Apartment / Condo Dwellers and Electric Vehicle Ownership: Does It Work?

4 years ago by Eric Loveday 10

Where Do I Charge?

Where Do I Charge?

For those who reside in either apartments or condominiums, charging a plug-in vehicle can often prove challenging.

It's Possible...But Not Always Easy

It’s Possible…But Not Always Easy

A recent article suggests that nearly one-third of San Diego County resident live in multi-family units where charging is not possible or chargers are rarely available.

As UT San Diego says:

“The California Energy Commission is teaming up with local government and private partners to come up with solutions to that equation in San Diego.”

“Campbell, Calif.-based ChargePoint, which operates the nation’s most extensive public car charging network, won a competitive bidding process to help provide 206 electric vehicle charging stations at multi-unit dwelling locations in San Diego. The effort is backed by $500,000 in Energy Commission funding, derived largely from surcharges on motor vehicle registration fees and smog abatement fees.”

“San Diego Gas & Electric and the City of San Diego will help identify owners of apartment buildings, condominium associations and mixed-use projects which have a need for charging stations.”

“Successful applicants get free charging equipment and two years of charging-network services, but must pay for the installation.”

This is clearly a win-win situation for plug-in vehicle owners in the selected multi-family units in San Diego.

But what about the rest of us who reside in multi-family units?

There are several challenges, including restrictive home- and condo-association rules that perhaps disallow running cords out of windows and to your park EV.  Then, there are costs to consider, such as installation costs for landlords to install wiring to carports that may be 100s of yards away.  This doesn’t even include the cost of the charger, which would be cheap in comparison to what it would cost to get the wiring to a far-off parking location.

There’s billing for electricity, which becomes tricky unless a separate meter is installed.

And all sorts of other “issues” related to apartment/condo charging of plug-ins.

Now, it’s not fair to say that all apartments and condos could install chargers, but Plug In America put out a video on this topic of apartment and condo dwellers charging electric vehicles some two years ago and the case is made to get charger in as many of these multi-family homes as possible. We’ve included the video/panel discussion for your listening/viewing pleasure below:

Source: UT San Diego

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10 responses to "Apartment / Condo Dwellers and Electric Vehicle Ownership: Does It Work?"

  1. kdawg says:

    Well, if your condo has a garage, your’re pretty much set. Just plug your EVSE into a 120V outlet. Or you could get a 240V unit installed. I charge at my friend’s condo in her garage.

    For apartments, to me it seems like more would install chargers to gain clients. If rent is $1000/mo and your apartments aren’t at 100% capacity, you could spend a couple months worth of rent and have a charger installed that may attract an EV owner (or potential EV owner). Seems like a good way to get to capacity. And once you have the charger, it’s not like it’s going away after the renter moves out.

    I wish more apartment complexes would get on board (with their own $). Think if you lived in an apartment and there were ~10 chargers in the parking lot. Everyday you would see 10 of your neighbors plugging in and unplugging. That would be great motivator to get an EV, or at least spur conversations and familiarity with them.

  2. Rick says:

    Not in Virginia, this is a 1800’s state, if you live in a condominium more than 3 floors and you want to install your 240V outlet you need to get permits as a commercial, if the requirements were as a residential the average price of installation for condo could be around $1000 to $1500 a commercial is around $4000 to $10.000. Of couse we are more flexible for machine guns.

    1. ZivBnd says:

      Rick, I live in Arlington in Northern Virginia and my condo has 300 outside parking spots and 70 inside spots. 1/3 of the inside spots have 120V plugs and I am next to get one of the coveted indoor spots. So it can be done even in Virginia. Other condos in my area are slowly moving to amend the association documents to allow cars to charge, albeit usually at 120V, for a fee, which is fair enough. My condo will charge me $20 a month to charge.

  3. Bill Howland says:

    I honestly just watched the first minute since it appeared to be the same video from last year. I remember there wasn’t exactly too much info given, other than the PG&E guy downplayed any fast charging. He seemed to want chargers no more than the current standard crop of 30 amp units, which actually is good for everyone unless you’re a salesment or techie and HAVE to put 300 miles of charge in your EV in 5 hours or something like that (80 amp charging, etc).. Tbe downside of this is you’ll be needing a new battery soon. I remember the comment on the Roadster survey of the guy who drove his Roadster 140,000 km but then he now gets only 100 km per charge where he originally got 4 times that.

    \As far as this subject goes, unless you can make a private deal with your individual landlord or hoa, the next best thing is to have the HOA install a Kiosk where anyone with the HOA supplied credit card can charge. Centralize the EVSE on a long cord so that it doesn’t exactly matter where you park and where the next person can grab the cord if your car finishes charging prior to when you actually arrive at your car, should there be temporarily not enough evse’s or for breakdowns. Depending on the size of the HOA, I’d think 2 evse’s for 4 parking spots or 4 evse’s for 7, that kind of thing. The next thing is to have the HOA not get too greedy on the charging pricing, and only charge what it reasonably costs to provide the service (both fixed and marginal costs).

    California’s HOA’s would want to install a separate meter for the ‘charging island’ to get the discounted EV rate (if allowable for HOA’s) but it wouldn’t have to be huge: 150 amp branch for the 4 – 30 amp evse’s is plenty. 208 or 240 1-phase, whatever is available.

  4. alohart says:

    Most urban condominiums don’t have their own garages, so one must get permission from the HOA to install a charging circuit or EVSE in one’s parking garage parking space. Fortunately, Hawaii passed a law prohibiting a HOA or apartment building owner from denying an EV owner resident the right to install a charging circuit or EVSE at his expense unless insufficient electrical capacity exists.

    I have been called a “pioneer” in jumping through all the necessary hoops. An HOA must first adopt a policy that implements the state law and that describes what one must do. In my case, establishing that policy took about 3 months (lawyers must be involved to protect the HOA’s interests). Then one must apply for a building permit. The building department isn’t familiar with EVSE’s, so they have been slow to approve my application having rejected it twice due to my providing insufficient information. They now want me to hire an electrical engineer to design the installation ($$$). This is foolish for a 208 v. 20 a. circuit, so I have hired an electrical contractor with some experience installing EVSE’s (although this is his first condo installation). He thinks that he can persuade the building department to drop the electrical engineer requirement.

    The power company must be involved after I receive the building permit because they will be installing a time-of-use electric meter so I can charge at a reduced rate during off-peak hours. Even after everything has been installed, the power company won’t power my charging circuit until they complete a final inspection. They do have an EV advocate who will try to expedite things internally, but my electrical contractor can’t predict how fast they will move.

    So this is where I am 5 months after starting the process. My electrical contractor hopes that I will be able to plug in my EVSE by Christmas. The installation cost will be significant. More needs to be done to expedite the installation of EVSE’s in apartment and condo parking garages.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      Alohart hi! Yeah this issue is the thing that has always been a bug in my craw, this always making a super-big-deal about what is just another electrical appliance.

      In your case, you’re talking about an EVSE (probably an LCS-25) which draws somewhat less power than an electric dryer, and they want engineers, inspections, consutations, etc. The electric car manufacturers have been contributing with their insistance on “Home Inspections”, consultations, etc. Tesla to their credit has been a refreshing exception since they basically just say “Have your Electrician install this 50 amp outlet”, which is obviously all that is required, provided the homeowner does not want to perform this work themselves.

  5. scott moore says:

    As the one lady in the video talked about, the socialist republic of Santa Monica is going to have problems that nobody else has, like mostly older buildings with older wiring and landlords who don’t want to invest heavily in upgrades. For the rest of California that is still capitolist, putting in just a wiring mandate for apartment buildings is going to result in a lot of units coming on line in the space of 5 or 10 years, and at that point, new construction, there is no reason not to go with 2 phase. I worry that there is going to be too much emphasis on getting chargers installed in MUDs instead of just plugs. That is a huge cost increment, and isn’t necessary.

    Again as discussed in the video, there are areas such as Canada or Europe where having a plug by each car is normal and required for engine block heaters. I’ll bet their cost per plug is similar or less than getting the garage or carport lit.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      “…., there is no reason not to go with 2 phase……”.

      Care to elaborate? 2-phase power has been obsolete for decades. If you still find someplace that has it, it will be either a 3 wire (with the center wire handling 1.41 times the current of the other 2), or 4-wire, or if a lighting must also be suplied, 5 wire (standard 3 wire system on one of the phases, plus the other phase). Utilization equipent requiring grounding (earthing for European readers), would require a 6 wire cable. This is supplied by 2 -scott- T connected transformers on the pole to convert the 3 phase power on the street to 2 phase. But to my knowledge there haven’t been any new 2-phase installations for decades, since its a pain, and non-standard. If people see their business being fed by 2 pole transformers (usually of differing sizes), , 99.999% of the time this is “open-delta” 4 wire 3-phase.

      Perhaps you meant the 3 wire 120/240 (or, as far as the individual house is concerned, 120/208 3 wire), single-phase or as is new info for me, what the Europeans call ‘split-phase’, which has a totally different meaning for Americans..

    2. Gary H says:

      Somehow I missed how politics was an issue in the video and I see no reason to add that dimension here, especially since “landlords who don’t want to invest” sounds precisely like a “capitalist” issue and “putting in just a wiring mandate” sounds closer to a “socialist” one, if you want to call it that.
      It’s an issue of the addressable market. As the lady in the video talked about, 60% of the population of the US lives in MUD so I for one would very much like to see widespread education and solutions that addresses 60% of the potential EV market.
      Also note that some cities are just as or older than Santa Monica. Buildings in San Francisco and the East Bay date from the late 1800’s. Many older MUDs don’t even have parking lots. There is a lot of work to be done.
      Perhaps in urban areas, an entrepreneur might decide to open a dedicated and secure parking lot for EV charging.

  6. Lauren Goode says:

    Hi, I’m a Bay Area-based reporter looking to talk to people about their experiences getting EV chargers installed at their apartment or condo complexes. If you’re interested in chatting about this topic would you email me? Working on kind of a tight deadline! Thanks very much. lgoode@stanford.edu