Sharing the Juice: Advancing EV Charging in Residential and Commercial Communities

Tim Gavrilovic

Despite early hurdles that cast electric vehicles as fringe technology current trends show that the electric vehicle revolution is still on the rise and here to stay. Changes in customer perceptions and demand, advancements in technology, buy-in from traditional automakers and government incentives has helped propel electric vehicles into the mainstream. However, in order to fuel the transportation of the future, we need to build an accessible network of charging infrastructure. A convergence of consumer, real estate market, and policy/regulatory trends make this the ideal time to invest in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, especially for property owners and developers of residential and commercial buildings. 

Experts agree. “We are just scratching the surface of electric vehicle adoption. We will continue to see the number of EVs on the road and associated infrastructure projects match demand,” according to Will Barrett, Director of Sales for EVSE manufacturer Clipper Creek.

This is a classic chicken vs. the egg scenario. On one hand, consumer demand for electric vehicles suggests demand for infrastructure will drive construction of an expansive charging network, similar to the rapid adoption of the automobile that gave way to paved roads and the interstate highways system. 

According to the International Council on Clean Transportation, the expected increase in electric vehicle adoption will require an investment of more than $2.2 billion in charging infrastructure in the US by 2025. Building out this infrastructure will require creative public-private partnerships, which is why so many governments and utilities have implemented incentive programs for private and publicly accessible chargers. Kevin Wood, Clean Transportation Specialist for Center for Sustainable Energy adds, “As this market matures, we will need electric vehicle infrastructure everywhere. Today, anywhere a car park is a good opportunity for charging.”

On the other hand, the current lack of infrastructure could mean consumer EV adoption is stymied. “The biggest barrier for drivers to convert to an electric vehicle is the convenience of charging,” says Thomas Sun, Co-founder of electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) software company AmpUp. If we make the charging infrastructure more publicly accessible, more drivers may convert to electric on their next vehicle purchase. Sun adds, “Drivers may be more likely to adopt electric vehicles if their workplace or residence offers charging as an amenity.” And in the age of the shared economy, communal chargers shared by workers or residents of multi-unit dwellings not only make economic sense, but also align with our values and trends as a society.

Integrating electric vehicle charging into multi-family dwellings and commercial buildings aligns with demands for shared amenities. Even more, developers are designing more sustainable buildings and the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Certification is attractive for qualifying for building incentives like tax credits and grants, meeting new building codes, and appealing to tenant preferences. According to the US Green Building Council, buildings can receive LEED points for being charger ready or earn more points for having accessible chargers installed. Buildings can also be eligible to earn LEED points when 10% or more of residents use EVs.

Unfortunately, there is still a significant cost barrier for hosts of electric vehicle chargers. Properties need to invest in telecom and electric infrastructure and the purchase of the hardware. For sites with multiple EV drivers, electricity costs can also increase.

Electric vehicle incentives and tax deductions were significant in driving demand for electric vehicles. As those appropriations dry up, new government and utility incentive programs to encourage construction of electric vehicle charging infrastructure are replacing individual vehicle incentives. Incentivizing charging sites, especially those that can be shared by multiple drivers allows rebate and grant programs to maximize public good. Taking advantage of these benefits while they are available can significantly reduce the capital costs for site hosts – in some cases up to 100% of costs are covered.

Will Barrett adds, “Most of the incentives out there right now are focused on workplace and residential multi-unit dwellings (MUDs). Site hosts should reach out to Clean Cities organizations, utilities and colleagues around the country to learn what grants and rebates are available. EVSE vendors are also clued into these incentives.”

To further reduce cost barriers, hosts of community charging sites, like universities, workplaces and multi-family residences that use AmpUp’s community manager software can effectively manage multiple user groups and chargers with reservations and scheduling. These community chargers can even be made publicly available when not used by the primary audience. Hosts can “charge to charge” as a way to generate revenue and offset ongoing energy or upfront capital costs.

In residential space, the benefits to establishing EV charging on the property are clear. In a renter’s market, added amenities increase competitiveness, attract new demographics of tenants and keep them there longer. In buildings that are owned by residents, property costs are shared, even if only a portion of residents use it.

“This is the biggest challenge for property developers, but sites can get creative with revenue models. Chargers can be paid for by those who need it and use it and can become a revenue stream for the community. But you have to educate people, get the community on board, and then get approval from the Homeowners’ Association Board,” advises Michael Bodner from First Service Residential and an electric vehicle advocate.

As developers are designing buildings of the future, green solutions like energy & water efficiency and tenant amenities like coworking space, fitness centers, and pet amenities are becoming normalized. More and more residential and commercial communities see the value in adding EV charging amenities. Only a few years from now, accessibility to EV charging in workplaces and residential buildings will be inevitable. Investing in being EV ready now, while there are incentives available, is an investment in future proofing the building for a time when EV charging will be an expected amenity. 

Now is the time to jump on to market tailwinds and capitalize on available incentives that can significantly reduce the cost barriers for site hosts. For those who want to take advantage of this unique opportunity, Clipper Creek has outlined the key considerations for hosts to get started:

Key Considerations for Charging Infrastructure

  • What is the goal of the project? Goals can include servicing existing tenants or attracting new tenants; incorporating sustainability and acquiring LEED points.
  • What are the project scope considerations? Consider existing electrical infrastructure, potential infrastructure upgrades, individual or shared parking/charging, open access or restricted access, free or pay-for-use amenity. 
  • What resources can support the installation? Clean Cities Coalitions can be useful in navigating vendors and identifying incentive opportunities. Utilities and state agencies may have lucrative incentive programs for MUD and commercial buildings. Vendors and other industry peers can also be valuable resources. 
  • How can the project recover costs or generate new revenue? In addition to federal tax incentives and state/local/utility programs that can help recover capital costs for installations, AmpUp’s Community Manager allows site hosts to manage multiple chargers and user groups and generate revenue from charging. 

For more on this subject, watch the recording of AmpUp’s webinar on Electric Vehicles in Real Estate Development.

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