In 2015, then Vice-President of the Strata Council, Harjot, began wondering how a potential Electric Vehicle (EV) owner in the building could be accommodated. The answer, at the time, was that they could not. Even standard 110V outlets in the underground parking were few and far between. In addition, there was no policy, no agreements, and no bylaws in place around the potential use of even those standard outlets.
MURB Charging Program Launch
In March 2016, Plugin BC launched the Multi-Unit Residential Building (MURB) Charging Program. The program would provide a rebate of 75% of total costs, up to $4500, for each Level 2 charging station installed. At approximately the same time, an owner/resident of the building, John, began expressing interest in replacing their vehicle with an EV. It seemed like the right time to pursue this project.
However, challenges remained. One of the primary challenges was determining which parking stalls should get the equipment. Ideally, the most cost-effective approach would be to install Level 2 chargers near the electrical room. However, dedicated underground parking spots in the building were assigned to individual owners and it would be nearly impossible to alter this arrangement. Installation near the electrical room would unfairly benefit only a few specific owners. The parking stall for John was very distant from the electrical room. Even with the MURB Charging Program incentive, the cost to John would have been prohibitive if he attempted to proceed unilaterally. Installation in the visitor parking area was an option, as these locations were owned by the Strata corporation. However, this approach would either take away a visitor stall, or it would not guarantee a charging location for an EV owner. Without that guarantee, residents may hesitate in proceeding with the purchase of an EV.
The solution was that the Strata Corporation owned 5 additional parking stalls beyond the Visitor parking. These 5 stalls were currently available to rent to resident/owners. These would be the best candidates for an installation of Level 2 chargers, which would be owned by the Strata corporation and rented to owners. 1 of the 5 stalls was for handicapped parking, which would remain unchanged, leaving 4 parking stalls for potential use with EVs.
Strata Council applied for, and was granted, four Level 2 Chargers under the MURB Charging Program. Two electrical contractors were engaged to provide bids for the project. While the costs were similar between the two contractors, one was selected due to their experience in similar deployments in the commercial space.
Unfortunately, the 4 parking stalls selected were not close to the electrical room, were not close to each other at all, and were also on two separate floors of the underground parking for the building. The electrical and drilling work required would be more expensive than anticipated. The ideal expenditure to maximize the incentive from the MURB Charging Program would be $6000 per charger or $24,000 for the 4 chargers, $18,000 of which would be reimbursed by the MURB Charging Program. Due to the locations of the parking stalls and drilling required, the anticipated cost for the overall project was $38,000, which significantly exceeded the preferred amount for the 4 chargers.
The good news about the divergent infrastructure planned was that scaling to accommodate more EVs in the future would be more straightforward and more cost-effective. Essentially, electrical conduit would be within easy reach of nearly all parking stalls. In anticipation of this, junction boxes would be installed every 10 meters along the length of the conduit.
Harjot became increasingly concerned about his ability to convince 3/4 of the owners in the building to spend the additional $22,000 beyond the grant. He considered breaking up the proposal into separate lower cost proposals. If owners voted down the cost of all 4 chargers, perhaps they would approve 2-3 chargers instead? However, the Strata Council was extremely supportive of the initiative and insisted on proceeding with the full proposal as a single package.
The 3 components of the project that required a 3/4 vote approval from owners at an Annual General Meeting (AGM) or a Special General Meeting (SGM) were:
- To spend money that had not been budgeted for.
- To adopt a new bylaw related to the allocation of the EV parking stalls and requirement to sign an agreement.
- To significantly alter the appearance and use of common property in the building.
The MURB Charging Program launched too late for the 2016 AGM and the deadline for the installation of the equipment would not allow for a delay in the votes until the 2017 AGM. Therefore, an SGM, specifically for this initiative, was arranged for September 2016. Harjot, working closely with Strata Council and the Property Management Company, prepared a detailed letter to owners as part of the SGM package.
Harjot and Strata Council were not confident that enough owners would want to proceed with the project simply because it was an environmentally friendly initiative. In the end, the primary argument put forward to owners was that this type of EVSE infrastructure in buildings such as theirs would be an inevitable requirement within the next decade and at this moment, owners are being offered a significant cost savings from the government to proceed with the installation. The MURB Charging Program was the essential element to convince owners.
The evening of the SGM arrived and attendance, including proxies, was greater than anticipated. Owners were passionate about this subject one way or the other. Prior to the votes, the floor was opened to questions and there were many. Several people were curious how the infrastructure would scale beyond the 4 parking stalls, while others believed that EVs would never go mainstream.
When the votes were finally cast, the project passed by 4 votes.
Installation and Launch
While the installation and electrical work took longer than expected, the work went smoothly and was completed professionally. There were some challenges with wireless communication but those were resolved with additional gateway and networking technology. The online portal to view the usage from the chargers was operational by the end of January 2017. The Strata Council finalized the EV charging user agreement, which made several stipulations including:
- The EV owner would have to rent their primary parking stall to Strata Corporation who could then subsequently rent it. This maintained the same pool of rental stalls for the Strata Corporation.
- In total, the EV owner would pay a flat fee of $60 per month for unlimited charging.
John purchased his Chevy Volt in late-December and was able to begin charging in January 2017. As of February 2017, 3 chargers remain available for new EV owners in the future.
Charging needs and building situation
Existing bylaws/rules for charging: No applicable bylaws/rules in place prior to implementation.
Charger Level: Networked Level 2 (208V 30A)
Number of electric vehicles with charging access: 4 total (1 currently assigned)
Access: Dedicated resident/owner parking
Building type: Mid-rise
Year of construction: 2002
Parking type: 2 levels of underground parking. Visitor parking after first gate. Dedicated resident/owner parking after second gate.
Building alterations: Change in common appearance with conduit and some drilling in electrical room and between P1 and P2.
Cost: Approximately $20,000 after government rebates (originally $38,000)
Payment for electricity consumption: Flat monthly fee. Currently $60/month.
Charger ownership: Strata corporation
Insurance and Maintenance: Strata corporation and charging station supplier.
Management of the installation: Electrical contractor, property management company, building manager, and strata council Bylaw or rule changes: Completed. Comprehensive bylaw and end-user agreement in place.