that hybrid and EV sales will grow from 8.3% of North American vehicle sales in 2019 to over 38% in 2025. EV prices are falling into the range of their internal combustion counterparts, and a far greater range is being made, including pickup trucks. Charging times are dropping, too, making EVs all the more appealing.

The federal and state governments have encouraged EV sales in several ways—mainly free access to HOV/toll lanes for EVs, low-emission vehicles (LEVs), and zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) (depending on location) and purchase rebates.

On the residential side, encouragement also takes several forms. Government and utility incentives help developers reduce capital costs of installation; New York state is a standout here. Several states already require charging spots; California requires that 3% or more of all new parking places be “make-ready” equipped for EVC in new multifamily buildings. Some municipalities mandate even more. Having EVC in 2% of parking spaces gains a building an extra point toward LEED certification.

Multifamily owners and managers benefit from the investment. “Electric vehicles have been a growing consumer trend, and it was important to LMC to find ways to service that trend at our communities,” says Chris Acker, Vice President, Community Technology Services at Charlotte, N.C.-based LMC.

EV chargers help fulfill sustainability goals, too. ChargePoint, an EVC provider, offers its clients data on emissions offset, which Greenbelt, Md.-based real estate company Bozzuto has used in its sustainability program. EVC also helps with compliance; as federal, state and city regulations arise, early adopting rental companies will have the infrastructure in place to meet them.

When to Install EVC?

Determining when to install EVC is easy: Ideally, during construction. “Owners who neglect to deploy EVC during construction if the opportunity is available will incur significantly higher installation costs post-development,” according to an RCLCO Real Estate Consulting white paper, “Electric Vehicle Charging Strategy for Real Estate Implementation in the United States.”

“It can be very expensive to upgrade electrical power in an apartment building—easily over $100,000,” says Steve Atwater, President of Low Power EV Charging (LPEVC). He’s referring to new transformers and conduits, drilling, trenching, and more. But most owners will, he guesses, as residents turn to electric cars over the coming decade.

“Costs vary based on the number of EV chargers, the need to upgrade power or not, the distance of EVC stations from the power source and more,” he adds. “Costs could be $1,800 for one L1 to more than $100,000 for multiple L2s. Every situation is different.”

Level Pros and Cons

EVC rebates and incentives center on L2 charging. “Level 1 is too slow; people want faster” is conventional wisdom. But if charging overnight in your own space, does speed matter?

“L2 adds more range per hour—a benefit to residents. L1 might be more cost-effective and less intense on the building energy system,” notes Cassandra McFadden, Bozzuto Vice President of Sustainability. “It’s a case-by-case evaluation.”

Instead of scattering L2 chargers around a garage, engineers cluster them on one end or out near the clubhouse or athletic area—rarely at or near where residents live or park. “We found that the standard L2 EV charging stations around Napa weren’t particularly convenient” for multifamily, says Charles Shinnamon, Co-Owner of California’s Quail Run Apartments.

Result: Residents get an untimely message to come unplug and move for the next person, who also has to dress and go out to drive into place. Residents have to walk farther than usual. Complaints about this system go to the property manager.

So, when Quail Run leaders chose EVC, they went with L1, which “minimizes the impact on energy demand at Quail Run and will allow many of our residents to charge their vehicles.”

“Many” is important. Installing L1 costs less, space for space, and Atwater of LPEVC says he can install 16 L1 stations for every three L2s. Though L1 is a slower charge, when residents plug in for the night, they gain more “miles” than what the average commuter needs in a day. Those driving farther will have to plug in again.

Recouping Costs

EVC could be an amenity, part of common-area maintenance. But most management companies utilize a network app that tracks usage by resident and may attach a monthly service fee to the electricity cost. Networking also allows for pricing control and limits on energy use; residents can check their charging status and add cash to their account.

Pricing may be by time, session or kilowatt hour. Bozzuto residents typically pay for hourly usage directly through their ChargePoint or similar account, McFadden says.

However it works, the trend is here to stay. “In addition to Tesla, we are seeing an increase of other electric vehicles and are experiencing higher demand for our charging stations,” says Acker at LMC. He appears to be speaking for many.

 

A Partial EV Glossary
  • EVC – electrical vehicle
  • EVSE – EV service/supply equipment; what’s between the power source and the car.
  • ICE – internal combustion engines (gasoline vehicles).
  • LEV – low-emission vehicle.
  • Level 1 (L1) EV charging uses a standard 120-volt outlet and your car’s cord. It can add some five to 10 miles of range to a car per hour. Good for plug-in hybrid cars.
  • Level 2 (L2) charging uses a 240-volt outlet (like for a clothes dryer). Most add 20 to 25 miles of range per hour.
  • Level 3, DC charging, or fast charging—adds 180 to 250 miles in an hour. Chargers look like gas pumps.
  • Long dwell – overnight charging, when residents leave a car for 8-12 hours.
  • MPGe – miles per “gallon” of electricity. A way to compare.
  • OCPP – open charge point protocol, the shared “language” of open EV chargers and charging station management systems. The idea is to have any EV charger work with any charger management software.
  • ZEV – zero-emission vehicle.

 

Ellen Ryan is a freelance contributor to units.