October 4, 2023

Addressing key concerns of multifamily EV charging

Portland high-rise

In the race to electrify America’s roads, multifamily EV charging has become a speed bump. Homeowners are still roughly three times as likely to own an electric vehicle (EV), and charging availability is one of the critical factors preventing that gap from narrowing.


Renters are in a difficult position when it comes to switching to electric vehicles. Homeowners are free to install their own chargers, but renters typically must rely on landlords and property owners to provide the necessary infrastructure. Thus far, that’s something not all property owners have been eager to do.


Without the ability to charge at home, though, renters will continue to hesitate to purchase EVs. Considering that those who rent represent roughly 35% of the adult U.S. population, a failure to address this disparity will only slow the pace of EV adoption.


What, then, are the barriers to more widely available apartment and condo EV charging? What can be done to remove those roadblocks? We’ll explore those questions below.


Benefits of apartment and condo EV charging

Before we address the barriers to multifamily EV charging, it’s worth addressing a more fundamental question: Is this a significant problem? In short, yes. Multifamily housing is a critical frontier for EV adoption equity, and the lack of available chargers makes it much more difficult for a significant portion of the population to access the long-term benefits of electric vehicles. Making EV charging more accessible for U.S. renters is a critical step toward making EVs realistic for everyone.


The benefits of establishing more EV charging in apartments and other multifamily units extend beyond EV equity, though. Renters, of course, benefit from being able to charge at home rather than having to find charging in public. Property owners stand to benefit significantly, too, and this often goes overlooked. When landlords install EV chargers in their apartment complexes, they gain a competitive edge and an opportunity to attract tenants who already own (or want to own) EVs. Not only that, but they can also consider ways to monetize the stations or take advantage of incentives to recoup their investment sooner rather than later.


Barriers to multifamily EV charging

Despite these benefits, many landlords hesitate to charge ahead with changes to their multifamily developments. Although there are many reasons for this, it primarily comes down to four key roadblocks.


The cost of updating electrical infrastructure

Cost is, by far, the largest barrier to adding more apartment EV charging. The EV chargers themselves can be expensive, depending on how many a particular apartment complex needs. On top of that, complexes often require upgrades to meet the new electrical demand requirements.


Level 1 chargers—available for a few hundred dollars and more readily able to tap into existing electrical systems—are the most economical choice, but not necessarily the best option for tenants. Level 1 chargers take 32 hours or more to fully charge a car battery, so they’re impractical in most multifamily settings where chargers must be shared.


Level 2 chargers are much more effective, providing between 12 to 60 miles of range per hour. However, they’re also more expensive to purchase and install. Each charger requires 208 to 240 volts, which takes up twice the amount of space on an electrical box and requires more electrical cabling, pushing the cost of installation to between $1,200 and $2,500 per charger, on average, but it is dependent on state.


For a large apartment complex, this can add up quickly. Given that the ones who use the chargers aren’t the ones directly footing the bill, these upgrades often get put off in favor of projects that are less costly or promise a more immediate return for apartment owners.


For owners, however, delaying the addition of EV chargers represents a failure to account for the incentives and tax credits available, including up to $30,000 for commercial charging station installation. Many state agencies and utilities offer additional incentives to further reduce upfront costs.


Slow demand growth among residents

Despite the available incentives, many multifamily property owners have hesitated to embrace EV charging, citing low demand among residents. If there aren’t enough tenants who want the chargers, they ask, how will they recoup costs by charging for station use or raising rent?


Historically, this has been a reasonable question. As noted, renters have lagged behind homeowners in terms of EV demand. However, as EV adoption surges forward, renters are getting swept up in the current. For instance, a 2022 National Multifamily Housing Council survey found that 27% of renters were interested in EV charging stations—and that they’d be willing to pay $28 per month for them.


Ultimately, this is a bit of a “chicken or egg” argument. Renter demand for EVs may be behind homeowners, but much of that may simply be because charging hasn’t been readily available at rental housing. As more apartments offer charging, more renters will expect it, so the owners who make the move now stand to benefit by getting ahead of the curve.


Parking space availability

The shared nature of apartment parking presents an additional challenge for owners. To reduce costs, it may make sense to install a limited number of stations around the complex. Where do you put those stations, though? Which tenants get the EV charging spots close to their apartment, and which ones have to park farther away simply to charge their car?


In most cases, multifamily properties have assigned parking, which makes it impractical for tenants to share chargers. In that case, owners may consider a separate area for EV charging, but this “charging zone” still must be close enough to the general living area to make it appealing to residents. It’s also imperative to include enough chargers so that tenants aren’t frequently competing for space and time—or getting irritated with other tenants who forget to move their cars when charging is complete. To combat this issue, our customer Sage Condominiums in Scottsdale, Arizona installed chargers for every resident to avoid competition, and enabled load balancing to save costs.


Operational headaches

Aside from these concerns, some apartment owners simply don’t want to deal with the headache of installing multifamily EV charging at their complexes. The permitting process can take time and is often subject to delays. Electrical work can be disruptive. Other projects, whether it be installing a gym or upgrading a pool, may seem more straightforward and appealing to their target tenants.


Not only that, but once the stations are online, owners may also worry about how they will manage them effectively. How will they charge tenants? What happens when a station goes down? What will it do to their electric bills?


These are fair questions, and the best way to address them is with the right charging solutions partner


The Enel X Way solution

Whichever barrier you’re facing as you consider upgrading your apartment complex, Enel X Way can help you overcome it. We offer turnkey charging station solutions designed to fit your needs, whether your priority is offering Level 2 or Level 3 DC fast charging.


We can guide you through every stage of the project, whether it’s selecting the right EVSE, planning electrical upgrades, reworking your parking layout, or setting up financing and installation. We’re more than an EV charging vendor—we’re a consultant and partner to alleviate stress throughout the project.


That partnership doesn’t end when your stations go online, either. Our JuiceNet software dashboard makes it easy to manage your stations, access detailed reports for billing, and ensure your new charging network runs smoothly so you can tend to the other demands of running your property.


Most recently, we helped install more than 100 chargers at 600 North Lake Shore Drive Condominiums in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. Similarly, at Sage Condominiums, Enel X Way built a customized smart charging solution that would allow Sage to easily divide its limited power among residents and bill them individually for their usage.


We’ve helped upgrade numerous apartments and condominiums just like these, and yours could be next on the list.


Contact us today to get started.


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