We Charged an EV in an Apartment Complex and We Have Some Thoughts About the Future

We Charged an EV in an Apartment Complex and We Have Some Thoughts About the Future

With electric vehicles rising in popularity, it’s likely that you’ve thought about making the purchase. But how would you handle at-home charging if you lived in an apartment?

Apartment complexes might be great for condensed living in large cities, but not so great if you have an EV. There are government-driven (pardon the pun) initiatives underway to bridge this gap, and a handful of developers interested in including facilities in new builds. So, with access to an apartment complex that offers EV charging, and in the mood to try something new, we charged up an EV using an apartment complex charger, just to see if there are any interesting takeaways from the experience.

First, just how. In a typical house, you have a garage or at least a driveway that is close to a power outlet. You don’t in an apartment.

How to charge your electric vehicle in an apartment building

When we’re thinking about modern apartment designs, there are probably two main EV charging strategies that building managers employ – dedicated area-based charging and individual charging.

The charger that we tried out fits into the dedicated area-based charging category. It was a 40kW charger that would be far too large, complex and energy-intensive to install in each individual spot. This charger was able to top up a Hyundai Ioniq 6 battery from 44 per cent to 100 per cent in a matter of three or so hours.

Two chargers were available, with one marked car space per charger, with a four-and-a-half-hour time restriction placed on each spot.

These chargers are handled either by a network, by the landlord or by the property manager, and to use the charger, we had to use an app. The app is called Exploren and it handles the charging session and billing. To use the charger, you have to download the app, create an account, and pay using either your credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay. We were billed 28 cents per kWh, plus 25 cents per half hour we used the charger for and a one-time connection fee of 60 cents, to a total of $15.80. This is the exact same process you have to go through when using a fast or ultrafast charger, available widely across Australia.

You’d have to do a decent amount of driving to get down to 44 per cent (I drove from the Central Coast to Sydney) – but ~$80 a week to charge an EV at an apartment charger like this isn’t the cost you signed up for when buying an electric vehicle. It doesn’t seem feasible for it to be your sole charging option.

This type of charger, which is larger than standard home chargers and designed to service various cars, requires the least work from an individual tenant, but it does require you to move your car into (and out of) a dedicated charging location. There’s also the 4.5-hour limit. In this particular complex, tenants have 1-2 parking spots, so in theory they would just take their car out of the EV spot and put it back in their own spot.

Having your charging station centralised around two shared spaces, in the event that electric vehicle uptake one day outweighs charger availability (which isn’t far from the truth today), could lead to peak hour congestion when everybody gets home and needs their cars topped up. In this complex, visitor parking is booked via an app based on time, EV charging isn’t, but it could be when they become more sought after.

Safe to say, this type of charger is probably going to be less and less common as EVs grow in popularity.

electric vehicle apartment
Using a dedicated area charger. Image: Asha Barbaschow/Gizmodo Australia

But, it’s for those reasons we’ll likely start to see individual charging solutions instead of communal ones.

Rather than the building manager installing a dedicated EV charging area, the chargers are installed in individually owned or leased spots, which could be either handled by the tenant, apartment owner, landlord or building manager.

This approach makes the situation more complex for the average individual. For one, chargers managed like this would be naturally smaller and less powerful, so as to not consume too much power in the apartment complex and to cut down on charger installation complexity (and make no mistake, it is complicated). We’re talking about chargers such as EVSE’s Ocular range, which offer charging speeds of up to 22kW, with estimates of “120km of driving per hour of charge”.

Adding to the complexity is the onus on which installation is placed and how easy it is to do it. If you own or rent an apartment, for example, would you expect the property manager to install the charger for you? Maybe, but just remember the first person to use NBN at your rental property is the one who cops the connection fee through their telco. This could behave much the same way.

Installation could cost anywhere between $800 and $4,000. This may be more difficult in an apartment complex, considering that we’re talking about a much more condensed living situation than in a suburban neighbourhood, but it is possible, as Ludicrous Feed’s video above explores (it’s a terrific video).

Keep in mind though that you may be living in an apartment with older circuitry and power systems, which could run up the cost quickly or make the entire exercise impossible, so do a lot of research on the site before committing to the installation (obviously). By 2023, the Federal government is hoping that new apartments across Australia will be EV charger ready, with changes to the National Construction Code to come and make it easier for apartment owners to install chargers in their also-occupied car spaces. So there’s at least this conversation happening at a government level.

There are other options

If you can’t install a fast home charger at your apartment complex, you can rely on the emergency charger that comes with most electric vehicles and plugs into an Australian wall socket (provided your car space has an Australian wall socket metred to your apartment). However, these are incredibly slow and wouldn’t be particularly useful if you rely on everyday car use. As a renter, when I test out electric cars for reviews, this is the charger I use when I’m at home (as I don’t own an EV and don’t have a need for a permanent charger installation) – it often takes more than 24 hours to charge the cars up to 100, or even 80, per cent. Just don’t run the cable across where people may walk or cars may drive.

And if that isn’t an option, you may need to rely on public EV chargers.

Final thoughts on apartments and electric vehicles

Our experience charging an electric vehicle using a fast shared charger was a fairly seamless, cheap and easy one, but of course, it may not be the same for every apartment complex. It’s easy for us to sit here and tell you all the positives with EV ownership, but this experience made it very clear there is a lot of thought required for how those not living in a suburban house with a garage could realistically own an EV.

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