Electric vehicles. Is your condo ready? Condo Disruption Series
Electric vehicles or EVs for short, are becoming more and more common on our roads with just about every car manufacturer offering a 100% electric vehicle or hybrid version. As more people purchase EVs, expectations that your condo parking lot or garage will have charging stations will increase. If someone owns a Chevy Volt and they’re looking for a new place to live, a condo that’s friendly to EVs becomes a huge selling advantage.
‘It all started several years ago with electric scooters,’ says Sunni Dowds, Properly Manager with St. George Property Management Services. ‘Overnight we had people running extension cords through underground parking lots to re-charge their scooters! That didn’t go over well with the board or residents. So new policy was created and we finally got things sorted out.’
The electric scooter was simple in one way, because it used a regular household power cord, ‘but EVs are different because expensive charging stations need to be installed in the condo,’ continues Ms. Dowds. ‘It’s an issue we’re actively talking about, but boards are cautious to install charging stations and new policies require careful thought.’
So the condo board is faced with a decision to evolve and retrofit newer technologies, or remain in the past and ignore the changing expectations. Not evolving runs the risk of creating a negative impact on resale value. Can you imagine buying a condo that wasn’t cable or internet ready?
And for boards… the worst part... it’s not even that simple. As I explored this topic, I placed a call to my friend Ted Graham, Head of Innovation at GM Canada. As I explained to Ted how condo boards are facing the question of whether or not to install charging stations, he explained that this was just the tip of the iceberg.
“Transportation is evolving very quickly and the entire automotive industry is trying to figure out how people will behave with new technologies. The EV will gain market share from the gas car, but where EVs charge is still a question. If your EV is also autonomous in a few years time, it may drop you off at your condo and drive to a remote charging station several kilometres from your condo. Your two storey underground parking lot may become obsolete.”
But before we travel down that futuristic vision of the automobile, which I’ll do in another article, let’s spend some time in the present.
EV Chargers and your condo. How much and who’s going to pay?
First let’s set the pessimists and luddites straight. EVs are here to stay and aren’t a fad. According to ChargePoint, there’s roughly 600,000 EVs on the road in North America and in Canada the Canadian Automobile Association maps over 4,200 public charging stations. Tesla, the world’s most famous EV producer is turning a profit, and ramping up production to meet demand globally.
Charging a car, rather than filling up the tank, is the biggest change of behaviour for the driver. Currently charging takes hours, so people will want a charging station at home. In a condo, that means a charging station in their parking spot.
To understand what’s involved in getting a charging station added to a condo, I had an insightful conversation with Joseph Dupuis from Autochargers.ca. Their business is focused on installing chargers for businesses, homes and condos. So they know their stuff and they understand the challenges that condo boards face when someone buys a Tesla, Volt or Leaf and needs to plug it in.
Joseph started by giving me a 10 minute lesson on EV chargers and batteries. His descriptions of kilowatts, voltage and amps reminded me why I avoided the sciences throughout my academic career. With apologies to Joseph, let me summarize in 75 words or less: There’s three primary types of chargers. Level 1, 2 and 3. The higher the number, the faster they charge. Level 1 adds 2-3 kilometres of range per hour; level 2 is 20-40 kilometres of range per hour; and level 3 adds 100-250 kms per hour. When you fill a battery, it fills quickly at first, then charges more slowly once it’s almost full. More kilowatts means further and faster.
So now that we have a basic understanding of how the charging works, the primary concern of any board is ‘how much’ and ‘who’s going to pay’?
Let’s start with a baseline. A typical Level 2 charging unit (7-10 hours to fully charge a car) is going to cost around $1000, plus any additional expense to hook that station up to electricity. The further away from the main power source, the more you’re going to pay. So let’s assume that all in, a charging station is going to cost $1500 - $2000 to install. It’ll draw power from the common elements and everyone in your building pays to fuel that car. About $5 per complete charge.
Not a ridiculous expense, but most condo corporations would object to fueling an individual’s car. The condo would also have to figure out who pays for the charging unit. The owner of the EV? Or the Condo Corp? If the owner with the EV moves, do they take the charging station with them? Does the condo want a say in which type of charging station is purchased? What happens to the hardware installed between the parking spot and the electrical main box? You get the picture.
Enter an excellent solution. The smart charging station. Joseph explains “this is what we encourage condo
boards to consider as their best option.” A smart charging station allows for personalized experience that charges the electricity used directly to the owner’s credit card. The EV owner arrives at their spot, turns on the machine via personalized fob or smart phone, connect their car, and the electricity flows. It even accounts for energy rates during off peak hours for cost savings. Fees can be adjusted to create a revenue stream to the condo to pay for infrastructure. Thus becoming cost neutral.
Joseph does heed that this solution is more expensive due to the smart technology ($3000 - $5000 installed), but the fairness and long term financial impact on the condo corporation makes it an easy decision for most.
“Logistics in parking lots can cause some challenges,” warned Joseph. “If three owners have EVs and require charging stations, you’d want to re-allocate the parking spaces to get all charging stations close together and adjacent to the building’s primary electrical source. It’s simply not practical to have charging stations in three completely different areas of the parking facility.” Re-allocating spots may ruffle some feathers with owners, so the board will have to find a tactful way to shuffle the spots.
Assuming the EV market continues to grow, you can continue to add charges as needed.
But come on? Does a condo really need to install EV chargers? Some quick math based on numbers from Stats Canada: About 10% of all Canadian Households live in condos - about 4 million people (1.6 million households). 66% of Canadians own a car. So 2.6 million condo dwellers have cars. If 1% of those people own EVs (a realistic figure by 2020), that’s 26,000 EV ready condo parking spots required. Over the next three years, that’s about 24 EV chargers being installed in condos each day in Canada.
Why is this disruptive to your condo?
The market is forcing your condo board to make infrastructure decisions. Probably without advanced planning and budgeting.
If your condo corporation doesn’t adjust to meet this new demand, the units in the building may not maintain the real-estate value or compete with the condos that install EV chargers.
Fresh condo policy will have to be created.
If your condo is behind the ball, you may be in for a long wait until your EV charger is installed. No doubt infuriating the person who just bought a Tesla, Leaf or Volt.
What should a condo do?
Get a handle on the expectations and desires of your condo community. Would they like to see EV chargers installed? Are any residents considering an EV vehicle?
Ask your management company if they have any draft policy guidelines that could be refined for your condo.
Ensure your condo adheres to local legislation concerning condo corporation enhancements.
Get quotes from several EV charger installation companies to understand options, pricing and challenges that may be unique to your condo.
Decide if your condo will proceed with the installation, or if this is better suited to be reconsidered a year or more down the road.
If you go ahead with installation, communicate with condo owners. Explain what’s going on and give insight to the board’s decision making process.
The electric vehicle is my first stop on along journey that will covering topics including parking lots, building condos (design), shared / common elements, software, windows, internet of things, artificial intelligence, security, management companies, communication, cleaning and package delivery (drones). In this article, we’ll be examining the evolving automobile.