Project Lessons: EV Charging for Multifamily Housing
The U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technologies Office funded several projects that included innovative approaches to deploying electric vehicle (EV) chargers at multifamily housing (MFH) (also called multi-unit dwellings), including implementing EV car share programs. Lessons learned from these funded projects can highlight opportunities for greater project efficiency and success. Others embarking on similar projects can take into account the key considerations summarized below, which discuss best practices for engaging stakeholders, strategies for improving the equitable distribution of project benefits, site selection factors, and permitting/policy elements that could impact the project.
Achieving a high level of transportation decarbonization requires EV adoption beyond just those with access to garages or other dedicated off-street parking that allow them to charge their EVs while at home. Residents of MFH (apartment complexes, condominiums, etc.) are a critical target for expanding the potential market for EVs, and MFH residents will be more likely to adopt EVs if charging solutions to fit their needs are available. Low-cost and long-dwell charging solutions are needed for MFH residents who don't currently have access to dedicated residential charging. Previous studies have shown that slower charging while drivers are at home can provide the most cost-effective solution.
Past Funded Projects
- Center for Sustainable Energy: Vehicle Charging Innovations for Multi-Unit Dwelling
- American Lung Association: EV Community Partner – mix applications (electric car share at MFH)
- PacifiCorp: Western Smart Regional Electric Vehicles Adoption and Infrastructure At Scale
Key considerations for MFH EV charging and EV car share projects are summarized below.
- EV charging equipment: At the start of the project, determine who will own, insure, and be responsible for operations and maintenance and for what length of time.
- Building owners are good candidates as a potential responsible party as they already have liability insurance for their building and parking area and the potential to include EV charging equipment in their policy.
- EV car share: Determine at the start who will own/lease, insure, clean, and maintain the vehicles.
Local Government Stakeholders
- Identifying interested MFH decision makers can pose a significant challenge.
- Municipal departments interact with MFH owners, builders, and property managers and could provide input on opportunities for EV charging at MFH. Examples include city assessor, council, housing, permitting, planning, and zoning.
- Work with the municipal departments to include EV make-ready codes for new buildings. This significantly reduces costs to add EV charging equipment.
- Equity considerations should be included during the project development phase, prior to site selection, and continue throughout project implementation. to help ensure community needs are met.
- To better understand equity considerations, consult Table 1: An Approach to Include Equity and Energy Justice Consideration in Decision Making in "Energy Justice: Key Concepts and Metrics Relevant to EERE Transportation Projects."
- Develop site selection criteria for MFH EV charging that factors in equity considerations.
- Engage MFH residents to understand their existing transportation usage and needs.
- One project deployment at MFH with mixed income residents was unsuccessful due to both low utilization and short range of the car share vehicle.
- Collaborate with community partners (including MFH residents) to identify what equity means for this project, what equity considerations will be incorporated, and criteria for equitable site selection. Select sites based on input from community members.
Identifying Potential MFH Sites
- Identifying sites where both MFH owners and residents were interested in adding EV charging equipment can be challenging.
- There may be multiple entities involved in decision-making, including the building owner, the management company, or homeowner's associations (HOAs).
- Apartments are often owned by an individual or company who rents to tenants and decides on what amenities are offered. The building owner is responsible for structural upgrades.
- Condominiums are generally owned by individuals and decisions on common areas and amenities are made by HOA boards usually comprised of volunteers.
- Work with municipal offices, residential building construction companies, community organizations, and national organizations such as the National Multifamily Housing Council to identify MFH locations interested in EV charging equipment.
- Find MFH decision makers committed to providing this service.
- MFH sites may see EV chargers as an amenity like a pool or gym.
- Consider hosting webinars for landlords and property managers to educate them on EV charging equipment and their funded program. One project worked with an owner of multiple buildings who had a garage being upgraded and a new building being built.
- New buildings represent an excellent opportunity to incorporate EV charging infrastructure and to advertise to residents before move in.
- Some communities have EV readiness in their building codes, and new buildings are wired to install EV charging.
- Survey residents to gain an understanding of interest in EV charging and current vehicle and driving habits. Not knowing if residents have EVs or if people would charge in the parking can lead to low utilization of EV charging equipment.
Locating EV Chargers at MFH
- MFH decision makers should contact their electric utility early on to determine what upgrades would be necessary if their existing electrical service cannot accommodate EV charging equipment.
- MFH decision makers should have an electrician conduct an electrical evaluation to determine existing electrical capacity and the ability to meet increased demand.
- Electrical service demand will be influenced by the amount of EV charging equipment and how many vehicles the building intends to charge simultaneously.
- If electrical capacity is insufficient, identify a plan to fund upgrades such as a new transformer. Costs might be higher for MFH farther from substations.
- MFH decision makers need to identify where charging will occur.
- Proximity to the service panel impacts cost and could help identify best locations. Longer distances are likely to result in significant construction.
- Parking policy impacts where chargers are located, as well if spots are assigned/paid. EV charging equipment could be placed in guest parking or otherwise dedicated spots including specific owners with EVs.
- Determine if EV charging equipment is solely for residents or available to the public.
- This requires that MFH parking be accessible to the public.
- Public access and charging could occur at certain hours when residents are less likely to be charging based on usage data. This has the potential to increase utilization.
MFH EV Charging Strategies
- MFH projects can support installed Level 2 EV charging equipment or provide outlets to support resident-owned charging equipment.
- Some projects found that non-networked EV charging equipment with added technology was preferrable to networked chargers, which are connected remotely to a larger network.
- Non-networked EV charging equipment was preferred due to lower equipment costs for MFH and lower charging costs for residents.
- Consider best options for payment. Residents can pay through an app or MFH owners can charge a flat fee and further reduce costs by not subscribing to a payment system.
- There are multiple technologies available to manage charging and reduce costs.
- Technologies that manage load can reduce the number of dedicated circuits needed for EV charging equipment.
- Technology capabilities to consider include:
- Manage electrical load to all EV charging equipment from the panel
- Control when power flows to EV charging equipment
- Establish charging schedules to maximize charging when building loads are low
- Allow residents to tell the system how much charge is needed by a certain time
- Payment processing by unit of time/time of use, per kWh, per session, or monthly fee. Payment can be collected from residents and remitted to the MFH owner or residents pay the MFH owner and the MFH owner pays the technology company
- Control access to charging equipment for different user groups and times
- Data collection and data analytics
- Technology providers include, but are not limited to: ampUP, CyberSwitching, EverCharge, EVMatch, Freewire Technologies Liberty Plugins, OpConnect, PowerFlex, and Xeal Charge
- When selecting a technology provider, ask about their availability to provide ongoing maintenance and repairs and response times.
- Bluetooth enabled EV charging equipment is an option where cellphone or Wi-Fi signals are weak.
- Projects with shared, dedicated spots for EV charging need to determine the penalty for dwelling after the charge is complete. Idle fees are an effective method to discourage overstaying a charge session.
- Mobile Level 2 charging is another potential solution for access-controlled garages or shared parking spaces. There needs to be a building or garage attendant responsible for moving the unit. Capital costs for a mobile charging unit are equivalent to 4–5 dedicated chargers. It takes considerable time to charge the mobile unit.
- Another potential solution is off-site DC fast charging located near MFH. A project tested this in an area with 10 MFH buildings nearby. The site offered both DC fast charging and Level 2. MFH residents were four times more likely to use DC fast charging. Utilization rates at these locations were higher compared with demonstrations at single buildings. These sites were available to the public.
- Car sharing was a part of two projects that combined EV charging equipment with vehicles available for residents to use.
- Two projects have or are planning to deploy EV car sharing at low-income MFH to increase EV awareness and reduce emissions.
- Electric vehicles with low range (around 100 miles) are often not sufficient for MFH car sharing since they are typically driven roundtrip without charging.
- Identify who has jurisdiction over MFH EV charging permitting and excavation.
- Issues with permitting were not reported.