March 28, 2023

Which EV Charging Options Are Best for Mixed-Use and Multifamily Properties?


10 Min. Read

Rapidly increasing demand for Electric Vehicle (EV) charging stations in commercial, mixed-use, and multifamily properties along with the variety of charging options are creating some uncertainty among property owners as to which option is best for them. The “best” EV charging stations for multifamily housing will depend upon several variables.

But how does an owner or property manager decide which charging station type or types will be the most appropriate for a given property and get started with installing these chargers?

This article will help you navigate the options available so you can make an informed decision as you seek to install EV charging at your property.

The EV Market: Poised to Take Off

American car buyers have discovered the appeal of EVs and are buying them in more significant numbers.

In fact, in early 2022, registrations for EVs in the US increased substantially, while those for internal combustion (IC) powered cars dropped. The EV share of the market reached a new milestone.

There are now around 250 million cars on U.S. roads, and 7.1% of all cars registered in January were electric. That is a 74% increase year-over-year and highlights the exponential growth EV adoption is experiencing. IHS Markit, a world-leading industry analytics firm predicts that percentage may reach 40-45% by 2035 and 20-25% by 2030.

Public EV Charging Stations: A Potential Struggle to Catch Up

Government Support for EVs Fuels Growth

There are approximately 140,000 EV charging ports in the U.S. today.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Act (BIL) of 2021 included a $7.5 billion investment in charging infrastructure. The Federal government has received and approved proposals for funding from all 50 states.

The BIL established a goal of 500,000 publicly accessible charging stations across the country. That amounts to one high-speed charging station every 50 miles. The BIL also set a goal of 50% emission-free vehicles by 2030.

If that aggressive projection rings true, 500,000 charging stations might not be enough.

Prepare for a Potential Scarcity of Public Charging

According to McKinsey, a highly respected global management consulting firm, 50% of vehicle sales in 2030 equates to 48 million EVs on the road. Further, McKinsey estimates that the number of EVs could require almost 30 million chargers, of which most would be in residences and around 1.2 million would be public.

As opposed to the $7.5 billion provided by the BIL, McKinsey estimates that the required public infrastructure will cost more than $35 billion. Thus, while the wheels are turning, substantial uncertainty surrounds the timely availability of publicly available EV charging stations over the next 7-10 years. While Federal and other outside funding look to be robust, they may fall significantly short of the projected future need.

All of this points to a need for multifamily, multi-use, and commercial property owners to proactively plan now for a public charging shortage scenario. Doing so can put them in a great position to differentiate their properties, and create new revenue streams.

Multifamily and commercial owners need to be well-versed in their options and key success factors for providing EV charging.

Tailoring Types of Chargers to User Needs

Range anxiety drives the needs of multifamily housing residents.

Range anxiety is the fear that EVs will run out of charge in the middle of a trip and drivers will become stranded. As charging stations are generally further away from multifamily housing than gas stations, this fear can be justified if on-site charging is not available.

The ready availability of EV charging stations for multifamily properties is now a requirement, not just an amenity, but the type to use remains a critical question.

Types of Charging Stations

1. Level 1 chargers may be adequate as multifamily EV charging stations, but they take a relatively long time to charge and are sometimes referred to as “trickle chargers.”

Assuming 5 miles of distance per hour of charging, you should allow 40-50 hours to fully charge an EV with a 200-mile capacity. That only makes sense if your residents are home for extended periods. Level 1 chargers offer low installation costs since they require only a simple 110V outlet.

If your property offers garages, Level 1 charging may already be a possibility if your garages are equipped with any type of overhead lighting or an electronic garage door, as these are often powered by a standard 110V outlet.

2. Level 2 chargers are a big step up in cost and performance and are very popular due to the convenience they provide at a reasonable price.

They take 4-10 hours to charge, much faster than Level 1, and thus are capable of fully charging an EV overnight. Level 2 chargers require a dedicated 240V outlet and circuit and may require electrical infrastructure work and a separate service. These chargers can also be installed in conveniently accessible locations outdoors.

They are often the best installation cost and performance tradeoff for most multifamily properties. Residents can plug in their EVs at night and wake up with a full charge, which addresses a vital concern and reduces range anxiety.

Level 2 may also work for commercial office properties with employee and visitor parking facilities. Employees can get to work with a partial charge, “top-off” at work, and go home with a full charge.

3. Level 3/DC Fast Charging (DCFC) chargers are the most powerful but also can be an expensive and complex option to install.

These high-powered chargers require 480V service at 50-350Kw. That kind of power gives them a 20-45 minute lightning-fast charging time, but extensive use of this charger type can lead to battery degradation over time.

Given the short duration of their visits, shoppers, sports fans, and other visitors may need Level 3 chargers to get the job done in 20-45 minutes. As an added bonus, you will also have the ability to convert charging stations to public use after the store or venue closes to generate extra revenue.

Again, you must carefully estimate the demand for services to have enough chargers to accommodate demand.

Combining Charging Station Options

If cost is a barrier, and if resident surveys indicate that Level 1 charging stations are acceptable, a possible compromise might be to use Level 1 or a combination of Level 1 and Level 2 charging stations. The choice depends on whether the relatively long Level 1 charging duration will be adequate for your resident’s needs. If you select this method, work with a certified electrical installer to add outdoor-graded outlets and chargers near your parking facilities.

Keep in mind that with a substantial number of employees or other building tenants, you will need an adequate number of charging stations to accommodate demand. You may need the fast-charging speed of DCFC to handle the load faster and shorten the waiting lines, while also offering Level 2 charging stations for employees, residents, and guests who will spend a longer period of time at your property.

Planning Ahead

The planning process can be detailed and lengthy, so you may need to consider expert outside help. Following is an overview of the process.

1. Conduct an initial assessment:

  • Include a needs analysis to determine how long users can leave their cars to charge. Determine the number and type of chargers required.
  • Conducting a survey is a good initial way to understand your users’ needs. Building the survey in a way that extracts the necessary information is crucial.
  • It is essential to build your survey to analyze information quickly. Here is a helpful template for multifamily

Once you know your users’ needs, you can proceed with the next steps:

2. Site review and budget estimate:

  • Compare the projected needs to the existing infrastructure. You may need upgrades or other electrical work to safely support your EV charging system.
  • Secure cost estimates for any changes needed.

3. Technology evaluation and selection:

  • Select the brand of charger based on needs and costs.
  • An experienced electrification solutions project partner can help you in selecting a charger model and software that will meet your needs.

4. Detailed solution development:

  • Work with the charger provider, your project management partner, and your electrical contractor to develop a detail-led project plan.

5. Funding and applications to local, state, and federal entities:

  • Determine how you will fund the project and evaluate available cost and tax subsidies.
  • Your project management partner may be able to assist you with locating and applying for any qualifying funding opportunities.

6. Schedule development:

  • Keep in mind that lead times can cause delays and plan accordingly.
  • Work with your installer to ensure everything is on track and that there is clear communication of any delays or issues.

7. Implementation:

  • The implementation plan is essential before the installation and setup.
  • This will be your roadmap to success as you work with your electrical contractor and project management partner to determine what your installation timeline will look like.

8. Ongoing management, maintenance, and continuous improvement:

  • Gather performance and customer satisfaction data, and make changes as needed.
  • Your charging software may offer reporting services.
  • Work with your licensed electrician to schedule and perform routine maintenance as part of your service plan to ensure all components are properly functioning at safe and optimal levels.

Notably, funding and incentives are an area of opportunity to understand in-depth. The federal government, states, municipalities, and utilities offer numerous programs supporting EV charging. These programs can substantially reduce installation costs.

Additionally, a view of how many charging stations are in your area will help you to better understand the charging demand for your community, residents, and customers.

Impact of Communities on EV Charging Projects

Make sure to understand the state of EV readiness in your community. The extent to which communities are up to speed and active in supporting EVs is a critical success factor for your EV charger projects.

Suppose your community is relatively advanced in EV readiness. In that case, your project will be easier to plan since the municipality will likely have the expertise to help you. If you do, you will have more time to prepare your project while the city makes its preparations.

In addition, the demographics of your community will exert a strong influence on your planning. Relatively affluent communities will have more EVs and thus use more chargers, although residents will likely have many at home.

In less affluent areas, access equity for economically disadvantaged residents is the focus of the city, state, and federal governments. Access equity provisions ensure that lower-income users are not penalized when accessing public charging.

The BIL allocates $5 billion to support access equity for charging stations in low-income areas. This funding and focus will help build demand in disadvantaged areas.

This requirement also appears at the state and city levels.

Reap the Benefits of EV Charging

With EV charging stations for multifamily properties, especially in higher-income areas, owners may be able to increase rents for charging services. Providing these services may also differentiate your property from others in your area or allow you to compete better.

Commercial and mixed-use owners can also support higher parking rates, which can raise the image of their properties as popular destinations. In summary, multifamily, commercial, and mixed-use owners and managers must be ready to respond quickly and effectively to the coming surge in demand for EV charging stations.

Get ahead of the planning curve to provide the right EV charging solution for your multifamily, commercial, or mixed-use property. Potential future shortages of public charging stations will make your multifamily properties more desirable as residences and make the commercial ones a destination location. Finally, EV charging stations will be an excellent opportunity to increase revenues and the marketability of your properties.

Why Choose Qmerit?

A careful planning process with a company with a track record for success with EV charging station projects can overcome many uncertainties in the process.

As the largest installer network in North America and with over 269,000 EV charging station installations to date, Qmerit is that company. Qmerit will work with you through every phase of your project, including helping to determine the best charging solution for your community and working to eliminate uncertainty along the way by streamlining and simplifying the process.

Find out why Qmerit is the #1 most trusted installer and charging solutions provider in North America. Contact us to get started on your next project today!

Author: Tom Bowen

Tom Bowen

President, Qmerit Solutions and Commercial Electrification