SINCE 1997

Charged environment as apartments are prepped for electric cars

In the face of significant infrastructure challenges, state governments are funding an expansion of electric vehicle charging capabilities across hundreds of large apartment complexes.

Woman with shoulder bag walks past electric vehicle charging in apartment complex car park.
The NSW Government is updating regulations to make sure all new buildings and precincts are constructed and wired to be ‘EV ready’.

When it comes to adoption of emissions-reducing electric vehicles (EVs) Australian drivers are international laggards, but baby steps are being taken to prepare homeowners with the infrastructure needed to charge the environmentally friendly cars.

In Sydney and Melbourne, funding has been announced for electrical upgrades to inner city apartment car parks to allow them to fit EV charging stations in tenants’ bays.

In what amounts to a chicken-egg scenario, the country’s slow adoption of EVs due to a lack of charging infrastructure has fed into a slow rollout of charging stations that is in turn being blamed on the lack of vehicles requiring charging.

Data from the Electric Vehicle Council shows that Australians tripled their investment into low emission vehicles in 2021, including EVs. Despite the jump in activity, this still only represents 2 per cent of the market, showing Australia as a global straggler in the adoption of these vehicles.

Much of the focus of state government funding for EV charging has been directed at large apartment complexes.

While the technical challenges of preparing the grid, local electrical networks and building electrical systems are significant, they are not insurmountable.

A CitiPower spokesman told Australian Property Investor Magazine that more EVs are being connected to networks in Melbourne and Victoria every day but challenges for apartment owners remained.

“There are ways to manage the electrical peak demand on-site using smart control systems, however, we do recognise that electric vehicles may present a challenge for existing apartment owners,” he said.

Many buildings lack the necessary wiring, electrical infrastructure and accessible space needed to install charging infrastructure.

- NSW Government spokesperson

CitiPower has recently conducted a major upgrade of its network to support Melbourne’s CBD to ensure security of supply and is enabling the needs for new load connections in both the CBD and Docklands areas.

“Increases in electrical load requirements in specific buildings may trigger the need for a substation upgrade and/or system augmentation,” the CitiPower spokesman said.

“This is normal practice and is similar to new connections and changes to customer load requirements at different premises across our network.

“CitiPower is actively supporting the connection of distributed energy resources, including electric vehicles, by investing in our network and in new technology to support this growth.

States charging on

The need for the system to catch up to the increasingly popular and much needed emissions reducing technology is seemingly irresistible.

EV ownership is expected to surge from the late 2020s, driven by falling costs, greater model choice and availability, and more charging infrastructure. By 2050, between 92 and 99 per cent of all vehicles are expected to be battery EVs.

The New South Wales Government allocated $10 million in the Budget towards co-funding around 125 medium and large apartment buildings with more than 100 car parking spaces to make EV charging electrical upgrades.

Victoria is expanding critical charging infrastructure and offering subsidies to Victorians for Zero Emissions Vehicles, in laying the groundwork to achieve a target of half of all new light vehicle sales being zero emission by 2030.

Victorian Minister for Energy Lily D’Ambrosio told API Magazine the transport sector contributes 25 percent of Victoria’s emissions.

“We need to tackle this to meet our ambitious target to halve emissions by 2030.

“We have invested almost $19.2 million to deliver hundreds of fast-charging stations across the state − ensuring drivers in any Victorian town will be at most one hour away from an EV charger, while making delivering targeted infrastructure initiatives for local councils and businesses to support fleets,” Ms D’Ambrosio said.

Costly challenges

An increased number of EVs puts demand on the electricity grid as more vehicles are plugged in to charge.

API Magazine asked the NSW Government about the scale of the issue and was provided a response from a spokesperson who said many buildings are not currently designed in a way that easily accommodates the installation of charging infrastructure in the carpark.

“They lack the necessary wiring, electrical infrastructure and accessible space needed to install charging infrastructure.

“Retrofitting EV infrastructure into existing buildings can be expensive and technically challenging; depending on the size, layout and age of the building, this can cost approximately $75,000 for an apartment building with 20 car spaces.

“Ensuring EV electrical infrastructure is built-in when a building is under construction is much cheaper and can save apartment owners at least 75 per cent for the same building size if planned for upfront.

“The NSW Government will update relevant regulations to make sure all new buildings and precincts are constructed and wired to be ‘EV ready’.”

The spokesperson added that the NSW Government will work to ensure that the increase in EV uptake is appropriately integrated with the electricity system, including with rooftop solar, batteries, and with smart chargers to manage the impact on peak electricity demand.

A Victorian Government spokesperson said that while some buildings and precincts will have sufficient capacity to connect EVs to the grid, other areas may need local upgrades to electrical systems or the installation of technologies such as neighbourhood batteries.

“The Victorian Government is exploring opportunities to implement technologies such as smart charging and bi-directional charging and helping to make new buildings EV-ready, meaning that new buildings will have electrical capacity ready for EV chargers as they are installed.”

Strata the 'sleeping giant'

Property peak body Strata Community Association (NSW) said that with the most recent national census showing that 1 in 3 people in NSW (33.4 per cent) live in an apartment or townhouse, there is a critical need for this kind of infrastructure.

“This funding acknowledges the substantial multiplier effect of the strata industry in helping consumers to access more sustainable living choices,” SCA (NSW) President Stephen Brell said.

“It is good news for our planet, and for the millions of NSW residents living in strata complexes who either own an EV or are looking to purchase one, with the convenience of charging and guaranteed range to become more readily available than ever before,” Mr Brell said.

SCA National President Chris Duggan said those living in strata would play a massive part in delivering on ambitions for the country to become emissions net zero.

“The strata sector is a sleeping giant, which has the potential if unlocked to deliver massive change for the critical areas the government is targeting like net zero, cost of living pressures and housing affordability,” said SCA National President Chris Duggan.

“We’re approximately 20 per cent of the population, but a huge proportion of the built environment, so a decision to give a grant to a building can affect hundreds of people and have a huge multiplier effect on outcomes overall,” said Mr Duggan.

The Lennox in Parramatta, managed by Netstrata, is one of the many complexes in NSW that has seen first-hand the benefits of having EV charging installed.

“With such a high uptake of EVs in the Parramatta area, having EV chargers installed at The Lennox has really helped residents to take action against climate change, give the building a competitive edge over other apartment complexes in the area and set the benchmark for future residential complexes,” Suzi Bellas, Associate Director of Netstrata, said.

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