A real-world example of the importance of creating affordable EV charging solutions for multi-unit housing
Leading Charge’s Founder, Peter Vierthaler, recently attended a Seattle Electric Vehicle Association meeting where he met a woman named Elizabeth who drives a fully electric Kia Soul. Peter and Elizabeth began speaking about her love for her car and electric vehicles in general. Eventually, as with most electric vehicle discussions, the topic of charging came up. This is where we were blown away by Elizabeth’s fortitude in finding opportunities to charge her vehicle.
Peter knew that we had to get Elizabeth’s story out to our industry and beyond; at the end of the meeting, he collected Elizabeth’s contact information and after a follow up conversation, received her permission to share a day in her life as an EV driver, living in a place where charging solutions are not yet available everywhere.
Elizabeth lives in an apartment building in Kirkland, Washington that does not offer EV charging. The parking lot is overcrowded and the ownership/management has not yet opted to bring charging to the property. Elizabeth, who has her own business as a dog walker, must find charging for her Soul away from home.
Elizabeth has several locations around Kirkland and the greater Seattle Area which she visits to charge her Kia. These locations include a University of Washington Medicine clinic, the Kia dealership where she bought her car, the Kirkland public library, south Kirkland park and ride, Bellevue Square Shopping Center, Best Buy, Westlake Center parking garage, and sometimes even the KOMO 4 television station downtown.
All of Elizabeth's charging options have their own unique set of challenges.
Outside of the basic fact that they ALL take her outside of her home, each location either has a supply and demand issue, or a monetary rate associated with usage.
- The dealership, Lee Johnson Kia of Kirkland, is the best and only option for Elizabeth to use high speed charging. But the dealership only has one DC Fast Charger and one level 2 charger – both of which are free. Having the chargers available for free is great; however, the single DC Fast Charger is not enough to serve existing Kia customers needing a charge, and the general public whom the dealership is hoping to convert to Kia electric vehicles. Often Elizabeth must wait in line with other rather angry and agitated people.
- The University of Washington Medical Clinic parking lot behind Elizabeth’s building is her next most-convenient charging location. The problem she faces there is that the cost to charge with the public UW level 2 charge is $2/hour and the rate increases to $5/hour after the first two hours of charging. This makes it very expensive to leave her car hooked up overnight. [20 mile per hour of charge, for 5 hours on these chargers is about $20/fill up.)
- The other charging options (various malls and shopping centers 5-12 miles from her home) are a variety of free charging and toll charging depending on the location. All are level 2 providing just 15 to 20 miles of charge per hour. Many businesses will provide free charging for Elizabeth if she shops or eats at their establishments; again an added cost to factor into her lifestyle.
Elizabeth has designed her business and lifestyle around charging opportunities. If she is hungry, she will go to Bellevue Square; if she is going to check out a book she will go the Kirkland Library and if she wants to shop, she will go the Westlake Center in Seattle.
Instead of spending evenings and weekend at home after work, she often finds herself out and about so that she can recharge her car. Beyond this, Elizabeth must work more to accommodate the added expense of shopping to get free charging, or per-hour tolls to charge.
All of this has Elizabeth exhausted. When Peter asked her how much she would pay to have charging available at her apartment and get her life back, she said that with her current business, she’d pay $50 more over the standard parking rate, and up to $100 more if she had a standard office job.
Elizabeth is still lobbying her apartment manager to provide EV charging. She is also enlisting others in her community with electric vehicles to increase the pressure. In the meantime, Elizabeth will continue looking for apartments with car charging and flee when she finds her charging oasis.
Oftentimes, apartment management companies and owners/investors simply don’t understand how to approach a retroactive car charging installation project, like the one needed at Elizabeth’s complex. Leading Charge works hard to have conversations with managers and owners of multi-unit buildings in metro areas like Kirkland, Bellevue, Seattle, and even Edmonds, to educate them on the possibilities.
Beyond the ability to provide chargers to residents with EVs, there is a significant untapped revenue stream available to these investors, that we hope to leverage in our conversations, to interest the powers-that-be in projects that will not only provide a better living experience for current tenants, but a space for future tenants to come.