As electric vehicle (EV) growth in Australia continues to rise, EV charging is quickly becoming a topical issue in the strata environment. The National Construction Code was recently changed to mandate that all new apartment developments be built with access to EV charging in the carpark. If you’re reading this, chances are that you may already have EVs in your building or might have had requests for and/or installations of EV chargers. The aim of this article is to introduce EV charging in strata settings and present common EV charging options available to Strata Committees and EV owners.
Some common questions that come up in the early stage of preparing your building for EV charging are:
How to ensure there is enough power available at the building for the addition of EV chargers?
How is electricity billed for EV charging?
What type of EV charger is needed at the building?
What solution is best for the building? Private charging or shared charging?
How can you fund the cost of a EV backbone to support all current and future charging needs?
1. How to ensure there is enough power available at the building for the addition of EV chargers?
An EV charger can draw more power than an individual apartment unit so chances are your building isn’t designed with the spare power needed for high EV uptake.
The solution to this is a load management system. Load management acts as a calculator, safely distributing the spare power to EV chargers in the building. Without this load management technology, your building will be severely limited in the number of EV chargers that can be installed. With load management, you’ll likely be able to allow all residents to install a private EV charger.
Load management systems also take advantage of the fact that not everyone will need to charge from 0% to 100% in one night. Load management systems rotate the operation of EV chargers to ensure the power available is distributed evenly across all EVs on charge. The number of EVs on charge at any one time can also be maximised, by throttling the power output of the EV chargers. This is also critical for controlling the EV charging power output within the limits of the building.
An example of a load management system is the JET Charge CORE - a single ‘on premise’ intelligent, holistic and autonomous EV energy management system.
2.How Is Electricity Billed for EV Charging?
The need for a load management system for EV charging leads to the next technology critical for apartment EV charging, a billing software. Load management systems function best when the power supply to EV chargers is fed from the common power of the building. This means that all electricity used through EV chargers is billed to the Strata Scheme via their monthly energy bills. This is a problem as we can’t have the Strata Scheme (and by extension, owner levies) subsidising EV owners ‘fuel’ costs.
For this reason, an EV charging billing software is required. A billing software will record how much electricity a charger has used and bills the user for the cost of this electricity, directly from their credit card. These funds are collected and sent to the Strata Scheme in line with monthly energy bills. This allows all electricity usage costs from EV charging to be fully recovered by the Strata Committee, leaving no one out of pocket, and no one subsidizing anyone’s vehicle running costs.
3. What Types of Charger is needed at the building?
There are a wide range of EV charger types, all with different features and functions to suit different applications. The following sections will outline some key considerations when selecting the most suitable EV charger for use in an apartment setting.
Smart EV Chargers
The need for load management and billing technologies also means that there are restrictions on the type of EV chargers that can be installed in the building. ‘Smart’ EV chargers are needed so that the charger can communicate with the load management and billing software; the EV chargers need to speak the same ‘language’ as the load management and billing technologies, smart EV chargers are capable of such communication and are required in an apartment setting. Some companies have specifically designed EV Smart Chargers compatible with the apartment environment, like JET Charge’s ChargeMate.
AC vs DC Charging
There are two types of EV chargers available, AC and DC. AC chargers offer a slower charge rate (up to 22kW which can provide up to 150 km per hour of charge). DC chargers on the other hand can offer charge rates up to 350kW, allowing you to reach a full charge in 10 – 15 minutes. For apartment settings, AC chargers are best suited to charging in private car spaces, where an EV owner can plug their car in and leave it to charge overnight. DC chargers should only be considered for shared use charging applications, where a high turnover of EVs is required at the charger. Typically, due to cost and power availability considerations, DC chargers in the range of 25 – 50kW are best suited for shared charging in apartments.
Single vs 3-Phase
AC chargers can be connected at single-phase or 3-phase. The main difference here is simply the power that can be supplied to the charger. A 3-phase charger can provide three times the power than a single-phase charger (22kW vs 7.4kW, or ~150 km per hour of charge vs 50 km per hour of charge). Typically, power constraints at the building mean that selection of single-phase EV chargers are best for widespread private charging, with a 7.4kW charger still providing enough power for overnight charging.
Tethered vs Socket Chargers
EV chargers come in a range of sizes and with a range of features. AC chargers can be bought with an attached cable (tethered) or with no cable attached (socket). To charge at a socket charger an EV owner will need a connecting cable, which are readily available and are often supplied at vehicle purchase. Socket chargers are popular in apartment settings because they remove the need for cable management; owners can simply store their cable in their vehicle when not charging. This is also beneficial as the majority of AC chargers in the public are socket chargers.
Finding a suitable location for the installation of an AC charger is straight forward. The best location is the back or side wall of a car space or the surface of a pillar. For car spaces that have no wall or pillar available, pedestals or mounting posts can be supplied.
4. What solution is best for the building? Private charging or Shared Charging?
Shared Use EV Charging
Shared use EV chargers present a great way to offer a low-cost EV charging solution. 7 – 22kW AC chargers can typically be installed quickly and easily. For higher speed DC chargers there may be additional complexities with adding a large new electrical load to the building.
Visitor car spaces are often used as the location for shared use chargers and the connection point is typically an existing carpark distribution board. As these carpark distribution boards will be fed from the building common power, a billing software is critical to ensure that the Strata Committee are fully reimbursed for any energy consumption costs.
One downside of shared use EV chargers is the management of the use of them. Having shared use EV chargers in a building requires residents to be mindful of other EV drivers and not hog the charging station for extended periods of time. This can be mitigated via implementing a booking system at the building, however, this still requires EV drivers to move their vehicles in a timely manner.
For this reason, shared use chargers offer a good starting point for EV charging in a building, however, it should not be considered a long-term solution.
Private EV Charging
Shared use chargers offer a good starting point for EV charging access in a building, but there will likely be a demand for EV charging in residents’ private car spaces. There are a few ways to approach this, the most recommended approach is to connect to a dedicated EV backbone.
Connection to Private Apartment Meters
To simplify the billing of energy used through the charger, you might think that connecting a private EV charger to the owner’s private electricity meter might be the way to go. This might be a viable approach to EV charging for the first few owners, however, is not a long-term plan that the Strata Committee can follow due to the previously mentioned load constraints.
For this reason, it is recommended that the connection of EV chargers to private meters be avoided. This will set a troublesome precedent at the building and any EV chargers connected in this way will likely need to be reconnected to a centralised EV charging system as EV uptake at the building grows.
Connection to Carpark Distribution Boards
Most buildings will already have distribution boards providing power throughout the carpark. These DBs are also a potential connection point for private EV chargers. This option is also very limited as these DBs very rarely have much spare power and space for new circuits to be installed. Nevertheless, provided a thorough power analysis is performed at the building and on the carpark distribution boards, these DBs could be used as an interim measure to provide short-term EV charging access.
This allows a very hands-off approach by the Strata Committee; the EV owner can simply pay for the installation of an EV charger from the carpark DB to their car space. The Strata Committee simply must approve the works to occur on common property. It is critical that the EV owner installs a smart charger that can be integrated with a billing software otherwise the Strata Committee won’t have a method of recovering the energy costs through the carpark DB.
Connection to a Dedicated EV Backbone
Installation of shared use chargers, connection to private meters or connection to carpark DBs all offer viable EV charging solutions in residential strata buildings, however none offer a truly scalable and holistic solution that will cater for the accelerating uptake of EVs in the country.
The most effective way to cater for EVs in your building is to install a dedicated EV backbone; this is new infrastructure in the carpark that creates equal and easy access to EV charging for all car spaces. Typically, the components of an EV Backbone are:
New dedicated EV charging distribution boards
New communications racks
New power and communications cable tray
A load management system
A billing software
The installation of this infrastructure is considered a building upgrade that benefits all owners, and so it should be the responsibility of the Strata Committee to raise budget and fund such a project.
With an EV Backbone in place at a building the installation of EV chargers in private car spaces becomes a much simpler process and can be performed en-masse. The EV Backbone can be designed strategically to ensure that any variation in installation costs to EV owners is minimised, creating a more equitable solution in the building.
5. How can you fund the cost of an EV backbone to support all current and future charging needs?
As discussed in this article, an EV backbone is an equitable and sustainable choice to support future demands of a Strata Scheme’s owners. Further to this, it is fast becoming a key differentiator in selling and renting apartments in major cities.
To fund the cost of an EV backbone to support all current and future charging needs, there are a few options available to Strata Committees. The first option is to raise funds through a special levy, where all owners will pay upfront. This can be challenging, as not all owners may be willing or able to contribute. The second option is to seek strata finance. Strata finance can be an advantageous option, as it allows the strata scheme to spread the cost of the EV backbone over a longer period, with the repayments forming part of the annual budget. It also means that means that those owners who may be looking at selling in the next few years are not paying for something for which they won’t get to use.
Who is StrataLoans?
StrataLoans are experts in strata finance and have been helping owners and strata managers with their financing needs for over 7 years. We would be happy to assist you in discussing finance options for installing EV infrastructure in your strata scheme. Please contact us on [email protected], call 1300 785 045 or visit www.strata-loans.com.
Who is JET Charge?
JET Charge is Australia’s leading end-to-end provider of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and technologies. We’re on a mission to accelerate the uptake of EVs, by breaking down the barriers to EV charging. We are charging partners for many of the world’s largest vehicle manufacturers, leading corporates, and government agencies. Our specialties are EV charging design, engineering, hardware manufacturing and supply, installation, and technology. We partner with best-in-class global charging systems providers offering the widest range of EV charging stations and accessories, tested for Australian and New Zealand conditions by our expert engineering team.
For more information, visit www.jetcharge.com.au or email [email protected]