top of page

For People to Be Happy With the Switch to EVs, We Need to Improve Access to Charging on Multifamily Properties

Published: March 22, 2024

By: Carter Li, CEO at SWTCH Energy


By 2035, Canada mandates all vehicle sales be electric, hybrid, or hydrogen-powered. Carter Li, CEO at SWTCH Energy, stresses that there is inadequate home charging, particularly for those in apartments or condos, to support this mandate. Incentives, technological innovations, and policy mandates are vital for affordable, convenient charging infrastructure.


By 2035, the government has mandated that all vehicles sold in Canada must be either fully electric, hybrids, or hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles.


From a sustainability perspective, it will be an exciting milestone to achieve. From the perspective of drivers, however, that excitement comes with a major asterisk: inadequate access to home charging makes the EV experience substantially worse.


With the exception of cases where a person is on a long trip, the experience typically considered best for EV charging looks something like this: either every night or when needed throughout the week, an EV driver arrives home and plugs their car into a private charging station installed for their use. By morning, the car is fully charged, and the driver is ready to head to work, to school, or off to the cottage, whatever the case may be.

For single-family dwellings with a driveway, it’s typically quite easy to get a charger installed. There’s usually some electrical work involved—cable to run, sometimes a panel to upgrade—but the owner gets to decide how and when to do the installation and whether that cost is worth it. And in the end, most can plug in their car whenever they need to and expect a great charging experience.


But not everyone lives in a single-family home. More than 34% of Canadians live in apartments or condos, and with the cost of real estate persistently high, it’s expected that this percentage will climb higher in the years to come. And when it comes to installing EV chargers, multifamily properties come with a couple of particular challenges.



First, most existing apartment and condo buildings were never built with EV charging in mind. It means that their electrical systems typically don’t have the excess capacity to accommodate EV chargers. This means that installing enough chargers to service everyone who needs one—and before we know it, this will be nearly everyone with a car—can be extremely expensive.


Second, there’s already a lot of electrical demand in the average multifamily building—HVAC, lighting, large appliances, etc—which can make fitting EV charging into the mix a tricky thing to do without risking demand charges when a building’s electricity consumption spikes high.


And third, the reality is that today, a relatively small proportion of the population actually drives an EV, so there’s relatively little pressure on most property owners to install chargers currently.


As a result, we’re seeing an unfortunate dynamic play out, where the number of EV owners is set to explode, and far too many multifamily properties will not be ready to accommodate the new needs of these drivers.


 

“We’re seeing an unfortunate dynamic play out, where the number of EV owners is set to explode, and far too many multifamily properties will not be ready to accommodate the new needs of these drivers”


- Carter Li

 

It’s why, when projecting the number of new EV chargers that will be required across the country to power an EV-centric future, Natural Resources Canada has offered two different breakdowns. One reflects a future in which multifamily EV charging is abundant, and the other reflects a future in which a great many EV owners instead have to rely upon public charging infrastructure.


I believe it would be a mistake for us to allow this future of greater reliance on public charging to come to pass.


Public charging is wonderful and necessary. It’s a great option for people who need a little extra top-up while going about their day or for people who are making long trips. And there will also always be some number of people for whom at-home charging just won’t be an option.


But just by virtue of not taking place at home, public charging is less convenient—imagine having to go somewhere else to charge up your phone at the end of the day, and you’ll get an idea. This reduced convenience comes in the form of time travelling to a charger and back, and potentially spent waiting near your car or wandering the nearby mall. There are worse ways to spend your time, sure, but most people would rather spend that time in the comfort of their own home.


So how do we get to the better outcome? Thankfully, there are a few levers to pull.


First, we must continue offering the kinds of incentives that exist today across the country at the federal, provincial, and local levels. Price is one of the larger blockers for deploying EV chargers at multifamily properties, and the more we can do to keep costs low, the better our chances of achieving the kinds of installation targets necessary for better access to charging at apartment and condo buildings.


 

“The more we can do to keep costs low, the better our chances of achieving the kinds of installation targets necessary for better access to charging at apartment and condo buildings”


- Carter Li

 

Second, technology players need to keep coming up with technological solutions that make EV charging more affordable and manageable for property owners. At SWTCH, for example, we’ve invested in developing things like load management technology to allow multiple chargers to be installed along a single circuit to reduce the costs of electrical upgrades and demand response capabilities to shut off charging when a building’s overall electrical demand is too high.


Third, there’s a role for policymakers to step in. “EV-readiness” requirements are becoming more common, and ensure that buildings are either built or retrofitted to accommodate the installation and use of car chargers on their premises. Building operators do have a profit motive that should drive them to install chargers by themselves—charging is an in-demand amenity and can pay itself off over the course of a few years. Where that isn’t sufficient motivation, legal requirement is a great alternative to ensure we get where we need to be.


Globally, the move to electrify transportation is a rare and exciting revolution. It should be a unifying project that we can all benefit from as equally as possible. But if we don’t take care to do things the right way and ensure access to convenient charging for everyone, no matter where they live, we run the risk of souring a large number of people on something I believe should be joyful. That would be a mistake and a shame.


Source: Clean50

Comentarios


bottom of page