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Addressing EV Equity: Advancing Charging at Multi-Family Dwellings

Residential EV charging is the most mature and common form of electric vehicle fueling supported by a myriad of utility EV programs. However, a deeper look into home ownership and EV purchase intent data uncovers serious challenges to making EV charging infrastructure equitably available to people living in single-family and multi-family dwellings (MFDs).

Home ownership and occupancy in the United States hovers around 65%, with roughly 30% of Americans living in an apartment or condo. However, Plug In America’s recent EV owners survey found that 85% of EV owners and 84% of EV intenders are single-family home residents. Notably, the survey identified access to low-cost, convenient home charging as the most significant economic factor for EV adoption.

Installing a Level 1 or Level 2 charger at a single-family home represents a fairly routine, inexpensive process for residential customers, although panel upgrades can be required. In contrast, MFD property owners must decide on charging configurations tailored to their property and customer requirements, which adds complexity and raises equipment installation costs. This reality has slowed charger deployment at MFDs and EV adoption among their residents.

Challenges to Charging at Multi-Family Dwellings
As the EV market matures, the 30% of Americans living in multi-family dwellings are evaluating how an EV can suit their needs. These residents are contacting their property managers about plans to install accessible, affordable chargers.

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Planning, installing and operating charging stations is a new and complex consideration for MFD property owners. For some residents, level 1 charging speeds are sufficient,  provided their parking space has close access to a 120V plug. Other residents or properties will require faster level 2 or potentially DC Fast Chargers to suit their circumstances.

Every MFD property is different. MFD’s vary by their size, parking availability, amount of electricity brought to the property, the segment of tenants they serve, and their financial model and ownership. Consequently, building owners and their priorities differ.

Small residential rental property owners require different information in order to make an informed charging infrastructure investment compared to that of a small real-estate focused organization, or large publicly traded real estate investment trust. The affordable housing ecosystem also has some nuances due to commonly fixed rent, electricity and utility costs. This raises questions for property owners as to whether they can charge their tenants additional fees for vehicle charging.

Further, installing chargers on MFD properties often carries a higher capital cost and requires more complex make-ready processes. This is especially true if completed as a retrofit where trenching through concrete or asphalt is required.

Benefits to Better Utility & MFD Coordination
Electric utilities can proactively advise multifamily commercial owners throughout the planning process to leverage all applicable incentives and ensure charging configurations and make-ready investments are future proof. This coordinated approach enables utilities to identify where to make grid investments to meet, and stay ahead of, their customers’ charging requirements.

Across National Grid’s Make-Ready Program covering upstate NY, the total infrastructure-side costs of installing EV charging represent an average of 53% of total project costs. 

We know that multi-unit dwellings (MUDs) are not and have never been in the EV business. We also recognize that the tenant market for EV charging today is still quite limited. But with MFDs, there’s a real opportunity for utilities to help support them in starting this journey early, the right way, and to help them get comfortable. With utility incentives that cover up to 100% of install on MUDs in disadvantaged communities, programs like National Grid’s and others among NY’s Joint Utilities provide housing developers and redevelopers with prime opportunity to prepare for future demand now while funding is available.

Bottom line: the sooner MUD customers engage with their utility providers to review anticipated projects, site capacity, and available incentives, the better, more efficient, and cost-effective the outcomes are for all.

Whitney Skeans, Sr Program Manager, National Grid

Both utilities and multi-unit dwelling property managers can benefit from better coordination.

MFD customers benefit from:

  • Advice on charging requirements and a clear understanding of the costs associated with installing a system of chargers specific to their location
  • Avoidance of expensive grid upgrades by balancing charging requirements with existing electrical infrastructure
  • Confidence that their make-ready charger investments are future proof, able to meet today’s demand and scalable for the future
  • Longer planning timelines through greater transparency and collaboration with utilities

Utilities benefit from:

  • Improved customer satisfaction by facilitating the planning for and purchase of charging equipment
  • Enrollment in strategic EV programs like managed charging and make-ready incentives
  • Confidence that commercial charging investments and operations are aligned with electricity capacity over the long term
  • Deeper insight into grid demand by creating a forward-looking view of where and when clusters of charging will occur

Through proactive coordination and collaboration, multi-family property owners and utilities can greatly simplify and streamline the roll-out of charging infrastructure. Their partnership will be critical to advancing transportation electrification equity.

Do you have questions about EV program strategy, management or EVSE interconnection? If so, experts from the SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group and Clean Power Research can help.

About the Authors

Andrew Price is a Business Development Manager at Clean Power Research where he helps utilities shape and implement their transportation electrification strategies. Andrew is also a member of the SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group.  Andrew can be reached at [email protected]

Garrett Fitzgerald is Senior Director, Electrification at SEPA and the Chair of the SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group. Garrett can be reached at [email protected]

The SEPA Electric Vehicle Working Group includes more than 700 members and focuses on the role of utilities in the deployment of EVs by identifying trends, business models, and strategies to roll out “smart” charging infrastructure. The group tracks trends and examines opportunities for light-duty, medium-duty, and heavy-duty vehicle classes, fleet vehicles, and charging infrastructure.  For more information, contact [email protected]

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