WHERE CAN I CHARGE MY CAR? THE CHALLENGE OF ELECTRIC VEHICLE OWNERSHIP IN CONDOS AND APARTMENTS

This guest blog is written by Laura Bryson, COO and co-founder of SWTCH, a Toronto-based company that provides innovative solutions to electric vehicle (EV) charging management.

“Can’t you just plug it into a regular wall outlet?” a resident of a downtown Toronto condo asked us recently, genuinely unsure how charging an electric vehicle (EV) works. It’s a fair question—aside from the experts who attend events like Canada’s annual Electric Mobility Conference, most people are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of EVs.

 

The answer? An EV can indeed be plugged into a regular wall outlet, but it takes much longer to charge than is reasonable, especially for a vehicle used daily. Realistically, a level 2 charger (think: washer/dryer outlet) is the way to go, as it can fully charge an all-electric vehicle overnight, or about 30km of range per hour of charging. And therein lies the challenge: not all modern condos and multi-tenant buildings have the electrical capacity to support multiple level 2 chargers. So how does an EV owner charge up if they don’t have the right charging infrastructure in their condo or workplace parking lot? This question plagues many EV owners in urban multi-tenant buildings.

 

Multi-family construction meets e-mobility

Increasingly, the residential real estate industry is moving towards multi-tenant construction. In Canada, two out of three homes built today are multi-family. In Ontario, nearly 700,000 households live in condos. Parallel with this trend is a marked shift towards electric mobility last year with the release of the first truly mass-market EV, the Chevrolet Bolt, and more recently, the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model 3. With so many buyers of mass-market EVs living and working in urban multi-tenant settings, the question bears repeating: how do we ensure these drivers have reliable charging access?

 

Number of condo units added in the Greater Toronto Area from 2010-2016, mapped (Source: Urbanation)

 

A personal challenge

I’ve been driving a 2017 Chevrolet Bolt for the last year and half, and have become intimately acquainted with the challenge of multi-tenant charging. I lived in a condo where my request for a level 2 charger was denied. It was less than ideal having to park a 10-minute walk from home so I could charge my EV in a public parking lot overnight or on weekends.

 

Having access to shared EV charging infrastructure in my building’s visitor parking area (think of it as a shared amenity, like the condo’s gym or laundry facilities) would have been a welcome improvement. This is a refrain that I and my colleagues at SWTCH have heard persistently in our personal and professional travels, and which motivated us to provide a solution. What if you could not only charge your EV in your building, but also reserve a charger ahead of time to best suit your schedule?

 

Regulations in favour of EV charging

Fortunately, in Ontario, policy makers are acknowledging the march towards electric mobility. Recent regulatory changes effective May 1st, 2018, establish a new process for condo corporations and owners to obtain approval for the installation of EV charging infrastructure. As long as certain conditions are met, a condo corporation cannot reject an owner’s request for installation. Further, it is now possible for condo corporations to install EV charging infrastructure in common areas without requiring an owner vote. The new regulations are intended to clarify and ease the process for both residents and condo corporations; time will tell whether the regulations go far enough to ensure equitable outcomes for all stakeholders. 

 

Our perspective: the way forward

From our perspective, it is critical at this juncture for condo corporations, and managers of multi-tenant buildings more widely, to work with residents to find cost-effective solutions that meet immediate charging needs while ensuring long-term scalability. For residents who drive EVs—especially those that rely on overnight charging at home or daytime charging at work—this means shortened approval and installation timelines, a user-friendly charging experience, and most importantly, reliable charging access. And for condo corporations, this means automated systems that handle payments and billing, smart energy management, and parking space enforcement.

 

Though we’ve evolved significantly since our inception in 2016, SWTCH was originally established out of a commitment to address the challenge of urban EV ownership. Our EV charging management platform is designed uniquely for multi-tenant settings to meet the needs of EV drivers and charging service providers.

 

 

Conclusion

EV adoption is growing rapidly, and solutions are urgently needed to address the challenge facing EV owners who live in multi-tenant buildings. The challenge is not insurmountable—we’ve met plenty of EV owners who’ve been successful in getting EV chargers into their condos—but the decisions that condo corporations and residents make now will have long term consequences.  And with the EV market set for explosive growth, we most certainly need to be thinking ahead.

 

To learn more about SWTCH, visit https://swtchev.com/ or reach out to us at info@swtchev.com.