Builders: Start planning for EVs

A new breed of condos

A call came in to our office last month from a relatively new north Toronto condo.

The manager told me that they had 20 Electric Vehicle (EV) parking spaces. One of their residents had recently purchased an EV and wanted to know if I would be willing to drop by and help with a pricing quote.

I was very enthusiastic. I needed to see what an EV ready condo looked like. We agreed on a visit the next day.

This is not the first time someone has called about EV ready parking spaces. I usually arrive to find a very small panel feeding multiple 120 volt outlets with signs above each one identifying that the spaces are for EV charging.

At best, these might feed a very slow level 1 charger. Usually there are no means of metering the power consumption. From my perspective, this is more of a sales gimmick than a useful install for EV’s.

Maybe this new condo would be different.

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The visit

Upon my arrival I met with the property manager and superintendent in the garage. By a stroke of good fortune, the base building electrical contractor was on site and was more than happy to walk us through the installation.

In the main electrical room, there was a large double tub breaker panel with a number of breakers in it. There was additional space to the right for future metering. The panel was fed from a pretty big transformer. So far it seemed we were on the right track.

Each of the 20 spaces had a ¾” conduit to a box recessed into the wall. The conduit was the right size for a 40 amp feed to a level 2 charger. I was pleased that the conduits would be useable.

I took a few quick measurements and headed up to the management office with the manager. She told me that the building used a particular sub-metering company and asked if I could liaise with them to provide a single install price.

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I gathered their contact information and told her I would be in touch.

The sub-metering company told me that if I wanted to meter one space only, they could provide a meter base (beside the existing panel). They would supply and connect to a meter that could be added to the owners bill.

Given that there were 20 spots, I suggested to install a hub in the empty panel to the right and pick up each charger as it’s installed.

They did have a 12 position hub that could be installed and I requested that they price it both ways for me so that I could analyze the costs and get back to the manager.

Once I had a chance to add up all the numbers it looked like we had two clear options:

Option 1

  • Supply and install (1) meter base and a meter for the new single user
  • Pull in wiring from the panel to the space
  • Mount and connect one customer supplied charger

Option 2

  • Install a metering hub, current transformers, breakers and wiring to serve 12 of the 20 spaces (because the hub is made for up to 12)

When you broke down the costs between the single meter and the 12 space install, the cost per charger for a single meter was slightly more than double the cost. The second option is clearly much more cost effective for the single user.

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Question of cost

The other advantages are that the electrical room and install will be much cleaner. I’m not even sure if there was sufficient space to mount 12 (let alone 20) meter bases and glass meters. Not to mention that each time we need to add a new user we have to open the same boxes to pull in the wiring.

The question that remains is one of cost. Who’s going to pay the extra costs for future users?

It certainly would not seem fair or reasonable for the first user to foot the bill. Hopefully, the condo board will see the value in the 12 position install and foot the bill, with the costs to be paid back as new users come online.

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A step in the right direction

I’m sure that this will come as a surprise to this new EV owner. He bought a space designated for an EV with some wiring in place. He may have even paid a premium for this space. I imagine he expected to connect his charger to the existing wiring and turn on the breaker. For now, that’s not the case.

I’m not sure if this installation was done to meet a specific building code requirement or if it was something that the builder did voluntarily.

It was great to see a new building trying to accommodate EV owners. Had this builder dealt with the breakers, wiring and metering in advance, I believe that everyone would be well served.

The board of directors wouldn’t have to be involved in costs, the owner would have his charger installed quickly and at a reasonable cost, and the manager’s job would be very easy.

Hopefully my next visit will be to a condo that is truly pre-wired for Electric Vehicles.