EV Does It: Incentives Help Building Owners Offset The Cost Of Installing Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

This article originally appeared on Bisnow.

ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods’ recent prediction that 100% of new vehicles sold in 2040 will be electric likely sent two important messages to the real estate world.

One is that when the head of a giant petroleum company says electric vehicles are the future, then it seems the age of EVs has finally arrived. Secondly, it is time to get buildings ready for an influx of residents and tenants demanding charging stations.

Chris Vargas, senior vice president of business development for Chargie, a California-based installer of EV charging stations in multifamily and commercial buildings, said those takeaways are spot-on.

“About 70% of people right now see themselves buying an electric vehicle in the next two to three years, so property owners really need to think about how they’re going to meet the demand,” he said.

Vargas added that building owners should not take Woods’ 18-year timeline to mean they have close to two decades to prepare. In fact, it might actually be closer to a mere 18 months — that is, if they want to take advantage of generous incentives now available to support the cost of installing EV infrastructure.

The Biden administration designated nearly $5B to help develop the nation’s EV charging capabilities along important transportation corridors. This will enable EV drivers to make much longer trips without needing to worry about being stranded in areas that lack charging infrastructure.

However, most EV charging takes place where a driver lives, which suggests that charging stations will soon be a must-have amenity at multifamily properties. Fortunately for building owners, millions of dollars in incentives are available through power utilities to offset the expense.

With multifamily buildings expected to spend $2.5B to add charging capabilities, that is no small thing.

“Of the 17,000 chargers Chargie has installed on more than 1,000 properties, 90% have been completely paid for by rebates and incentives,” Vargas said. “Large properties can receive more than $200K worth of infrastructure without an investment. There definitely is an opportunity here for building owners.”

The catch? Vargas said the process of applying for and actually obtaining a rebate typically takes about 18 months. That means that the time to act is now.

“Thousands of applications have already been filed for these incentives,” he said. “You need to get in the queue now before demand really starts to take off in the next few years if you want to take advantage of these programs.”

Also, Vargas said, the current incentives won’t be around forever.

“I compare it to the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, when all those incentives were available to pay for ramps and railings,” he said. “Most of those incentives have since gone away.”

Vargas recommended that building owners check with their local utility to obtain a list of approved EV system vendors that have technical know-how but also understand how the incentive application process works. While property owners and managers might be tempted to tackle this on their own, they may not have the resources to navigate the process.

“There are a lot of requirements that go along with the rebate application process and it can be very daunting for somebody trying to do this for the first time,” Vargas said. “We’ve run into several multifamily owners who lost out on money because they just don’t have the experienced, full-time people to dedicate to the task.”

At the moment, incentive programs are most common in West Coast states. That is likely to change, he said, as EV infrastructure continues its explosive growth and more states try to encourage its adoption by building owners.

But Vargas emphasized that no matter how generous the incentives, consumer demand is likely to be the main driver behind multifamily buildings installing EV infrastructure. In recent years, the availability of EV chargers has become one of the top search criteria for apartment hunters, ahead even of price, he said.

Vargas said building owners across the country need to be thinking now about how they will meet their tenants’ expectations. If ExxonMobil’s forecast is correct, they won’t have a choice in the matter if they want to attract tenants in the future, particularly younger renters.

Already, Vargas said, some California tenants have moved out of apartment buildings that lacked EV charging, and it may not be long before residents in the Midwest or on the East Coast start to behave similarly.

“We recommend that at least 25% of the parking spaces for a multifamily building have EV charging stations,” he said. “That’s what we believe will be needed to meet the demand over the next few years, and of course, it doesn’t mean you’re not going to need more. We’ve even worked with 300-unit buildings that wanted to install 300 EV chargers for 100% coverage of residents.”

Plugging into the CALeVIP EV Charger Incentive Program – Multifamily Properties

When it comes to installing EV charging infrastructure in Northern California, finding the balance between exploding demand and cost is always a major consideration for commercial and multifamily property owners. Owners often think installing proactively to prepare for future demand will cost more, when in fact installing today is often the most cost effective strategy. Local, state, and national EV charger rebate and incentive programs can offset large portions of the cost but won’t be around forever. At Chargie, we specialize in finding the best programs to plug into to provide our clients with EV charging stations at little to no out of pocket costs.

The Edge, an apartment complex in the heart of Fremont, CA, partnered with Chargie for its EV charger needs. This three-story multifamily property was built in 1971 with 138 units and 300 parking spaces on site. This project consisted of 10 Level 2 chargers installed and networked on the property and with Chargie’s help, The Edge saved $55,000 through the California Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Project (CALeVIP) incentive program.

CALeVIP tackles the need for EV charging infrastructure statewide while also combating other environmental goals the state sets. Their efforts provide an efficient system to install chargers and eliminate the charging gaps across California. CALeVIP receives funds from the California Energy Commission to work with local partners and offer grants to EV charger projects while motivating Californians to contemplate purchasing EVs.

While it may seem straightforward, rebate programs like CALeVIP can be complex and time consuming for property owners and managers to navigate and apply for on their own. After helping over 1,000 properties with their EV charging projects, Chargie can ensure your property isn’t missing out on similar rebates and incentives. From applying to the programs and submitting the required paperwork to installing the charging stations and getting them approved, Chargie handles everything. With Chargie, property owners get a truly turnkey partner, and residents, tenants and visitors get simple, intuitive charging.

LA Companies Give Renters More Ways to Charge EVs

This article originally appeared on Los Angeles Business Journal.

Electric vehicles are touted as the future, especially in Los Angeles where the city’s climate goals call for 80% of vehicles sold to be electric by 2028 — seven years ahead of the state’s 2035 cutoff for gasoline-powered auto sales.

But to achieve that zero-emissions future, Los Angeles will need charging stations within reach of more people. First and foremost, that means installing chargers at apartment and condo buildings.

“People who want to buy EVs, if they can’t charge at home, where else do they charge?” said Rajit Gadh, director of UCLA’s Smart Grid Energy Research Center.

A 2019 UC Davis study examining EV charging rates in California found that more than 50% of battery-electric vehicle drivers living in single-family residences were able to charge vehicles at home while most multifamily residents primarily relied on public chargers.

“If you just look around you as you drive through Santa Monica and neighborhoods where you used to have single-family homes, you have multifamily buildings going up,” Gadh said. “It is absolutely essential that we all work toward the problem of multiunit dwelling charging.”

Los Angeles has become a hub for the growing electric vehicle industry, and now multiple local companies are tackling the problem of EV charger access.

The power of rebates

Culver City-based Chargie works directly with property owners to install charging infrastructure at multifamily and commercial buildings. Formerly a division of solar panel installer PCS Energy, Chargie was spun out last year into a separate company.

Tracy Chou, the company’s design and marketing director, said PCS Energy and Chargie have already installed chargers at more than 700 properties with multifamily buildings comprising the vast majority of that total.

“The reason why we’ve had such a big impact is that our founders are people who have worked in multifamily for a very long time, so we really understand the priorities of multifamily property owners,” said Chou.

Building owners are looking not just to install equipment in a quick and cost-efficient manner, Chou said, but to ensure operations are being monitored and chargers are kept in working order.

PCS Energy was launched in 2014 by apartment industry veterans Joseph Fryzer, Paul Jennings and Joseph Pekarovic with the goal of using renewable energy to deliver cost savings to building owners. Chou said the establishment of Chargie as a separate entity has allowed the company to better serve property owners looking to install EV charging equipment.

“You’re really talking about a lot of moving parts when it comes to EV charging,” Chou said. “If something happens with your charging station, it becomes a very difficult thing to troubleshoot. Is it the electrical? Is it the software?”

Chou said Chargie’s team guides building owners through the entire installation process as well as any maintenance necessary after chargers are up and running.

The company is also able to provide these services at a low cost to building owners in the Los Angeles area thanks to temporary subsidies offered by local utility providers.

In 2016, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power began offering a rebate for multifamily property owners that covers up to $4,000 per charger, plus $750 for an additional port. Southern California Edison offers similar rebates for building owners installing chargers on site and in July announced a $436 million investment in electric vehicle infrastructure.

According to Chou, most apartment building owners that work with Chargie install chargers at virtually no cost when using these rebates.

“A lot of the time, (building owners) are paying nothing to have EV charging stations installed,” Chou said. “We manage the whole process end to end and help them reap the benefits of these rebates, but it makes a huge difference when you’re talking about a project that won’t be free in five years.”

Addressing ‘range anxiety’

Rebate programs may be especially enticing to the owners of newly constructed buildings, which are required under California’s building code to include “EV capable” parking spaces with electrical panels and raceways to support EV charging equipment in at least 10% of parking spots.

The requirements are stricter in the city of Los Angeles where developers are required to actually install chargers in at least 10% of parking spaces while ensuring an additional 20% are EV capable.

Aric Ohana, chief executive of Culver City-based Envoy Technologies Inc., said even without incentives, it’s easy for multifamily property owners to see the appeal of electric vehicle infrastructure as an important amenity for residents.

“We’re now in 15 markets in 10 states,” Ohana said. “That includes small markets like Boise, Idaho, and Athens, Ohio. In those markets, you’re not going to find incentives. It’s more forward-thinking real estate operators and developers.”

Like Chargie, Envoy sometimes installs EV-charging equipment at multifamily properties, but the company is primarily focused on a car-sharing platform that allows users to rent electric vehicles that are parked and charged up at residential and commercial properties.

Ohana said shared mobility models like this one are ideal for apartment buildings where a single vehicle can serve dozens of residents making occasional short trips. The company also gives drivers considering purchasing an electric vehicle the chance to try one out and see how it functions for typical use.

“It’s a new technology, and people have what’s called ‘range anxiety,’” Ohana said.

Drivers considering switching to an electric vehicle are often concerned about the distance cars can travel before needing to be charged, he said, and how close or far the nearest charging station is. Being able to use a vehicle when running errands or taking a day trip allows drivers to familiarize themselves with EVs’ range and battery life.

“If they test drive a vehicle, they aren’t going to get a sense of how it interacts with their day-to-day life,” Ohana said. “People are living with this car at their doorstep. It enables them to really adopt EVs.”

The future is coming

Addressing the problem of so-called range anxiety is a primary goal for EVgo Inc., the Sawtelle-based electric vehicle charging company that went public earlier this year via a reverse merger with a special purpose acquisition company.

Established in 2010, the company has built an extensive network of public charging stations spread across more than 65 metropolitan areas.

Sara Rafalson, vice president of market development and public policy, said EVgo now primarily installs DC fast chargers capable of fully charging a vehicle’s battery in just 30 minutes (compared to several hours for a typical home charger).

Fast chargers are poorly suited for apartment buildings due to high power consumption, but Rafalson said they can be a good option for drivers who live in multiunit dwellings when they are placed nearby.

“Sometimes residents don’t even have access to on-site parking,” Rafalson said. “We see high demand in areas with a large proportion of multifamily housing.”

EVgo commissioned a UCLA study released in February analyzing user data and the charging habits of apartment and condo dwellers. It showed that chargers placed in high-density urban areas attracted a larger share of apartment users than others in the EVgo network. Nearly a quarter of users in these areas did not have a charger at home.

“We like to locate chargers in places where customers want to be and where there are sufficient amenities,” said Rafalson, adding that she herself did not have a charger at home when she purchased an electric vehicle.

“I would just charge at my grocery store once a week,” she said. “I was able to integrate charging into my daily life.”

But charging in public places isn’t always convenient, and the high electrical currents generated through fast charging can degrade a car’s battery, said UCLA’s Gadh. Plus, he said, the optimum time to plug in is between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. — when most people are home, and there’s less strain on the power grid.

“To charge easily and simply, you have to be able to charge at home,” Gadh said.

Ultimately, local EV charging companies agree that public, commercial and residential charging infrastructure will all play supplementary roles in the widespread adoption of electric vehicles.

Ohana said it’s becoming clear that property owners are starting to think that way as well.

“They realize they’re going to need this, and they are future-proofing their buildings,” he said. “We’re seeing that more and more. The writing is on the wall.”

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