April 20, 2023

Equitable EV Ownership Is Critical for a Green Future


7 Min. Read

An essential consideration for adding a charging infrastructure to multifamily housing units is equitable electric vehicle (EV) ownership. 

As more people are moving away from cars and trucks with internal-combustion engines that run on fossil fuels and buying EVs instead, making charging stations available for those who live in multifamily units is critical for overcoming one of the biggest hurdles for an eventual complete transition to EVs. 

It has been cited for years that 80% of EV charging is done at home and that was true when 85% of EV owners lived in single-family homes. As EVs become more prevalent at auto dealers and on the road, and with roughly 30% of American owners living in apartments or condos, there has never been a greater opportunity for multifamily properties to add EV charging to their communities. These residents and tenants will expect access to low-cost charging stations where they live, creating the perfect opportunity for property owners and managers to provide this amenity. 

While the high cost of EVs made them unaffordable for many drivers in the past, they are now becoming more affordable. Many models cost less than the average new gas-powered car on the market, and federal and local incentives help cut those costs further. In addition, more used EVs are going on the market as early buyers look to replace older EV models. Going forward, the biggest economic hurdle for equitable EV ownership is access to charging stations, particularly for those living in multifamily dwellings (MFDs). 

In this article, we will provide a guide for MFD owners to understand costs, explore financing options, and determine pricing while explaining the increasing demand for charging stations and the importance of equitable EV ownership in addressing climate change and improving air quality. Your tenants are asking – here’s what you need to know about EV charging and multifamily communities. 

Adding EV Charging Stations at MFDs 

Tenants and condo owners considering the purchase of an EV are asking property managers if they plan to install readily accessible and affordable charging stations in their complex. 

Installing and maintaining charging stations is a new endeavor for MFD owners and homeowner associations (HOAs). Every MFD property is different, varying in size, parking spaces or room for chargers, electrical setup, types and needs of tenants, and more. 

Accordingly, you must understand that the costs and requirements to add EV charging infrastructure in your multi-tenant buildings involve also exploring the equipment costs, any electrical or other upgrades needed to the facility, and maintenance needs. Identifying potential grants and incentives to fund the effort will ease the burden, as many sources of funding exist, including federal and local electrification programs. 

Likewise, tenants’ demands will vary. Providing a plug for their Level 1 charging cord may be adequate for some residents while others will expect and require access to faster Level 2 or, even DC (Direct Current) Fast Chargers. 

You may want to explore making chargers accessible to all parking spots or having stations for common use if your building has enough space. Residents in some buildings might not be asking about charging stations yet, but their availability will become an expectation, such as having air conditioning in a warm climate. Meeting that expectation will attract tenants but failing to meet it will force people to move. 

Here is a handy guide with things to consider before getting started. 

Cost and Financing 

Installing a Level 2 charging station at a single-family house can cost an average of $1,175 to $3,300 or more, depending on any needed upgrades to the electric panel, distance from the panel or subpanel to the charging station, and more. Keep in mind that this pricing does not include the cost of the equipment itself, which also varies in price, typically depending more on quality, capabilities, and amperage.  

The cost of adding charging stations at MFD properties can also range widely depending on complex size, how many meters or wiring are needed, point-to-point distances, transformer capacity, and whether trenching through concrete or asphalt is required. 

Older buildings without the necessary power capacity or panel space may need additional retrofitting. In many areas, building codes now require chargers at newer buildings for them to be EV-ready. 

Given the diverse range of pricing, you should explore ways to finance adding an EV charging infrastructure to your complex. There are incentives and rebates available nationally, at the state level, and through utilities. 

The Department of Energy site offers an interactive guide to the variety of options that differ widely by area. Depending on the area, combining funds from local, state, and federal programs can often offset the cost of charging equipment. Here are some examples: 

Another aspect of funding to consider is with regard to the use of the charging stations and any routine or needed maintenance. Having a maintenance plan with your electrician can save time, money, and effort in the long run, ensuring the success of your charging stations.  

MFD managers will also need to determine if: 

  • They are offering tenants free EV charging (which means guests could use them too), or 
  • They are offering tenants free EV charging to a certain limit and then charging for any usage beyond that level, or 
  • They want to make chargers available for a low monthly fee to tenants who need them, or 
  • They want to build in some profit and charge what public charging stations in the area do, while also providing the ease of charging at home. 

Why Equitable EV Ownership Matters 

Concerns about climate change are driving the worldwide shift to EVs from vehicles that run on fossil fuels. The transportation sector has been responsible for over 55% of nitrogen oxide emissions in the U.S. 

Making EVs affordable and giving easy access to chargers is critical to improving air quality in urban or poorer areas and reducing pollution in more affluent areas with chargers in house- or townhome garages. It is important to not leave areas or renters behind in the plan for a complete EV transition to curb greenhouse gases. 

EVs will become the only new cars available and a bigger part of the used car market in the coming years. Consumers no longer see EVs as luxury goods due to all the new lower-cost models for sale. 

While still a small part of the market, a poll last year showed that 36% of adults seriously plan to buy or lease an EV, and 35% would consider it. Other studies show not having easy access to charging stations is one of the big barriers to overcome. 

Many dense urban areas are making inroads. New York City, for example, is adding 1,000 curbside charge ports by 2025 and plans to have 10,000 installed by 2030. 

That solution makes sense in an area with little access to parking lots, where charging overnight is not as practical. However, in a city like Los Angeles, where most MFDs have parking spaces, MFDs need to help overcome the charger access barrier and enable tenants to plug in their cars much like they plug in their phones. 

Think of providing a charging station like providing electricity; a century ago, not every apartment building had it, but eventually, it became a necessity. 

Making Things More Equitable 

There needs to be more effort to enact innovative ways to increase EV adoption by renters. Supporting efforts to increase EV adoption with access to chargers at MFDs will help lead to more equitable EV ownership. 

Wealthier individuals are typically the first to adopt new technologies such as computers, cell phones, and large-screen TVs. While tax credits are available for EV purchases, that does not benefit low-income people. They often do not owe that much in taxes, and getting tax money back the next year does not help them afford an EV now. 

People who see chargers readily available and hear from others about how much they save powering a battery versus filling a gas tank are more likely to consider that they may be able to afford a new EV or even a used one. 

Moving Ahead to Beat the Competition

Installing EV charging stations in MFDs can provide a fantastic opportunity to increase revenue and make properties more attractive to potential tenants. However, the process can be complicated and may involve uncertainties. 

To ensure a successful implementation, working with a trusted company that has a proven track record in EV charging installation is important. 

Qmerit is the leading installer of EV charging stations for both homes and MFDs across the United States. With our extensive experience in the field, we can provide the guidance and support you need to seamlessly navigate your multifamily charger project to success. From start to finish, we will work closely with you to ensure that your project is completed on time, on budget, and to your satisfaction.  

Contact Qmerit today to learn more about how we can help you increase your revenue and enhance the marketability of your properties with EV charging.

Author: Tom Bowen

Tom Bowen

President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification