Homeowners demand more EV charging stations in their condos, co-ops, and townhomes

Have you noticed the number of EVs exploding in your neighborhood? What about EV charging stations? Do you hear more people talking about getting an EV and installing a charging station in their home, building, or townhome parking garage?

Over the past few years, we’ve watched the number of electric vehicles (EVs) in our neighborhood grow exponentially. Five years ago, there were just 1,000 EVs in our state. Now the license plates number in the tens of thousands. In our own little suburb, we mostly see a variety of Teslas, but increasingly Rivian trucks and other EVs are showing up.

Millions of EVs in the U.S.

In 2018, there were just about one million EVs in the country, according to Department of Energy data. According to the Department of Energy, California led the way with just over 563,000 EVs. At that time, experts predicted there would be 18 million EVs by 2025. 

Welcome to 2023.  We’re not even close to that number. According to J. D. Power & Associates, EVs account for one percent of the U.S. car market, or about 2.5 million electric vehicles sold. At this rate, it will be a while before there are 18 million EVs in the U.S.

Two years ago, the number of homeowners and renters had grown enough that we discussed a thorny issue facing EV owners: Where to charge their EVs. At that time, public charging stations were few and far between. Last year, we revisited the subject of where owners could charge their electric vehicles. More people were thinking about installing Level 2 charging stations, while condos and co-op buildings were grappling with owners and renters fighting over charging times and who should pay for the electricity.

EV charging stations – everyone needs a place to charge

But every EV owner knows they need a place to charge their vehicle. Preferably, somewhere close by that has a Level 2 charger. Better yet – in their own garage.

What’s new this year is the real estate industry recognizes it must deal with and solve the problem of charging electric vehicles. It also recognizes that the vast majority of existing buildings can’t easily install enough chargers to meet the current and coming demand.

Turns out, there are a number of physical, logistical and even financial problems that have to be solved before EV chargers can be installed in every building. This is especially true for buildings that are more than five years old. At the recent National Association of Real Estate Editors meeting, Ilyce listened to a panel of real estate experts discuss the EV trend, and how the vast majority of existing buildings can’t accommodate the charging capacity residents desire.

Older buildings can’t easily accommodate EV charging stations

For starters, many properties don’t have the proper wiring to manage the required electrical load. Residents in condos and coops are already fighting about who should pay for the electricity and how the charging rotation should be managed. And, the electrical grid in many parts of the country apparently can’t deliver the amount of electricity needed to accommodate the number of EVs on the road today, let alone plan for the next 20 million EVs.

There are important questions companies need to answer as well:

  • If companies allow some employees to plug in for free, should that be considered an employee benefit and taxed?
  • Is it fair to give some employees access – effectively subsidizing their mode of transportation – and not others?
  • What kind of technology can manage this and perhaps deduct the electricity cost from an employee’s paycheck?

Real estate investors can choose one of three EV charging station models

David Aaronson, CEO Refuel EV Solutions, noted that there are three basic models when it comes to EV charging:

  1. A building or HOA could buy and own its own own system and run it themselves. A condominium building or homeowners association could purchase an EV charging station. That includes paying for the electrical conduit, the cost of the charging station itself, cell connectivity, software, and the time and cost of managing it. But whatever profits are derived would flow back into the property.
  2. Buildings can license someone else’s system which would be installed as a service model. You can hire an outside company to install a charging station as a service. Homeowners and renters would pay for what they use. There are software programs that could help manage charging slots. This option could potentially drive a small amount of revenue for the homeowners and condominium association, or for real estate investors, as well.
  3. A hybrid: A building could own the equipment but hire someone else or a different company to service and/or operate it. In this owned/operated model, an outside company installs the charging station and maintains it. Revenue is then shared between the outside company and the real estate owner, landlord or condo/homeowners association.

Labor and infrastructure issues prevent EV charging station growth

Jim Hurless, EV real estate lead for CBRE Group, Inc., one of the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, said that there are labor issues and infrastructure issues today which are preventing the building and installation of enough EV charging stations.

“You can’t find people to build them. The labor market is tough,” he said. CBRE is “building a facility in Jacksonville to train our 20,000 people.”

Infrastructure is another issue. Buildings that are older don’t have the necessary wiring to accommodate an EV for every owner. And even if they did, local substations may not be able to deliver enough power to the building to accommodate that level of charging. Hurless says these are problems the real estate industry is starting to work on. Especially now that they’re starting to recognize that EV chargers could present a revenue opportunity.

In the 1990s, condo owners and renters started to request an in-unit washer and dryer, said David Aaronson, CEO of Refuel EV Solutions. “EV chargers are the next thing tenants and owners want. You’ve got a captive audience.”


©2023 by Ilyce Glink and Samuel J. Tamkin. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.