Six steps to implement EV charging in high-rise condos
Electric vehicles (EVs) are quickly rising in popularity. According to the International Energy Agency, in 2021, electric car sales reached a record high of 6.6 million, nearly double the sales of 2020. With fewer trips to the gas station, less maintenance, and the possibility of emission-free driving, it's easy to see why many are switching to electric vehicles.
“In the past two years, we have seen the interest in EVs grow from a rarity to commonplace. These are no longer one-off challenges, but rather, a conversation that all communities, not just high-end high-rises, need to be ready to tackle,” said Chris Normandeau, Director of FirstService Energy, a subdivision of FirstService Residential.
With the growing push for energy conservation and efficiency, your community must start preparing for increased requests for EV charging stations and energy consumption on the property. While many luxury, high-rise condos already incorporate electric charging stations on their property, some communities don’t even have electrical outlets near parking spaces, let alone high-voltage conductors and conduits running through them. These charging requirements may create challenges in navigating infrastructure requirements, legal implications, management concerns, and even aesthetics.
Chris Petrik, a property manager for FirstService Residential with over 11 years of experience in the industry, shared his experience with installing electric vehicle charging stations in his community. “Before our installation of charging stations, we only had 4 electric vehicles in our building. We decided to make an initial investment of 4 charging stations in our parking garage. Today we now have 26 Teslas and numerous other electric vehicles. It goes to show that when you invest in this infrastructure, you will get more people to buy into your community and services.”
Petrik listed a few other benefits he noticed from the addition of EV charging stations. “Some of the other benefits were a surge in popularity among prospective residents, increased property values, state of the art amenity for a modern, sustainable lifestyle and a partnership with FirstService Energy, who provided amazing guidance and expertise in navigating the process of installing EV charging stations.”
If your high-rise condo is ready to start looking into electric vehicle charging stations, the steps below can provide a holistic overview of the process and what you can expect.
Navigate your stakeholdersWhen you’re making parking changes, there are many parties who’ll need to weigh in. In addition to the EV owner, consider the wants and needs of the association, the building or community management staff, the owner or landlord, other residents, the electric utility and community document requirements, and all applicable governing federal, state, and local laws.
It also helps to gather information on current parking policies, electrical capacity, and overall resident interest in accommodating EVs. Consider creating an advisory committee, and don’t be afraid to reach out to experts like a good property management company, which can pull together resources such as other communities who have completed EV infrastructure, your local power company, a qualified contractor, and more.
Identify who’s going to pay for the workThis is always an important question. Complete installation of charging equipment can cost several hundred to tens of thousands of dollars...it all depends on the equipment used, permitting, conduit, panel or even service upgrades, trenching, labor, and whether or not your condo community will need landscape repair. The resident EV owners could cover these costs (this is the easiest way), or multiple residents could pitch in for installation.
Another alternative may be for the association to pay for the major costs (engineers, upgrading service, running a high voltage conductor infrastructure…) and offer the EV infrastructure as an amenity, like a pool or fitness center. You can devise other creative options to fit your community but always check first for relevant provisions in the community documents and local laws that may affect your decision.
Determine who pays for the additional energy consumptionOf course, with a bunch of EVs plugged in, someone has to pay for the power. A few options for high-rise condos are…
- Institute a flat monthly user fee. However, light users may not be happy to share the financial burden of heavy users.
- The association covers the additional electricity costs. Although this may upset residents who drive conventional vehicles and don’t contribute to the higher utility costs.
- Sub-meter the electrical consumption of each EV. This is a solution that many people and associations find reasonable, but it can be tricky to pull off. It would mean the association manager or office staff must administer the charges and manage the billing, payments, etc., which can be very time-consuming, even with only a few EVs.
- Implement an automatic charging accounting system or hire a service provider. While these solutions would incur added administration fees, they ensure that each user pays for their energy use while freeing up the management staff to focus on property operations
Account for capacity and equipmentAllowing a trusted electrical engineer, electrician, and utility representative to review the existing service, transformers, panels, conductors, and other charging infrastructure is imperative – in fact, it should ideally be done before any residents purchase an EV.
Installing a single 110V slow charger for an EV may be a simple solution, but it becomes much different when the requirement is for dozens of 220V fast chargers. Other considerations, like what types of charging stations your association allows, should be kept in mind.
Change assigned parking if you need to – and canBecause of the limitations of electrical infrastructure, you may need to swap residents’ parking spaces a bit. Understandably, this may be resisted by residents who perceive their proposed new space as a downgrade, but open communication can help minimize hard feelings. The reality is that it will be much cheaper if EV charging spaces are located closer to the electrical panel. Alternatively, you can implement shared spaces for charging equipment (just be sure to formalize a shared-use policy so residents don’t monopolize the spaces) or proactively wire the majority of the parking garage to anticipate this need.
Choose the right contractorThis is an important project, and you’ll want it to go smoothly. Seek a licensed, bonded contractor with experience in EV charging infrastructure. Ensure they pull all necessary permits and handle all required inspections. If you need help locating a contractor, a good property management company can make a referral.
Associations should lean on their managers and other professionals to help get started on the road to installing EV charging stations. By partnering with a professional management company like FirstService Residential, you gain exclusive access to our subsidiary companies FirstService Energy and FirstService Financial, who can guide your community through the process.