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To Keep California’s EV Momentum, Apartment Charging Must Grow

Southern California Edison’s Charge Ready program will cover most, if not all, of the costs of installing electric vehicle chargers in multifamily developments. This sort of charging is essential for EV growth, experts say.

A digital illustration of electric vehicle charging at an apartment complex.
Shutterstock/Slavun
Incentives and other assistance are expanding electric vehicle charging in apartments and condos in California.

Southern California Edison (SCE), an investor-owned private utility serving millions of homes and businesses in the state, has a program designed to cover most, if not all, of the costs of installing vehicle charging in multifamily housing.

“We have the experience and expertise to get EV charging installed. And we really want to help our multifamily customers go from that early-stage idea phase, to actual installation where your stations are installed and energized,” said Naveed Ahmad, senior adviser in e-mobility partnerships at Southern California Edison, in comments during a panel discussion June 8. The panel was organized and hosted by Veloz, an EV advocacy and education organization based in Sacramento.

SCE’s Charge Ready program offers rebate-styled incentives for multifamily housing property owners to tap into. The program provides up to $3,500 per charging port when installed in new construction. Existing construction needing to retrofit the parking area with charging infrastructure is awarded $1,450 per port, with SCE covering the needed electrical service upgrades.

“What our new-construction rebate program is designed to do is to nudge a developer to go ahead and install the EV charging station,” Ahmad explained. “So when the property is live and ready to take folks in, it’s got the stations installed and operational.”

SCE has pledged to to invest $417.5 million toward deploying charging infrastructure across its service area, and in the last six years has installed more than 2,400 charging ports across 140 different properties ranging from commercial sites to government property and residential homes.

Expanding charging options for apartment residents is seen as a must-have if electric car adoption is to move from a small fraction of the population to a broader slice of consumers. The job of placing chargers in parking lots or garages can be a complicated and expensive undertaking by property owners or HOAs, but can lead to higher-value properties, said Whit Jamieson, a program manager for Forth, an EV education and advocacy group in Oregon.

“It’s kind of a competitive advantage,” said Jamieson, in some of his comments on the panel.

Property owners, once they’ve decided to install charging for residents, then have to make decisions around how these are to be structured. Will each parking spot get a charger? Will there be only a few spaces with chargers for residents to share? How will billing be handled?

Charging network companies like ChargePoint have developed programs and software to address issues like these. In the case of condo developments where parking is dedicated and deeded as a part of the condo unit’s property, individual chargers for each space may be the best solution, said Jamieson. However, shared EV charging spots could get more use, and better manage electric load.

“That’s especially important when you have these larger condominiums or larger apartment complexes, where you’ve got hundreds of vehicles. That’s a lot of power, especially if you’re in a dedicated [parking] situation,” said Jamieson.

When it comes to multifamily EV charging, there is no single best option, said Hannon Rasool, deputy director of fuels and transportation at the California Energy Commission.

“We are still in the early days. We are seeing great upticks in EV adoption and infrastructure, and that is amazing,” Rasool told the panelists. “But we have a long way to go, and are still learning as well. So I don’t know that anyone has a perfect solution.”
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Sacramento.


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