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Electric Vehicle Charging: Outlining the Groundwork 

As electric vehicle (EV) growth in Australia continues to rise, EV charging is quickly becoming a topical issue in the strata environment. The National Construction Code was recently changed to mandate that all new apartment developments be built with access to EV charging in the car park. It’s important that existing apartment buildings also start preparing for the arrival of EVs en-masse and the aim of this series of articles is to assist in understanding the steps involved in making your building EV ready.

Our first article looking into EV charging discussed 3 main questions that commonly get asked by strata committees and managers. We introduced three key technologies to facilitate EV charging in apartment settings:

  1. Load management systems
  2. Billing software
  3. Smart EV chargers

There are many ways these three technologies can be used to provide EV charging solutions in apartments. Before we can dive into common solutions, we need to establish the foundation of apartment charging – the initial investigation and work required to confirm the feasibility of the installation and operation of an EV charging station. This comprises of some building power basics, spare power analysis, power monitoring and how this may influence budget costs.

As we mentioned in our first article, EV chargers draw a significant amount of power. We discussed how load management systems ensure EV chargers can operate safely within the electrical limits of the building, but how do you know if you need a load management system from day one?

Building Power Basics

Your building will have a power supply agreement with the relevant power authority in your area. This power supply agreement details the amount of power your building is allocated from the grid, which cannot be exceeded. Your building will also have a historical maximum power demand – this is the maximum power that has been drawn from the grid at any one moment in time.

The spare power available for EV charging can be calculated via a simple formula:

Spare power available = power supply agreement – maximum power demand

Calculating the spare power available at your building is the first step to understanding your EV charging options and developing a plan for your building. If you know the spare power available you might be able to install chargers without the need for a load management system at all. You might also find that you have very little spare power, and that the installation of any EV chargers will push you above your power supply agreement, at which point it becomes important to be very careful and strict with the connection of EV chargers at your building.

Spare Power Analysis

To calculate the spare power alluded to above, we need to identify the two following items:

  1. The power supply agreement – this can be found out from your power authority but often there is a fee associated with obtaining this information.
  2. The maximum power demand – this can be determined in a number of ways, but the most common and simplest methods are:
  3. An analysis of available meter data – this is typically only possible for buildings with an embedded network where there is a meter that records the entire site energy consumption
  4. Installation of a power monitoring device

As the most common approach, we will detail the installation of power monitoring devices.

Power Monitoring

The lowest cost approach to power monitoring is to install a power monitoring device for a period of a week. Power monitoring devices can record power at very short intervals (1-second) which provides a very accurate depiction of the power used across the period of measurement. These power monitoring devices are expensive and are typically only installed for a period of 1-week before being removed. This leaves you with a very accurate power profile of your building, but only over a short time period.

As power monitoring runs for a 1-to-2-week period, it may be influenced by the season in which it is performed. In summer months it will be most accurate, but it is possible to add a bit of buffer to account for this variation if it is measured in other months.

As a result of power monitoring, conclusions can be drawn about the maximum power demand at the building, which enables more insight into the viable EV charging solutions that can be considered.

A more sophisticated approach to power monitoring is available in the form of load management systems. Given a load management system will be required at some point in your building’s EV charging journey, you can save on costs in the long run and install a load management system from day one to perform power monitoring. This has the benefit of providing ongoing reporting of the power available on site, meaning you have more reliable information from which to make decisions around EV charging. This ongoing power reporting may also be useful for other energy projects you’re considering.

Budget Costs

Power monitoring and load management system costs are dependent on a few factors. For instance, if the installation of equipment requires the power to be isolated, the cost will be higher than if it does not need to be isolated. Your electrician or EV charging supplier will be able to work with you to determine if this is required and provide a firm quote for either option. Another example, is If your building has an embedded network, then there will likely be little-to-no cost for a power analysis if you’re able to obtain the gate meter interval data.

What Comes Next?

Once the Spare Power Analysis has been performed, you’ll have the information required to start considering suitable EV charging options in more detail. We’ll perform a deeper dive into the three most common EV charging solutions in our next article and discuss the pros and cons of each option, as well as providing budget costs that Strata Committees and owners can expect to pay.

This article was contributed Tait Bonito,  JET Charge.

Leave a Reply

  1. Neil Senior

    My concern is with batteries and fire that is occurring often. We have no major fire fighting equipment in our three levels of parking and a fire engine will not fit under the entry roller doors. What provision must be made if EV chargers are installed?

    1. Chris Nielsen

      Nobody was ever required to install fuel pumps for vehicles in the past. Why should this be any different?
      This is just discriminating against people who still have petrol, diesel, or gas vehicles.
      Believing that fuel will be phased out in the short term is ignorant. If this were the case, why are so many fuel stations being built?
      This is a user pays society, & why should Body Corps or Owners pay for a third parties convenience?
      I suggest more thought needs to be put into this proposal.

  2. Richard Tibbie

    I totally agree Neil. There have been a huge increase of lithium battery fires recently, consistent with the increasing use of them. Apparently the Queensland Fire Services are currently undertaking a complete review of the risks and processes to extinguish, in a report due to be released mid 2023.
    Irrespective the costs of installation of EV charging stations, will, in some manner be borne by all unit holders with the benefits only to those whom have been conned that there will be sufficient supply to charge them in a timely and convenient manner. The telling will be when the stupidity of the government, closes down all the cheap, coal fired base load generation.

  3. Peter Casey

    Research data shows BEV fires are far less than than internal combustion engine vehicles and hybrids.
    Any battery fires are overwhelming caused by severe accidents an event unlikely to occur when a vehicle is parked in a garage, unlike petrol vehicles that can simply leak causing a major risk while parked.

  4. James Miller

    Excellent point. The same applies to electric scooters with fire prone cadmium batteries and cheap chargers in basement car parks. We insist that electric scooters be charged on the sole powerpoint outside the building in the visitors’ car park. This must be becoming a common problem in strata.
    We have not yet tackled the EV issue which would cost the owner a fortune to have power connected from the main switchboard to their car space in basement garage area so the power used could be individually metered. This would include the installation of a proper EV charging device in their car space area which I understand would cost about $3500.Retrofitting safe charging equipment and the additional wiring needed is going to be a big cost to the owner.

  5. Bob Chad

    I understand that in some overseas countries, EV charging stations are not allowed in high rise buildings ( basement car parking) as to the fire risk.
    Eventually the Insurance Industry will look closely at risk and future premiums will suffer.
    Surely the Body Corporate must be very careful here as to the cost of upgrading switch boards etc. for a select few, will cause grief.
    Assuming everyone will eventually want one, is the supplier’s transformer up to it?
    Will the electrical supplier e.g. Ergon (QLD) then have to run bigger supply power lines?
    Understand already the supply at peak times is marginal, the current renewable fiasco is stretched. already!

  6. Darryl Hennig

    The two articles, Underinsured, and EV charging are interrelated.
    A fire in an electric vehicle in a multilevel basement car park will effectively close all levels of the car park and in some case may require the vacating of the entire building. There are no fire fighting systems that can fight an EV fire, it’s also extremely dangerous to enter the car park until the vehicle fire has burnt out and the ventilation system cleared of the noxious fumes from the EV fire. The fire from a petrol vehicle does not present anywhere near the same ramifications.

    A further anomaly will be the unavailability of sufficient electric power during the evening to accommodate EV charging. Current information is that Australian is going to reduce its current, barely adequate, electric supply well before there is sufficient power produced by ‘renewables’. In that event, I can see any power supply to my apartment, being reduced, or cut off for a significant duration while the power is diverted to ‘urgent’ requirements.
    And let’s not get into the replacement costs of battery sets, and the replacement costs of the EV.
    I trust that I will remain fortunate and never be involved in an accident with an EV.
    To my mind EV’s are an anomaly that no amount of favourable statistics can ever justify.

  7. Bill

    Body corporate’s must avoid being rushed into providing charging stations within the building. There are many issues to be resolved and many more will arise once there is an increase in the use and re-charging of EV vehicles. Fire protection legislation, insurance requirements and costs along with the development of appropriate Australian Standards must be addressed before owners are exposed to the inherent risks involved

  8. Paul Modra

    Ideological madness, state & federal government with woke businesses are pursuing a frontier that they have done little research into and done virtually no planning on its implementation. Body Corporates need to refuse to be co-opted into being partners into the chaos that they are pushing. Adopting the green technology might make people feel like they are saving the planet but without solid planning based on factual research it may mean severe costs on investment or even the loss of the investment.

  9. Winston Behrens

    Personally I would suggest one solution only.
    All cost must be at the cost of EV owners only.
    A separate power box for individual owners must be installed at their cost only,if you can afford a $200000 Tesla this cost will be affordable to them.
    Of cause there is a fire risk which cannot be denied and all apartment owners certainly won’t a fire risk for their apartments and of coarse their family living there.
    Maybe a solution could be a commercial style charging unit in the visitors parking aera and they use their credit card to pay,less cost to them overall.
    One other solution is to put a commercial style charging station in the outside visitor car parking aera and EV owners pay with credit card,possibly the least expensive solution

  10. John Hull

    Fire events from petrol powered vehicles exceed that of EV merely because there are more petrol powered vehicles than there are EVs.
    Further a fire from a petrol powered vehicle is easier to manage and contain than that of an EV.
    When a fire from an EV erupts and consolidates it is almost impossible to put out, going through a process called “thermal overun” and burning at a temperature exceeding 1000 c. And producing an overwhelming amount of toxic substances.
    Further to installation of a personal charging station, an owner of a Tesla at my previous residence installed,after consultation with the Body Corporate, his own station
    The owner had to pay for the installation of a metered power station at a cost of $16000

  11. John Hodson

    Could someone please answer this question for me, “What is the legal responsibility of the Body Corporate management to co-fund any part of the cost of installing an EV charging point within the boundaries of a Scheme for a small number of residents?”
    The worry of Committees is to be diligent with members’ funds and not being “conned” into allocating funds to provide special services for those few seems unfair to those who neither could afford to buy an EV nor have been sold on the fear-mongering and panic espoused by climate extremists. I understand that this platform is not the appropriate format to discuss or debate the pros and cons of global warming or whatever it’s called these days. But, the rush to decarbonize our society, based on false and misleading statements from all and sundry, and backed up with very little science and evidence, puts more pressure on those people who fear the possibility of being scammed.
    Anyone can see the predicament we are facing in the near future with naive governments and businesses pushing ahead with plans to reduce the reliance on fossil fuel by the early 2030’s or sooner. Even though, no fundamental strategies are in place to plan, fund, and implement the rush to renewables at all, it’s a recipe for disaster. Although this platform has not promoted either side of the argument, it is certainly providing valuable information on various aspects on EV’s and the issues facing BCs today. This information is still invaluable and useful for future decision making by BCs, down the track. But the feeling I get is that it tends to imply that these future changes are a done deal and with that I find these presentations somewhat biased toward supporting the move to EVs. At the moment, I believe the world is still in the developmental phase of refining new and improved technologies in all areas of solar and wind generation systems, and also batteries for EV’s. Even incredible advances in nuclear power are constantly evolving, so, the future is not yet set in stone.
    Therefore, who wants to be the first to jump into the deep with current technologies which may not be around for the long haul. So, going back to the initial question, wouldn’t it be safer and more cost effective for committees to wait until the excitement settles down and someone with a bit of nouse starts putting real strategies and ideas in place. Otherwise, the whole climate calamity will be exactly that, for Australia.

    1. Jana Koutova, EO, UOAQ

      Hi John,

      For committees (and bodies corporate) the task is relatively easy – be reasonable in making your decision (at committee level) and do not spend the body corporate funds on projects that are lot owner’s expense. Regarding EV charging stations, currently BCs have no duty to install any – thus individual lot owner seeking the improvement could be asked to cover the cost of the project in its entirety (including, e.g. upgrading the current infrastructure). To my knowledge, there is currently nothing in legislation that requires body corporate to develop its common property for hypothetical future needs of owners should they decide to buy an EV car/scooter.

      The solution may also be to install the charging station on the common property (preferably outside of the basement parking lot) if you have space, and charge the electricity used by individual owners using the station back to body corporate. Ensure that the proper processes are used to convert existing visitor parking space or other suitable part of common property, including any permissions from local council, resolutions at appropriate levels within the body corporate, passing the EV by-laws etc. The legal advice may be of help iso that the body corporate establishes correct structure from the beginning. Since such station would benefit only particular owner(s), you can request the cost of the process to be covered by them.

      This is a new area that will not go away, no matter how anyone feels about the subject. Nevertheless, the committee is tasked to act reasonably in all they do or not do, and in the best interest of all owners. Approaching any request from owners from this perspective and obtaining advice from qualified parties (e.g. electricians, local council, insurers, solicitors) should give body corporate a good start in making its decision.

  12. Jessie Holloway

    Thanks so much for the advice to check the agreement on how much electricity and power you’re allowed to take from the grid. My brother has been thinking of adding charging stations to his place’s parking lot so he’s been looking to hire a professional to help him. He’ll have to look into his power agreement first though before starting on the project.