5 Things every condo manager should know about EV loads

2020.10.25

Within the next decade, zero-emission electric vehicles are projected to become our cars of choice. And even legally required in some places. While that’s certainly an exciting prospect for environmentally-conscious drivers, if you’re a condo manager or owner, you’re more likely to find the idea daunting. With a growing number of residents wanting to charge their vehicles from home, it’s only a matter of time before your residential parking lot gets overrun by EV electricity consumption.

Managing a few electric vehicles seems pretty manageable now — but increasingly more EVs are coming. Your building might have plenty of spare power, however, in the hot months with air conditioning running at full blast, your spare capacity could drop to less than 1 kW per parking stall. And even the most basic EV charging capability consumes 1.5 kW per stall.
 

Signature Electric branded EV charging units.


 

So as you plan ahead for the not too distant future, here are five critical things you need to consider about EV loads:

1. Residential EV owners will likely want your building to expand its power capacity, so they can charge from empty to full overnight.

    The reality is that if you concede to providing high-power on-demand EV charging, you’re setting yourself up for a money pit. From doubling the size of your electrical room to installing a bigger step-down transformer with new panels, bigger wires, and conduits across your parking lot, installation alone is pricey. And scaling up for ever-more users is even pricier.

    A relatively affordable and sustainable solution is installing outlets spaced around your lot, so stalls can share an outlet. You could install one outlet for every dozen stalls (about 0.5 kW per stall) with power supply chargers for dynamic load management. With more and more EVs sharing a circuit, performance will likely drop, but it will still meet most daily commuting needs — without sapping your building’s entire power capacity.

    Another good option is monitoring your building’s real-time power usage and suspending EV power during peak times. For example, you might have low spare capacity at 6pm, but enough at 2am to charge an EV fully overnight.

 

Electrical room of a large condominium complex. Image courtesy of Electrek


 

2. One of your biggest challenges will be managing expectations.

    You can likely provide plenty of power for the few EVs already taking up residence in your parking garage. But as time goes on and EV numbers increase, residents will eventually start to feel the limitations.

    EV owners might notice their EV not fully charged by the time they head out for the evening or leave for work in the morning. But in the near future, when almost everyone is driving an EV, an overnight charge might not be enough to get you through your next day’s driving. Residents will have to accept the reality of supplementing home charging with stopping at a public charging station.

3. Level 1 charging is reliably slow. While a load-managed solution can be faster, but much less predictable.

    If you’re charging with Level 1 and driving to a Jobsite 100 km away every day, you’ll have to charge at home and at work. If you only drive a few kilometers daily, you probably only need to charge at home every few days. But after a long out-of-town trip, you’ll need a few days to get fully re-charged.

    On the other hand, a load-managed solution is fast — as long as no one else is charging. It’s slow, if everyone else is charging. For small groups sharing a single circuit, EV owners will hope to be parked next to tenants who stay home more often than they do. For large groups, it all depends on the demand for the entire building.

 

EV charging stations on condo property. Image courtesy of REMI Network


 

4. Expect energy demands to fluctuate.

    Be prepared for a surge at the beginning to mid-week when more people are driving to work. EVs also consume more power on very cold or hot days. During a heatwave, for example, a load management system with supply monitoring will stop EV charging, until the building’s air conditioning system catches up.

5. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.

    The energy demands of EVs vary dramatically from building to building. For example, a downtown building might require 5 kWh per vehicle per day, while a building in a remote community will probably consume 20 kWh per vehicle per day.

    To assess where your building falls, the most important factor to determine is driving distance for your building. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Are you in an urban, suburban, or rural location?
  • Is public transit a good option for your building’s commuters?
  • How big are average vehicles? For example, is your building mostly bachelor suites for 1 or 3-bedroom units for families?
  • How is your typical climate? EVs need more power in extreme weather.
  • Is it expensive to live in your building? Wealthier tenants tend to drive bigger vehicles, more often and further.
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    Video: Getting fully prepared for the mass adoption of Electric Vehicle charging with Signature Electric.


     

    The invasion of zero-emission electric vehicles is still at least a decade away, but now is the time to start preparing your building. The choice is yours. A lot depends on your building’s EV demands, physical layout, and ownership structure, in addition to local government regulations and green energy funding. So, give your building’s load management the thought (and energy) it deserves. Because being able to provide sustainable EV power will ultimately become a powerful investment for attracting residents and keeping them happy.

    A big shout out to our friend Doug Chandler for providing the inspiration and insights for this blog. You can read his full research article on Electrical Line here.

    For the latest in all things electric, futuristic, and sustainable, check out The Electric Blog.


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