The road to adoption: building EV infrastructure

But the reality is, the share of Canadians living in single detached homes has been on a steady decline, dropping from over 57.2 per cent in 1981 to 52.6 per cent according to the latest census data. For the more that 12 million Canadians living in multi-unit residential buildings (MURBS) and row houses or the many others living in dwellings without a driveway or garage, new and creative solutions will be needed to allow individuals to charge their EVs.

While few high-rise developments are currently equipped for EVs, many provinces have updated condominium regulations for electric vehicle charging systems (EVCS). For example, the Condominium Authority of Ontario in 2018 sets out the approval and installation process if boards decide to install the EVCS or the condo owner requests the EVCS to be installed in their parking space. Due to the cost and complexity of installing the necessary infrastructure, most condo corporations take a hybrid approach, with the corporation overseeing the installation of the infrastructure and the owners assuming responsibility for the cost of their current EV station and connection.

MURBS first need to assess whether their buildings have the electrical infrastructure to enable residents to install a charger. They must undertake a load evaluation, consider hardware (EVCS, supply panels), labour, wiring, and load management.

A commercial level 2 (240v) charging station generally costs $5,000 to $10,000 to purchase and install and can wirelessly send information and monitor owner usage to management. In some provinces, government rebates and municipal incentives help MURBS make the electrical upgrades needed to be EV ready.

Options for condominiums and apartment towers could include EVCS for all of their parking spots or central charging areas that tenants can use at selected times or days.

In a study commissioned by Natural Resources Canada, various options were identified to help MURBS overcome infrastructure barriers taking into account the building’s unique parking and electrical system configurations, electrical capacity, budget, and the board’s or strata council’s level of involvement in managing the charging infrastructure over time. Already, community charging solutions have emerged that offer flexible pricing and control access (reservations and loitering penalties) to promote sharing among residents and visitors.

But having options to address some of the fundamental barriers is just the start. There is a need and an opportunity for the private sector to propose new business models to service the EVCS needs of MURBS, similar to the early days of cable TV when entrepreneurs came in to provide better TV service to everyone in these buildings.

There are many players who can step into this space including EV supply equipment providers, charging network operators, local electricity distribution utilities, electricity generation companies and system operators, not to mention residential property developers. Even automakers and dealerships may want to explore partnerships with property developers.

Besides setting the framework for EV charging in their communities, municipalities have a direct role to play in reducing greenhouse gas emissions through their own energy usage. Many are opting for electric public fleets with specific charging requirements. In our 2022 Auto Survey, 88 per cent of Canadians agreed that cities and municipalities should invest in more green transport, such as electric buses or garbage trucks.

We are already seeing some Canadian municipalities take meaningful strides in this area. For example, the Toronto Transit Commission has 60 electric buses on the road, far exceeding the 10-15 of most other North American transit authorities. The police service in Windsor, Ont. will also start replacing its fleet with fully electric cars and install charging stations for both public and police use next year.

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