Getting Your Condo EV Ready
From the Volume 12, Spring 2022 issue of the CCI GHC Condo News Magazine
As the trend of electrical vehicle (EV) ownership in Canada continues to rise, it’s no surprise that condominium boards in both newer and older buildings are experiencing increasing pressure from residents to provide solutions to the growing need for EV charging in their buildings.
While there have been many articles published to address the legal challenges surrounding implementation of new EV charging stations within condo buildings, this article aims to provide the reader with an introductory discussion to the key considerations in planning and implementing an EV charging system within your building and to answer some common questions we are asked.
How much spare capacity does my building have?
The starting point on the journey to an EV-ready condo is to engage a consultant to conduct a capacity assessment. The goal of the assessment is to determine the building’s electrical demand profile and confirm how much spare capacity would be available, which is measured in demand (kW) and apparent power (kVA). Once the available spare capacity is known, the consultant will translate the information into the number of EV charging stations the building can support and then will confirm if that amount can meet your current and possible future EV charging needs.
The consultant will analyze the property’s demand profile from monthly electrical utility bills for the last 2 to 3 years, considering both summer and winter peaks, to gain a clear understanding of the buildings’ anticipated peak demand draws, and compare that to the available load from the main transformer. In some cases, we have seen buildings with a remaining available capacity of up to 65% demand that can be utilized by new EV charging stations.
For some properties, the building’s combined utility data will not be accessible due to individual condominium submetering. In these scenarios, the consultant will need to coordinate the installation of a temporary submeter on the building’s main power supply for several months during peak usage months to estimate the maximum demand.
What is the right type of charging station for my condo?
EV charging stations are classified into separate categories based on the charge time and the electrical service required for each. The levels of classification are outlined as follows:
Level 1: These charging stations require standard 15-amp/120-volt or 20-amp/120-volt receptacles and offer a charging time of 12+ hours. Due to the long charging time, condominium owners generally avoid the implementation of this option.
Level 2: These charging stations require a direct feed from an electrical panel and will provide a shorter charging time, ranging from 4 – 8 hours. This option is the widely used preference for condominium owners.
Level 3: These charging stations require a direct feed from the electrical panel and provide the shortest charge time, ranging between 15 to 20 mins. These stations require a large electrical feed of approximately 50 kW and are typically used at gas stations and malls. Based on the increased electrical demand and the high cost of implementation, Level 3 EV chargers are rarely considered for condominium settings.
How will new power feeds be run to parking spaces at my building?
Every building will be slightly different, but the fundamental element in running new power to EV charging stations is to group together the parking spaces where EV charging will occur, which will substantially reduce the installation costs.
Powering a bank of new EV charging stations in a condominium will typically involve the installation of a new disconnect switch from a spare on the main switchboard. This switch is then fed to a new transformer that will convert the voltage from high voltage to 120/208 volts, which will feed a new breaker panel. The various circuit breakers on the breaker panel will be dedicated to feeding the individual charging stations, typically mounted on the walls of the parking garages.
The sizes of these components and routing of wiring will vary from installation to installation depending on the locations, quantity, and type of chargers, as well as the buildings’ existing power infrastructure. Once this layout is designed by a consultant, the selected electrical contractor will need to obtain permits from the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), provide the conduit runs, pull wires, and install the charging stations. At the end of the project, a final inspection will need to be completed by the ESA and the consultant.
Should our building be considering EV chargers capable of power sharing?
Smart chargers that can charge multiple electric vehicles from the same circuit simultaneously are now commonly available on the marketplace. Where a building may have available capacity of up to 10 traditional EV charging stations, smart charging stations could allow for more than 50 vehicles to be connected and charged simultaneously through load sharing.
When multiple cars are simultaneously charging from the same circuit, the power supply will be proportionally divided, which will take longer for all cars to charge, but is typically not an issue in condominiums where most vehicles are left to charge overnight. Another major advantage of smart chargers is the built-in bill collection and reconciliation software, allowing easier cost recoveries by the condo over traditional methods.
Payment is typically done through an RFID card or an app on your smart phone. Billing for smart EV charging stations is generally set up in three ways: fixed price per hour, per charging hour, or fixed rate per session. Typically, a condominium will be set up to bill per charging hour. Once a car is fully charged, the vehicle owner will no longer be charged the moment the vehicle has stopped receiving hydro consumption.
The use of smart EV charging devices is highly recommended in a condominium setting to allow streamlined billing and the ability to greatly expand the number of connected vehicles through power sharing.
- Start your EV charging process now by engaging a professional to conduct a capacity assessment to determine how many charging stations can be accommodated.
- Consider the use of Level 2 smart EV chargers to take advantage of billing and reconciliation software, as well as increase the number of available charging stations through power sharing.
- Engage a consultant to design the power distribution upgrade for the building and ensure the contractor is obtaining the necessary permits when the electrical wiring is being installed.
Ross Morley, P. Eng., Practice Leader, M & E Engineering, A Rimkus Company
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