Electric Revolution On the Horizon? Charging Stations Have Arrived in the Garden State

Electric Revolution On the Horizon?

 Whether condo associations will buy into the so-called “electric highway” has become the perennial $64,000 question.  

 And the answer? The electric vehicle or EV revolution is coming, albeit slowly.  

 ChargePoint, Inc., the largest online charging network in the world that  connects drivers to charging stations in more than 14 countries, launched New  Jersey's first ChargePoint networked charging station for EVs in Vorhees in May  of 2010. Three years later, the market for EVs has increased greatly. According  to Anne Smith, director of public relations and communications for ChargePoint,  there are 1,825 registered EVs in New Jersey. There are now 74 public charging  stations to service these vehicles, a seemingly disproportionate amount when  compared with states such as Massachusetts, which has 208 public charging  stations for its 1,432 registered EVs.  

 “More and more drivers are turning to electric cars for cleaner transportation,  reduced fueling costs and decreased dependence on foreign oil,” Smith says. “However,” she continues, “convenient places to charge are necessary for the adoption of electric vehicles.  Most experts agree that a large part of charging will be done at home. Very  simply, installing charging stations will attract quality tenants. Which is to  say, property managers have a way to differentiate their property by offering a  coveted amenity to conscientious tenants. There has been a huge surge of EV  buying since the beginning of 2013 and there are now more than 100,000 EVs on  the road in the U.S.”  

 At some point, condominium owners and developers may decide to install charging  stations, but right now, it’s difficult to find many condominiums with charging stations here. For condos,  however, being “smart” may soon become a calling card.  

 One luxury condo that does feature EV charging stations for residents is the  Monaco in Jersey City. The development consists of two 50-story towers, with  524 residential units, 12,000 square feet of ground-level retail space and a  10-story parking deck. Several other towns like Montclair and New Brunswick,  and various retail malls, restaurants, gas station rest areas and shopping  centers throughout the Garden State, have installed public charging stations.  

 One of the factors with EVs is that heat and air conditioning draw from the  vehicle’s battery, resulting in a more frequent need to charge. But, “buyers will simply use the car when it’s appropriate,” says Carly Kade, communications manager for eVgo Communications of Houston,  Texas. She says consumers buy a car appropriate for travel on average days,  regardless of where they live. According to eVgo, dedicated chargers for  multi-family buildings are one of four primary needs for EV drivers (the others  being range confidence (mileage per charge); standardized, transparent costs;  and low upfront cost).  

 Initiatives and Incentives

 The push toward EV is driven by the ultimate desire to make New Jersey a safer,  less pollution-filled environment to live in. EVs lower urban heat, reduce  vehicle noise (and urban noise overall), and lower car carbon emissions and oil  dependence.  

 “The immediate and long-term benefits of switching to EVs are the same in New  Jersey as they are elsewhere—you’re getting better gas mileage and improving the environment,” Bob Considine, the press officer and spokesman for the New Jersey Department of  Environmental Protection (NJ DEP). “To a degree,” he continues, “it’s probably even more tangible gains for EVs and alternative fuel vehicles here  than in other stages when you account for our high concentration of people and  automobiles. We have a lot of folks driving in a very populated state. You get  traffic and you get idling. So drivers of EVs here can probably be doing a  better service for themselves and their state.”  

 Unless residents want to look at electric cords hanging over patio walls,  charging stations may become imperative as usage grows. Fortunately, the  federal government is offering incentives to assist with installation, and  soon, to assist with upkeep and maintenance.  

 According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, New Jersey offers multiple incentives for EV  drivers. The New Jersey Turnpike Authority allows qualified hybrid electric  vehicles to travel in the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes located between  Interchange 11 and Interchange 14 on the New Jersey Turnpike. The New Jersey  Turnpike Authority offers a 10 percent discount on off-peak New Jersey Turnpike  and Garden State Parkway toll rates through NJ EZ-Pass for drivers of vehicles  that have a fuel economy of 45 miles per gallon or higher and meet the  California Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle standard. The Zero Emissions  Vehicle (ZEV) Tax Exemption ensures sold, rented, or leased in New Jersey ZEVs  are exempt from state sales and use tax. This exemption is not applicable to  partial zero emission vehicles, including hybrid electric vehicles. Lastly, the  Reduced Propane Fuel Tax ensures the tax imposed on liquefied petroleum gas, or  propane, used to operate a motor vehicle is equal to half the tax paid on the  sale or use of gasoline.  

 According to the National Conference of State Legislatures there are several  more incentives proposed in Trenton by the state Legislature, awaiting action,  including Senate bill S980, which encourages development of electric vehicle  charging stations in transportation projects; S2193 which provides sales and  use tax exemptions for electric vehicle charging equipment; A3419, which  requires the New Jersey Turnpike Authority to provide compressed natural gas  refueling and electric vehicle recharging stations at certain rest areas; and  A3637 and A3638, which provide for a grants program encouraging compressed  natural gas and electric vehicle conversion training programs.  

 Plugging In

 According to eVgo, dedicated chargers for multi-family buildings are one of four  primary needs for EV drivers (the others being mileage per charge,  standardized, transparent costs and low upfront cost). One wonders how board  members will handle the cost of electric charging stations for residents and  just who will pay the cost for the electricity they consume. At some point,  condominium owners and developers may decide to install charging stations.  Suzanne Tamargo, a spokeswoman for the nationwide service Car Charging—the provider for Walgreen’s stations (the chain has installed public stations at many of its urban  locations)—says that, while condominium associations may or may not charge, most public  facilities have some kind of fee, even if it’s only for using the parking space allotted to a charging station. Some places  charge by time, others by unit of energy  

 Boards will have to consider the cost if they do install chargers, and determine  how non-electric car users fit in. The cost of supplying electricity varies,  but typically runs about 50 cents to 75 cents an hour, according to Pike  Research/Energy Market Intelligence.  

 For example, in California, condo boards initially balked at installing EV  stations until the law prodded them. The Luskin Center for Innovative Research  at UCLA reports that boards disliked the cost of installing charging stations,  which may vary from a low of $3,000 up to $15,000—especially when Level 1 is essentially the equivalent of running an extension  cord from the dwelling.  

 “Licensed installers for charging station installation can be recommended by the  charging station seller, however many apartments/condos have their own  electricians,” Smith says. “Typically EV charging stations are installed in the garage or a parking lot.  Maintenance for both software and hardware is included with the purchase of  ChargePoint stations. The platform provides everything a station owner needs to  offer charging services, including 24x7 station-side driver support,  maintenance and billing. Plus, an owner can set up EV charging service exactly  as you like, to track consumption by tenant, manage costs, etc.”  

 Whose Place is It?

 According to eVgo’s Kade, there are some challenges when it comes to situating charging stations  in associations. For instance, for condominiums, the problem stems from parking  spaces being deeded to individual owners. “We choose to deploy chargers in groups to keep the cost of the infrastructure as  low as possible,” she says. “Therefore, we need to designate parking spaces that are not deeded, or where the  HOA is willing to relocate existing parking assignments. We have had success in  condominiums where they were willing to provide non-deeded space.”  

 J.R. DeShazo, director of the Luskin Center for Innovation at UCLA, says boards  can take the simplest approach first. “Using what they already have is the smartest thing, and the cheapest thing, they  can do. If there are 110-volt outlets, just utilize them. People can do that  with a wall plug, and 95 percent of the vehicles will fully recharge overnight.  Ten hours will give you 100 miles, so if you’re driving less than 60 miles a day, that’ll be fine.”  

 For example, a Level 1 charging station is just like a regular outlet. A Level 2  station is a fancy 240-volt outlet—like an electric dryer hookup. Installing electric vehicle chargers in most  cases doesn’t even require a special permit beyond what one would need to install these  outlets.  

 But, at Level 2, costs can become more “challenging.” DeShazo dubs this the battleground for condo boards, saying, “You might have to run wiring in an existing building.” He prefers that new installations or retrofitting an existing building offer  conduits for electric charging, in case it is ever needed. Additionally, local  building codes may need to be changed.  

 DeShazo also suggests condo boards can reassign parking spots so that electric  vehicles will be close enough to use existing Level 1 plug-ins. “If that doesn’t work, then the ideal is to consider the building type, codes, etc., to see if  it will allow residents to install their own charging space, and if possible  pay the electric bill. It’s ideal to connect to an existing meter, but they might get two bills instead of  one.”  

 Why should condo boards consider this? DeShazo says it’s mainly to be progressive and environmentally-friendly.  

 “We (in California) have about 45,000 EVs on our roads. So some buildings are  marketing themselves as EV-friendly or EV-ready, meaning they have a unit with  at least a 110-volt outlet. Condos tend to be really conservative. It’s hard to get them to do it … but being EV-friendly becomes simply another amenity they need to provide. Many  make the investment and then figure out cost recovery.”   

 Ann Frantz is a freelance writer and a frequent contributor to The New Jersey  Cooperator. Editorial Assistant Enjolie Esteve contributed to this article.  


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