Corporations, property managers, and owners alike are struggling with how best to install EV Charging stations in condo buildings. The challenge is not going to get any easier, since the need will only increase over time as more drivers convert to EVs. While the transition takes place, multi-unit owners are bearing the cost!
In this analysis, we will examine the problems, the causes, the context in which these costs manifest themselves, and possible solutions for the staggering cost of installing EV chargers in condominiums.
1. Parking spaces are not fitted with electrical power. That electrical power needs to come from the common areas of the building using the Corporation’s electrical infrastructure.
2. The Condo Act does allow an owner to make a reasonable request to the Corporation to access the common areas of the building or even use the common areas for private use. In Ontario, Canada, this is done using a Section 98 request. The Corporation cannot reject such reasonable requests.
3. Section 98 requests are individual requests meaning that each owner needs to make the request themselves.
4. The electrical infrastructure in a condo building has limited capacity for the addition of electrical loads.
5. Parking areas of a condo building rarely have internet access.
6. The electricity provided to the charger/owner would have to come from the condo corporation.
Condo corporations and property managers generally don’t have a strategy. In fairness, many don’t know what that strategy should be given the complex nature of providing EV charging stations in Condos. At this early stage in the market’s development, we see the following approaches:
1. “The first time a request is made we will deal with it.” – The Un-Strategy.
In this case, the board is guided by the first owner, their team, their contractor, their supplier, and the need for the board to educate themselves on EV charger solutions. What is problematic about this approach is that the first owner may not be representative of the whole. This approach may result in excessive costs to the owner, the corporation, and even other owners in the building that don’t have EVs.
2. “To each their own.” – The Strategy of Frustration.
In this strategy, the condo leaves the task of installing an EV charger to each owner. It does not provide guidance, it does not oversee the process, or get involved, other than to provide Section 98 approval. The strategy of frustration may dissolve the condo of responsibility or even the PM of involvement, but it is ineffective and inequitable. It may even leave the condo with multiple solutions, duplication, additional costs, exposure to insurance premiums, or more.
3. The Half Strategy.
Here the condo gets involved to the extent that it may provide a limited solution, base system infrastructure says, that allows owners to connect their charger. While this is beneficial it leaves the ‘Last mile’ to the owner. Unfortunately, this leaves out very important pieces of the solution that can increase costs and add frustration, the least of which is, how the condo gets reimbursed for electricity usage.
Condo owners can expect to pay substantially more to install EV Chargers than those living in single-family homes. Aside from the upfront capital costs, there are ongoing costs to contend with as well.
- Section 98 legal expenses.
- Infrastructure/installation proposal expenses.
- Installation costs due to distance to electrical panels, cable type due to exposed conduit, and inefficient installation due to multiple providers.
- Electricity cost recovery requires upgraded chargers with features like smart meters or the addition of other equipment.
By comparison, drivers who live in single-family homes don’t have these costs. How do they compare?
In total, condo owners can expect to pay up to $5,000 or more for an EV charger installation in their Condo parking spot or 2x that in a single home. Plus, they are exposed to ongoing costs for electricity consumption reporting and other services.
Infrastructure projects in condos are always conducted by the corporation. The board identifies the need, for example, for a replacement window, hires the engineer, specs the project, secures qualified suppliers, and manages the project from start to finish. In all cases, the owners pay for this by way of contributions to the reserve fund.
EV charger installation is an infrastructure project. However, for some reason, many condos don’t want to deal with this or use half measures. The result is increased costs for owners, a half-baked, or ill-conceived solution, and inequity as early adopters get a charger, but other owners are shut out. So, what is the alternative? What can the Corporation do to bring order to the process while reducing costs for both the Owners and Corporation?
The unique nature of condominiums, the location of parking, and other factors make such properties more involved when it comes to EV charger installation. Having said that some of the costs are within the Corporation’s control. As a body of the owners, it is in the best interest of the Corporation to do the best it can to minimize costs for owners. Some of the actions to consider are:
1. Expert Advice.
This does not mean contacting EV charger suppliers! Consider using an Electrical Engineering Consultancy firm to provide guidance. They are working for the Corporation and don’t have a bias or interest in the sale of equipment or services. Although not all EE consultancy firms have experience with EV charging infrastructure there are some, so look around.
2. Holistic Plan.
Prepare a plan that looks to minimize costs for owners; provides a complete solution. Prepare an EV Charger Installation Guide that covers the approval process, provides basic information on the building’s infrastructure, etc. Consider installing WiFi in the garage area for all EV Owners to use. Locating electrical EV junction boxes throughout the garage to minimize connection costs. Set minimum charger standards that include, open protocol software requirements, amongst other things.
3. Think Outside the Box.
What else can the Corporation do? Can the Corporation pass a By-law, or consider other legal approaches, that eliminate the need for individual Section 98 approvals, or simply lowers the cost of such requests? Consider Group Buying, or negotiating a single service provider to handle electricity consumption administration, etc.
The pressure on Corporations to deal with EV charging will only get more intense. Many automotive manufacturers are committing to 100% EV production in the next 8yrs. While governments around the World are targeting 2030 for a complete switch to EVs. No one knows what is coming, so planning for EV adoption is key, and not only 10%-20% but 100% adoption.
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