Want to own an EV while living in a condo? Good luck in finding a practical way of charging it.
While it is certainly true that EVs (thanks to its tax-free status) could still currently be considered a bit of a bargain, the same however could not be said for when it comes time to brimming its batteries. And this sentiment rings especially true for those owners who utilise the public charging network, with some discovering that charging their EVs outside could in fact legitimately cost more than filling up their tanks full of (subsidised) petrol.
So in order for an EV to make maximum fiscal sense, owners are therefore inevitably advised to charge their cars at home, where residential electricity costs are usually lower. But what if your home happens to be in one of the many many condominiums and apartments? Well in that case I do hope for your (and my condo-living self’s) sake that petrol remains cheap, because there really are no good solutions to the condo charging conundrum.
Now it is at this point that I expect the Malaysian EV brigade to come knocking on my door with pitchforks. But before I do get branded as an EV hater, I would at least like to have at least earned that plug-socket up my bottom, by elaborating on why all the possible options of EV charging in condos are totally impractical.
Option #1: Install A Charger At Every Parking Bay
It is perhaps with hindsight that I will realise placing this option as the first in the order will probably see many people already reaching for the X button to close this article. After all, it is admittedly preposterous to even conceive of such a mad idea, even if there is to be a future where an EV will occupy every bay.
Just the cost of installing a charger alone will run up to the millions in even the smallest of apartments with only a minimal number of bays, and there will inevitably be the question on who exactly will be the one footing the bill. What more is that even if EV owners themselves decide to fork out the dough for their own chargers at their own bays, there will then be the conundrum of sorting out how exactly to charge the respective owners for the electricity used for charging their EVs.
And long before even getting to the touchy subject of money, it is almost certain too that the electricity infrastructure of the high-rise will not be feasibly able to cope with a large number of EVs charging at the same time. This hence renders the prior two rhetorical questions moot, unless yet another large financial investment is made to not just upgrade the local electricity grid, but also to acquire the unimaginably costly amount of cabling required for a charger in every bay.
Option #2: Set Up A Dedicated EV Charging Area
So how about then having a dedicated EV charging area within the condo? This option pretty much solves the infrastructure problem, as having a only few chargers within a designated area won’t likely overload the high-rise’s existing electricity infrastructure.
The cost conundrum can also be similarly sorted if the condo implements a public-charger-style pay-as-you-charge system. This method is financially a win-win for everyone, as EV-owning residents will likely still get a cheaper rate relative to properly public chargers (courtesy of residential electricity tariffs still being in effect), and the management can pacify non-EV drivers by fully incorporating the installation and maintenance cost of the charging system into the set charging rate.
That said though, there is nevertheless the small problem of convenience and courtesy from this particular way of solving the condo charging conundrum. This is especially when considering that only AC charging can practically be implemented in condos, which means it’ll likely take around 4-6 hours for each EV to be fully charged.
So if going with this option then, there will therefore foreseeably be occasions — like right after work for example, or during the busy festive open house periods — where there will be tailbacks from many residents wanting to charge their EVs at the same time. A situation which will only worsen as EV adoption continues to increase too. Knowing Malaysians also, even the most community-centric condos will have constant notices papered around the community regarding EVs that were left there to charge for too long, or more likely non-EVs treating those bays are extra parking spaces.
Side note: While DC fast charging can charge an EV in a matter of minutes, it is not really possible to install one in a high-rise. Not least because the Malaysian fire safety regulations have yet to approve its installation in a residential area yet, but perhaps more likely due to the fact that these DC chargers cost in the tens to hundreds of thousands each, and it is therefore highly unlikely that the condo (or EV owners) will fork out the fee for its installation.
Putting it bluntly, I don’t know about you but the constant anticipation of when my EV will finish charging so that I can move it elsewhere will not do my stress levels any good. Moreover, I could also equally do without having to wake up at 3 am in the morning to secure a vacant charging bay, thank you very much.
Option #3: Implement Volkswagen’s EV Charging Droid System
An excellent idea, if only VW actually would put it into production. And even then this system will likely still cost a small fortune to implement within the condo, in addition to the additional recurring cost of keeping this droid charging system in working order.
So what about instead the more primitive way of having EV chargers at set intervals within the condo car park where owners will just run a long lead to each available outlet? Well for one, that still doesn’t solve the convenience issue, as you can’t just pull off someone else’s lead willy-nilly. It also doesn’t really solve the infrastructure issue, as it is unlikely that even the longest available leads will be able to provide total coverage to all bays within the carpark. It technically even exacerbates the cost conundrum too, as the cost of charging leads increase exponentially with length.
Option #4: Implement A Valet Charging System
Now in all seriousness, this option of simply throwing labour at the problem is perhaps to be the closest in solving all the conundrums affecting condo charging. A valet service will after all only require a few chargers on site, which in turn minimises infrastructural requirements and cost. Residents will also not need to stress about waiting for an open charge point nor removing their car when it is fully charged, as the valet will drive it to your parking bay for you and perhaps even drop the key right to your door upstairs.
Here is nevertheless some food for thought though, despite labour being relatively cheap, the expense of hiring a valet service will still be a luxury that the condo board will likely not approve of. And even if condos could afford to offer this service to their residents, how much trust would you really place in someone who is unfamiliar with your car to drive down the tight and windy lanes that typically make up a condo carpark?
Option #5: Stick To Public Chargers
This therefore brings us neatly back round to charging outside again, because as illustrated above, there is technically no practical method for condo dwellers to charge their cars from the comfort of their own home.
So if you are an EV-owner who also lives in a high-rise (and who also perhaps does not have the luxury of charging at the office), it’ll be likely that you’ll be very up to date with the latest movies showing at the cinema, or be more than familiar with the snacks offered at your local fast charging station.