As multifamily residents in increasing numbers turn to electric vehicles, operators are faced with the decision of whether investing in charging stations will help them get ahead of the curve.
A Pew Research Center study survey found that 7 percent of U.S. adults own an all-electric or hybrid vehicle, and nearly four in 10 are likely to consider an electric vehicle (EV) when they buy their next car. From 2016 to 2019, new registrations of all-electric vehicles jumped 267 percent to 1.1 million, according to the International Energy Agency. Other estimates suggest that EV adoption could soar 25 percent annually over the next five years, noted Mike Bammel, managing director & national practice lead for renewable energy with JLL’s valuation advisory team.
Policy trends in some key jurisdictions are also encouraging drivers to get behind the wheel of an EV. In April, the U.S. Department of Energy announced $34 million in funding for multiple initiatives intended to encourage expansion of EVs. By 2035, new gasoline-fueled car sales will be banned in California, a perennial first adopter of sustainability mandates. The state has set a 2045 deadline for meeting its energy needs entirely from renewable sources, noted Amanda Clevinger, policy and programs manager for Bright Power, a provider of energy and water management services.
“Property owners are already thinking about how they can electrify their properties, and they should keep EV charging in mind as they build their capital plans,” she said.
Impetus is coming from state and local government, as well. Many EV-related regulations target manufacturers, but the policy conversation is evolving. In New York, the next recommendations from a panel that advises the state on climate policy “could result in a mandate for EV charging stations,” Clevinger reported.
And the home will be the focus of powering electric vehicles for some time to come. Eighty percent of EV charging now takes place at the residence, said Alison Alvarez, CEO of BlastPoint, which forecasts consumer technology adoption. For multifamily operators, that trend presents “a huge opportunity to distinguish yourself and offer an amenity setting you apart from potential competitors,” she argued. “Even if people don’t have EVs now, there is a change in how people are thinking about and considering them for the future.”
Owners should use studies and market research to assess demand for vehicle charging, Bammel advised, adding that some suppliers and partners provide data on geographic penetration of EVs.
AKAM, a property management company, goes to the end user to come up with projections. Residents at the 250 multifamily properties it manages in New York City are surveyed about current and planned EV ownership, said Matt Resnick, the firm’s director of property management. “We might find the building needs four (chargers) today but should take advantage of the discounts available to get 10 now,” he said.
Incentives include as much as $18,000 in rebates and tax breaks on a two-port installation, according to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “Once we understand our wish list, where (charging stations) would go and what the building infrastructure allows, we try to … put together a forward-looking plan,” Resnick said.
That plan must consider such variables as whether charging stations and software are already in place; the community’s available power supply; potential space for single- or dual-port charging stations; preferability of wall-mounted or pedestal-based equipment; and the choice of make and model, he said.
Costs can vary considerably, as well. A recent estimate by Property Management Insider places the typical cost at around $6,000 per charging station but notes that prices can range from $2,500 to $13,000. The baseline cost of installing 10 stations at an existing building in New York City could range from $19,000 to $27,000 with incentives, according to Bright Power. Also figuring into the budget: subscriptions to the service, warranty and maintenance service, as well as staff training.
Assembling the puzzle
When scouting vendors, multifamily owners and operators should consider the big picture. EV charging is only one piece of the electrification and decarbonization puzzle that multifamily operators must assemble in coming years, Clevinger said.
Vendors should be informed about integrating stations with rooftop solar and bring in partners if necessary. “If you already have solar, look for a vendor who specializes in connecting existing solar to EV charging stations,” she said.
“We’ve worked with vendors that integrate community solar and EV charging stations, allowing the building owners to offset common-area electricity consumption while also enabling residents to opt into solar to reduce their electricity bills.” By integrating the two, vendors help owners offset common-area consumption while enabling residents to reduce their bills.
Asking other operators for references is another good practice. “These partners should be able to provide information on the best equipment, installation and operational solutions, including incentive programs for the overall best experience,” Bammel said, adding there should be “a well (thought-out) plan for customer ease of use and immediate service, should there be a current challenge.”
Other innovations can help overcome barriers to installation. Con Edison, the utility serving New York City and suburban Westchester County, recently released a map designed to provide operators with greater visibility into hosting capacity, the amount of distributed energy that can be placed without requiring system upgrades or impacting power quality. The map can also help operators target optimal sites.
Said Clevinger: “Tools like this help give owners more confidence in the visibility of these projects and are crucial if we want to achieve deployment targets going forward.”