EV charging issues deter renters, condo dwellers


Even as electric vehicles account for a growing share of U.S. new-car sales, significant charging hurdles hold back interest, especially among renters and condo dwellers.

Home equipment, typically in an owner’s garage or within easy driveway access, supports 84 percent of all EV charging in the U.S., according to a 2022 J.D. Power study.

But 36 percent of people live in multiunit dwellings such as apartment buildings and condominiums, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That mirrors the 34 percent of new-vehicle shoppers that J.D. Power found lack access to home charging.

Half of the EV rejectors in the J.D. Power survey cited lack of public charging as the deterrent, said Brent Gruber, the research firm’s executive director of global automotive. An unrelated survey of car buyers by dealership software provider CDK Global that found 40 percent of EV shoppers would wait until they have a garage to purchase an EV.

Nine states have right-to-charge laws requiring landlords to allow renters of single-family homes and those living in multiunit dwellings to install chargers. Renters must pay for the charger and installation. The typical residential device is a Level 2 charger, which requires a 240-volt connection and adds 20 to 25 miles per hour of charge. It costs about $1,200 including installation, depending on the building.

There are other complications, depending on the state.

California tenants, for example, must obtain and pay for liability insurance to cover damage or injury caused by an EV charger. And landlords can charge fees for a dedicated space next to a charging station if a tenant doesn’t have a reserved parking spot.

Several cities are creating on-street charging for EV owners who don’t have access to off-street parking.

Kansas City, Mo., started a three-year pilot in 2021 that added EV charging to streetlights. This year Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., installed a network of on-street EV charging stations.

Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia, offer a lower-tech solution: Residents can run an extension cord from their home or apartment to the EV.

But it’s not very efficient. Such Level 1 charging operates on a standard 120-volt household outlet and adds only about three to five miles per hour of charge.

Regions where EV sales are growing are changing building codes to require charging stations in new structures. In 2017, San Francisco said all new residential and commercial buildings must have chargers in at least 20 percent of the parking spots.

The Inflation Reduction Act provides federal tax incentives for property owners and managers to install Level 2 and 3 charging stations. Level 3 chargers can top off a battery in less than an hour.

But the tax incentives target areas where EV adoption lags. They are available for buildings in nonurban or low-income zones through 2032. Installation of chargers in other areas must be completed by Dec. 21, 2022, to qualify for the federal tax incentive.

Current tax incentives may do little to spur EV sales in rural and low-income areas since luxury vehicles dominate the EV market, Gruber said.

EV buyers are typically more affluent and install home chargers, Gruber said.

“For them to make the investment to install a Level 2 charger is not as much of a concern,” he said. “If you’re buying an $80,000 EV, you’re probably going to spend a couple thousand dollars to make charging easier.”

That leaves those living in multiunit dwellings to rely on public chargers, which can be unreliable.

A J.D. Power survey of 11,000 EV and plug-in hybrid owners found that one out of every five respondents was unable to charge their vehicle when visiting a station. Of those, 72 percent said the station was malfunctioning or out of service.

The federal government is working to make charging more accessible. The bipartisan infrastructure bill President Biden signed in November includes $7.5 billion to build EV charging and alternative fuel infrastructure.

There’s also movement in the private sector. Many shopping centers near multiunit dwellings and mixed-use developments are installing public charging stations. Municipal and other government agencies also are adding charging stations to parking lots.

Automakers such as Volkswagen, Hyundai and Kia are offering free charging at various networks with the purchase of a new EV.

“Some people would rather opt for free charging provided by the manufacturer than make the investment in a home charger,” Gruber said.

EV owners may not want to leave their vehicle at a public charger for hours at a time for convenience and security reasons. Those without a garage or charging station where they live can choose to charge while shopping or at the gym for an hour or so.

They can also request their workplace install an EV charger. Government agencies and utilities offer financial incentives to companies and groups to install chargers.

“Having to rely on public charging is not an ideal scenario considering where the infrastructure is now,” Gruber said. “It really puts into perspective how critical public charging is.”

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