Can apartment and condo dwellers also become EV drivers?

Most electric vehicle drivers, by necessity, have been single-family homeowners, too. It's a garage thing. That's where we either have easy, secure access to a 110v plug and extension cord, or the 240v wall mounted charging station. Charging stations for the home can be purchased from stores like Home Depot or directly from several manufacturers. These type stations are referred to as Level One charging stations. But, how can apartment or condominium dwellers cope? There are many challenges, to be sure, but there are also answers.


Many EV drivers have already discovered that plugging in at 'home' - wherever that might be - isn't absolutely necessary. In many urban areas, stores, businesses and other venues already offer EV drivers the means to get a full charge. Enlightened employers are installing charging stations for their employees. Organizations like 350 Green are working to partner with municipalities, location hosts, electric vehicle manufacturers and select technology partners to create a nationwide EV charging station infrastructure.

Unfortunately, 'Range Anxiety' is going to be a factor for anybody who lives in a suburban area and commutes to the urban core - especially if they live in an apartment without a charging station, and charging stations aren't convenient to the workplace. For this reason, some would-be EV driving apartment dwellers may opt for the plug-in hybrid solution (such as a Chevy Volt), wherein the small gasoline engine serves to make up for the charging station shortfall in many cases. 

If you are an apartment/condo dweller, don't think you shouldn't even consider buying or leasing an EV. Some of you may have secure enough driveways, garage or covered parking where you might be able to run an extension cord from an exterior outlet although manufacturers recommend against using extension cords. That said, you certainly need to have a chat with your landlord or manager, and your immediate neighbors before doing so. Adequately explaining the need, and exactly what you will use in terms of electricity costs will go a long way in your favor. We do not advocate running extension cords out to street-side parking ever.

Some multi-family living companies have 'seen the light' already. AMLI Residential offers preferential parking/charging for their tenants at their developments around the south and southeastern U.S. This type of arrangement is also becoming reality in Southern California as well, which is good since nearly one-third of San Diego County's residents live in multi-family units where charging is not available.

Take a look at this video panel discussion, produced by Plug-In America for a better understanding of the issues involved for apartment and condo EV drivers.

The California Energy Commission, in cooperation with San Diego Gas & Electric, the City of San Diego and ChargePoint, are currently developing solutions for multi-family residents who would like to become EV drivers.

If your complex doesn't have an EV charging station, you can always ask your management to install one. However, you might be asked to contribute to the costs - especially if you are the only EV driver in the complex. If there is another EV driver, you should certainly enlist them to help advocate for a station.

There are many great reasons for multi-unit owners and managers to consider installing an EV charging station - first of which could be 'bragging rights'. The case can be made that an EV charging station on property would also serve as a 'selling point', attracting more environmentally conscious and up-scale tenants/occupants. 

The challenges for owners and managers include the cost of the charger (starting at around $3,000), installation, and then there is the metering issue. The management needs to know how much juice is being used, and at what cost. This usually requires the installation of a specialized meter.

As electric vehicles become more mainstream, the pressure for multi-unit residential owners and managers to provide this obvious value-added 'perk' for residents. It's becoming easier to prove the Return On Investment (ROI) for larger multi-family complexes especially.

Finally, Nissan, maker of the Nissan LEAF electric car has put out this nice pdf - Getting A Charger Installed In Your Apartment or Condo. This might be a great place for you, the renter, to begin the conversation ... by simply handing this to your owner or manager.

Nevadans are just beginning to understand the many benefits of EV ownership, but local municipalities, utilities and employers and others are a bit late to the game. To this end, we would like to assist, when and where possible, in the adoption and installation of EV charging stations for those living in multi-family residential developments. Please contact us for further information.