Electric cars are finally here and are hot in the market. As we discussed in our previous article, there has been a surge in purchasing PEVs (plug-in electric vehicles) within the last five years. With the escalation of demand on electric cars and its purchases, battery charging stations are a hot topic that many condo boards, homeowners associations (HOAs), and co-ops across the country need are starting to address.

To understand the demand on battery-charging stations, one must first educate themselves on PEVs, also known as, “EVs” or “electric cars”.  The classification of PEVs are not limited to vehicles that run exclusively on battery power, such as the Nissan Leaf (one of the pioneers in this market) or the luxurious Tesla Model S. These BEVs (battery electric vehicles) are only a small section of the story.

PEHVs (plug-in hybrid vehicles), also referred to as “hybrid plug-ins” or “hybrid electric cars,” are also included in this category. PEHVs come equipped with an electric motor and rechargeable battery. An internal combustion engine is built into the vehicle so that the vehicle has the option to be fueled with gas. These include the dedicated models such as the Chevrolet Volt, which is a pioneer in the field of these specialized cars, as well as plug-in models adapted from hybrid vehicles, such as the Toyota Prius Plug-In, the Honda Accord Plug-In, and the Ford Fusion Energi SE.

Typically, owners of hybrid plug-ins try to maximize the amount of miles driven on battery power, but they know they can always return to the option of using gas if their batteries run down. On the other hand, owners of BEVs rely exclusive on electricity to power their vehicle. For the reason that the vehicle batteries can provide power for only approximately 60-100 miles of travel, charging stations need to be abundant and reliable. Installing charging stations located right in the community would be an appreciated and convenient commodity for your residents.

When contemplating if installing EV charging stations is the right choice for your community, consider this – you will not only satisfy the needs of current and future EV owners, but you will also enhance your property’s “green” image.  The presence of a community’s “green” image has a positive effect that may increase property values and attract future residents.

So how should your Board get started on this process? Begin by talking to other community Board members and local community leaders to see if this issue is being addressed locally. Survey your residents and consult with a reputable property management company. If your community is professionally managed, your property management team can educate and guide you through the process.

1. What do homeowners want?

Conduct a poll to determine if there a high demand to install an on-site EV charger in your community. A survey of your community may gauge their interest, and help you decide if there’s reason to move forward.

2. Create a team.

Put your information into action. Your Board can create a committee of owners that have a mutual interest in the construction of charging stations to research possible charging options and vendors who are able to install and manage the equipment, and report back to the Board. Be sure to include PEV owners, if possible. Ask your community manager and management team to work closely with committee members to inform and provide guidance, when necessary. It is recommended to include the association’s attorney in the process so that any possible legal issues that may arise under the community documents and/or applicable law can be addressed properly.

3. Know your charging options.

As your responsibility, your Board will need to understand which options are available – and the most practical – for your residents and community. There are several charging level options to choose from, but the most common found in residential communities are Level 1 and Level 2 (a third option, DC Fast Charging, is best suited for commercial locations because to its higher cost and power requirements.) To get started, below is a brief summary of your options:
  • Level 1 charging is the simplest option. You will need a standard three-pronged, 120-volt AC wall outlet. Every EV is equipped with a charging cord that you simply plug in, making it a no-cost or minimal-cost option. There are no additional costs if there are electrical outlets already installed in your building’s garage or community parking facilities. Should you need the installation, it is typically just a few hundred dollars for its construction. This charging option is a slower process, so it is most suitable for longer parking stays. For example, one can charge a Chevy Leaf to half its capacity in 8-10 hours – so it is a good option for overnight charging. In a short term parking situation, it typically adds only five miles of additional range for each hour of charge.
  • Level 2 charging requires a more professionally-installed unit that has access to a 208 or 240 volt dedicated circuit and is protected by a 40 or 80 amp circuit breaker. Level 2 provides faster results in a time-reduced manner. Its charging ability is much faster in comparison than Level 1, taking from only three hours (for newer EV models) to about six hours to charge a depleted battery to completion. Level 2 charging also delivers additional benefits, such as adding up to 20 miles of range for each hour of charge, which constitutes a good choice for electric cars that offer ranges of 100 miles or more. However, the convenience is a more costly option. The Level 2 charger installation may come at a cost of several thousand dollars. The total installation cost depends on your community’s on-site transformer and electrical service capacity, closeness of electric service to parking spaces, the necessity to upgrade the electrical panel and service capacity, and other considerable variables.

4. Consult with an electrical contractor.

As mentioned above, your Board needs to be educated on your community’s existing electrical infrastructure, as well as which charging options are the most practical from a logistical and financial perspective. To learn more, consult with an expert – specifically, an experienced electrical contractor. In addition to providing advice geared towards to your community, the contractor may be qualified to perform a more customized service of installation – or refer you to a vendor who can. If your community association is not familiar with a local electrical contractor with EV charging experience, a good property management company will likely have relationships with experienced quality service providers and vendors.

5. Contact your utility company.

In addition to installation costs, it is important for your association to be aware of any additional costs associated with an on-site charging station. To discover more, contact your local New Jersey utility company. Your property management company may be able to leverage its combined buying power and provide better rates for the increased service demand.

6. Who will own and manage?

If you decide to install Level 2 charging stations, it will be necessary for your association to decide who will own and operate them.  Typically, there are three options:  they can be owned and managed by your Condo, HOA or community association, owned and managed by a third-party company for a fee, or it can be owned by your association and managed by a third-party company. Regardless of the option you choose, users would either be charged a flat monthly fee or for their actual electricity usage.

7. Revise your policies.

Once you have gathered all necessary information, you will need to again involve the association’s attorney to determine the process for making any needed amendments to the association documents.

8. Spread the word.

Once all decisions have been made, it’s very important to inform residents on the usage of EV chargers. Communication should be frequent and via multiple channels, including email messages, articles in your community newsletter, flyers, direct mail, notices in common areas, and other modes of communication. Some communities or property management companies have virtual notification systems as tools for instant and efficient communication. For example, FirstService Residential has the tools to deliver messages by phone, text or email through its Resident Alert system.

Once considered a distant perception of transportation, electric cars are now a reality of transportation for many drivers – and more car buyers are making the switch each year. Thus, the demand for abundant and easily accessible and charging stations has become a local demand. By exploring the process for installing charging units to support homeowners’ choices, your association will stay ahead of the trend and cater to the heightened necessity of electric vehicle charging stations. Addressing this need will go a long way towards enhancing residents’ lifestyles, now and in the future.

If you’d like more information about enhancing your community’s quality of life, contact FirstService Residential, New Jersey’s leading community association management company.
Friday June 17, 2016