Electric Vehicle ChargingCase Study: Increasing EV Charging Access at Multi-Unit Dwellings
April 30th, 2023
A critical part of electric vehicle (EV) adoption is access to charging in apartments and condominiums. In fact, about 85 percent of EV charging occurs at the home. With 40 percent of the Columbus region residents living in multi-unit dwellings (MUDs), including condos and apartments, it became important to engage developers and MUD owners in our efforts to increase consumer EV adoption by 500 percent by 2020.
The Smart Columbus footprint of seven counties includes several MUD developers who see the value in offering EV charging to the region’s growing group of EV adopters. Kaufman Development, a regional developer, saw the opportunity to align with Smart Columbus as a way to amplify its commitment to innovation, sustainability and community.
“Columbus has developed a reputation as a thought leader for smart growth and sustainability in the Midwest, and residential EV charging is an important part of that story,” says Frank Sasso, president of Kaufman Development. “We've seen significant increases in EV ownership just in the past five years and are likely to see a very substantial shift in the next decade.”
Of the eight properties Kaufman has developed in the Columbus region, five have EV charging. One was retrofitted with EV chargers and four were built with EV chargers installed during construction. Kaufman is opening a second division of its Gravity property in 2020, and as a part of a 900-vehicle parking garage, 12 EV chargers will be active when it opens, with the total capacity to install up to 20 chargers in the future.
Sasso says that offering no-cost EV charging to tenants is in step with the growing mobility options in the Columbus region.
“We have a number of residents who own EVs, often as their primary or only vehicle. What we see is that having EV charging at the property allows them to drive less, because they no longer need to hunt for a charge elsewhere,” Sasso says. “And these same residents often utilize alternative means of transportation, including the Cbus downtown circulator bus, bike sharing and scooters, by virtue of the locations of our communities.”
Currently, Kaufman does not charge residents for EV charging, but views it like an amenity. “EV charging is becoming an essential building amenity, much like a gym or clubhouse, and will continue to increase in importance,” Sasso says .
“We have a lot of perspective tenants who expect to have EV charging stations available to them,” says Lauren Smith, director of communities for Kaufman Development. “There are a lot of people who have electric vehicles—as that trend grows and people are more conscious about their own footprint, I think it's going to become a necessity.”
Incentivizing MUD EV Charging
Smart Columbus had a goal to increase residential EV charging by adding 90 Level 2 charging ports to MUDs by 2020.
Late in 2017, Smart Columbus launched a rebate program funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to provide partial funding for new and existing MUD developments in the Columbus region to install EV charging facilities. Developers received $3,500 per plug installed and had six months to complete the project and collect the rebate. As a part of the rebate program, developers agreed to share charging data with Smart Columbus to understand charging demand and behaviors for three years. They also received resources to assist with branding, promotion and communication to tenants about the chargers.
“In support of the Smart Columbus effort, Clean Fuels Ohio met with local real estate developers across the Columbus area, providing in-depth education on EVSE (electric vehicle supply equipment) technology, cost considerations, and management strategies,” says Megan Stein, chief operating officer of Clean Fuels Ohio, a statewide non-profit that works exclusively with alternative transportation fuel, which assisted Smart Columbus in the administration of the MUD rebates.
During two rounds of funding, rebates were awarded to properties across the city and in suburban communities. Developers and owners of MUD properties throughout the seven-county Columbus area were eligible for rebates.
“Providing incentives for adoption of any kind is important, but especially around new technology,” Stein says. “With the regional growth of EVs and those EV buyers needing a place to charge at home, incentives for developers to install EVSE at MUDs became a clear choice and valuable opportunity to spur adoption.”
Interested property owners and developers were required to complete an application for funding and provide supporting data to be eligible for the rebates.
As of March 2019, all funds in the incentive program had been assigned to MUD entities.
Kaufman was one of eight developers who were able to partner with Smart Columbus for residential EV charging rebates.
“Kaufman was one of the most enthusiastic recipients of funding and from the start of the process, when rebates were announced, Kaufman was ready with their selected MUD and was very quick to install chargers and educate their residents with the development of marketing and educational materials,” says Megan Stein, chief operating officer of Clean Fuels Ohio.
In total, 18 sites were approved to receive the Smart Columbus rebate, and 84 EV charging ports were installed. The rebate program was able to subsidize 52 percent of project costs across all of the funded sites.
Working with Smart Columbus throughout the rebate process helped Kaufman create the right plan to install the chargers, says Jessica Schueren, development project manager for Kaufman Development.
“The rebate program was instrumental in getting the charging stations at our communities,” Schueren says. “Knowing that I had somebody who would work me through the application process and also helped me with the installation to make sure I was doing everything to check the boxes for the rebate brought a lot of peace of mind.”
Retrofitting Vs. Future-Proofing
For the Smart Columbus rebate program, Kaufman retrofitted one of the properties it has developed with EV chargers and installed 10 chargers during construction.
Sasso says that developers thinking of future-proofing their properties need to add EV charging infrastructure to their plans. “Building in the infrastructure to support EV charging on the front-end is not only more cost-effective, but also allows us to react more quickly to shifting consumer demand,” Sasso says.
Schueren says getting EV charging in drawings early to plan for the electric load is a huge advantage.
“When you have to retrofit, you often have to increase your electric load and that can be really cost prohibitive,” Schueren says. “A lot of times you have to run the electricity far, whereas if you're planning it with the drawings, you can locate the chargers close enough to an electric room and move anything else around that might be in the way.”
Schueren also advises developers to lay conduit for increasing EV charging during the construction phase, so if they need to increase charging infrastructure for additional chargers, the job can be less costly.
“Build up enough EV-ready parking spaces and have enough electric capacity so that down the road you could add chargers if the demand needs it,” Schueren says.
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