An EV in Every Garage

An Arizona community is plugging into a growing trend of EV-driving residents.

By Paul Bergeron |

4 minute read

Electric vehicles (EVs) and chargers are seeing a steady influx in apartment communities nationwide. The type and number of such stations can be a riddle as they gauge current and future demand for what has become a prime amenity in some locations.

MEB Development’s Bella Victoria community in Mesa, Ariz., has powered ahead with its ambitious installation of a versatile, personal EV charger in every resident garage.

The new development is hoping to attract new Tesla, Ford and Rivian owners with powerful, Level 2 electric vehicle charging.

The popularity of EVs is on the rise with Kelley Blue Book reporting more than 800,000 new vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2022 – a 65% increase from the previous year.

And with the new federal tax credits and incentives, sales are expected to nearly double in 2023. As more and more consumers choose these eco-friendly and fun-to-drive cars, the charging infrastructure, especially in rental communities, will have to keep pace with the growth.

Installation cost per charge port was approximately $4,600, which includes upgraded SRP (Salt River Project) transformers, 200-amp electric service panels in every unit and the actual 50-amp circuit for charging.

Hudd Hassell, President of Arizona homebuilder Bela Flor, said that other rental communities in the Valley might have a few public EV chargers on the property, but very few communities will have individual, private charging ports for every unit.

He said there are no additional EV fees as part of the rent. Each renter pays only for the energy they use.

Currently, less than 10% of its residents drive EVs.

“We expect that to double in 2023 and surpass 30% in 2024,” Hassell said.

No Waiting or Higher Fees

One of the biggest problems when charging in multifamily properties is they typically have just three to five stations that are almost always occupied and are often located in the back of the community, away from where people live, Hassell said.

“Also, residents are generally required to pay higher fees to access these services and sometimes have to wait hours before their cars are fully charged.”

The EV chargers at Bella Victoria are not like a lot of community chargers in the traditional sense. Instead, they are private “home-charging” ports, and Bella Victoria provides the circuit to charge.

The residents then provide their own charger for whatever brand of car (usually built into the car) and just plug into the Bella Victoria system.

Any Level 2 compliant charger will work with this system including Blink, EVGo, ChargePoint, Tesla, etc., MEB said.

For most residents, the Level 2 charger is already built into their vehicle. For example, with Tesla Model Y or Model 3, they simply plug into the apartment home’s system, using the equipment that came with their car, and walk away. The energy system runs through SRP, one of the largest power and water utility companies in Arizona.

The system works just like an electric plug in the house. Each resident has a dedicated SRP meter that provides electricity to the unit for tankless water heaters, HVAC, appliances, regular outlets and EV chargers. All energy usage, including EV charging, shows up on their SRP electric bill every month.

“With EV charging, the resident can program their car to charge at night (off-peak), when rates are the least expensive,” he said. “Residents are charged directly by SRP for any electricity they use (peak and off-peak). There is no upcharge by the community. For example, a Tesla Model 3 or Model Y costs about $6 to fully charge at home; 300+ miles of range for the price.”

Bella Victoria was able to install and maintain the charging ports on its own. The community has not tapped into any third-party involvement so far. Its electricians installed all the gear, which includes 800-amp SES gear from Cutler-Hammer and Square D for every building with upgraded transformers from SRP, 200-amp electric service panels for every unit and a 50-amp circuit in every garage.

For maintenance, most of the challenges are handled by its onsite technicians. If not, the community uses licensed electricians for any bigger issues that come up.

“Our residents really like having their own, private charger,” Hassell said. “With fuel prices likely to climb again, more and more people are opting for energy-efficient EV models and we’re proud to support this transitional lifestyle.”

MEB Committees’ Good Intentions

This effort is part of MEB Management Services’ recently formed Sustainability Committee, created in hopes of making more communities it manages energy- and eco-friendly, according to Debbie Holder, Vice President of Operations at MEB Management Services.

One of the committee’s goals is to make environmentalism easier and cheaper so residents and property owners will be more likely to choose sustainable living.

“Inconveniences coming from a lack of charging infrastructure or limited community charging stations can often deter people from purchasing the more environmentally conscious EV,” Holder said.

“We know that a large portion of emissions come from manufactured buildings, so we created the committee to help reduce our portion and support local apartment communities by doing the same. Bella Victoria is a perfect example of sustainability in multifamily housing through their EV capabilities and other green initiatives.”