A CAR WITHOUT A CHARGER: APARTMENT, CONDO DWELLERS CONSIDERING ELECTRIC VEHICLES COULD BE SET TO STRUGGLE
Williams’ case exemplifies an ongoing debate: Could ever-increasing demand for chargers from electric vehicle purchasers drive their installation at multi-residential buildings, or should charger installation and availability precede EV buying decisions by rental apartment tenants and condo owners?
In Williams’ case, after someone noticed he was using the parking lot bollard a chain of restrictions followed on where he could juice up his car that left him “always frantically trying to find places to charge.
“I know other people have had similar problems, and condo charging solution discussions have come up from time to time at the monthly meetings at the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa (EVCO), but there hasn’t been a whole lot of movement on it,” says Williams, who is a member of the local EV advocacy group.
Williams also learned that connecting the parking-lot bollard to the electrical meter on his condo building more than 40 metres away was prohibitively expensive. In addition, a petitioner eventually obtained enough signatures to result in a condo association vote against installing electric vehicle chargers at all.
For Williams, solutions could be found such as a commercial public charger in a building near Blair Station. If he was desperate, he’d drive to the downtown Rideau Centre — where he’d also pay a parking fee.
His situation has improved in the past couple of years with more public chargers in more spots. But those which Williams now uses most are still in a location a 10- to 15-minute walk from his condo — he’ll leave the vehicle there while it’s charging — or in his mother’s newer, charger-equipped apartment building.
In the first six months of 2022, sales of fully-electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles made up just 7.2 per cent of new car registrations, while for all of 2021, the share was 5.2 per cent. In 2021, there were 83,200 registrations overall, led by Quebec (42.8 per cent, or 35,600), British Columbia (27.7 per cent, or 23,000) and Ontario (22.9 per cent, or 19,000).
Raymond Leury, president of the Electric Vehicle Council of Ottawa advocacy group, says Quebecers own about 150,000 EVs.
“The share in Outaouais is a bit lower,” Leury says. “That being said, per capita, there are many more electric cars on the Quebec side in the Outaouais than there is in Ottawa.
During his successful 2022 election campaign, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe promised to transition Ottawa’s gas-powered vehicle fleet to fully electric or hybrid by 2030 and to “champion” EV adoption by police and other emergency services.
Sutcliffe’s climate platform also said he would allow Hydro Ottawa to install 200 EV charging stations on a cost-recovery basis, but, beyond the combined demand that additional EVs would place on electrical grids, public charging may not be an option for every owner, nor can everyone attach a charger to an exterior wall or inside the garage of their own home.
“Most of the time, it’s going to be the owner of the apartment building who’s going to be interested, or not interested, in installing chargers,” says Daniel Breton, president of Electric Mobility Canada, another EV promoter.
“For those apartment building owners, if they start installing chargers, this will become an incentive for people who want to buy an electric car to go live in that apartment building. To me, I see this not as a cost, but as an investment. But not everyone sees it like that.”
John Dickie, chair of the Eastern Ontario Landlord Organization, says there has been little movement in that direction so far.
Installing chargers isn’t cheap, Dickie notes, plus safety matters. “There are issues of the electrical loads on the buildings. The people who install them are all set to have us install them, but, to be frank, pick-up is not proceeding very quickly.”
The Ottawa Region Landlords Association’s fall 2022 newsletter included an opinion article arguing that upgrading electrical services in older buildings could cost up to hundreds of thousands of dollars for replacing transformers.
Dickie says Eastern Ontario Landlords’ Organization members are “absolutely” concerned about retrofitting costs.
“People have started to use more electrical appliances. Twenty years ago, tenants didn’t have computers, they didn’t have big-screen TVs. Now everybody has computers and big-screen TVs. So that means you need more power in the building,” Dickie says.
Leury says Ontario’s electrical code allows for “charging management systems” so electric vehicles in each building wouldn’t charge all at once.
“There are cases that exist right now with charging systems that one circuit will support four chargers. So you don’t have to put so much load on the electrical system, and the reality is, when you look at the average Canadian’s commute, it’s only 30 to 50 kilometres a day. With a typical 240(-volt) charging system, that’s only about an hour or so of charging time.”
As of early October, the program had funded more than 70 projects putting more than 4,500 chargers in multi-unit buildings, workplaces and for use by light-duty fleets. Another Request for Proposals focusing on public places, on-street, multi-unit buildings, workplaces and vehicle fleets closed Aug. 11, with funding decisions expected “by late 2022.”
Story by: Ottawa Citizen