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Yes. I know. I promised this article earlier. I have a good excuse – merging my firm Stratum Legal with Bugden Allen Graham Lawyers, has taken just a teensy, weensy bit of my time….

On the upside, the delay means that the 2022 numbers are out, so we can check progress on the bet with my Dad. According to electric vehicles sales have been rapidly increasing; 0.5% of total new car sales in 2021 and 3.1% in 2022. If you add in hybrids (including plug in hybrids) then 11.2% of all new cars sold in Australia, in 2022, ran partly on electricity. Only 39% to go!

Here is the most basic EV charger there is ….

Looks familiar, doesn’t it? That, ladies and gentlemen, is a standard, 240 volt, 10-amp, general purpose outlet.

If you are lucky, as an EV owner, you might have access to one of these:

That’s a standard, 240 volt, 15-amp, general purpose outlet.

Why lucky? Well to understand that, you need to understand a few basics about electricity. After all, we are talking about charging Electric Vehicles. So then if electricity is a ‘river’ of electrons:

  • Amps – is the volume of electrons flowing past
  • Volts – is the pressure of the flow
  • Watts – is the work that the electrons can do, such as turning a water wheel
  • Ohms – is the total of the forces resisting the flow, like rocks in the river

Watts are a function of Amps and Volts.  Simply multiply one by the other and voila, you get Watts. A relevant acronym you may have seen is kWh, which is kilowatt hours. That is the number of Watts being used, or which could be used, to do work over an hour.

Let’s consider the most basic EV charging scenario – imagine you are ‘filling up’ the battery, in your second generation Nissan Leaf, which has a 40 kWh battery and a 110kW electric motor. Putting aside the ‘enemy’ (Ohms) and a few other basic laws of physics and electrical engineering, if we flogged that poor little Nissan Leaf, at full throttle, then we would get around about 22 minutes of drive time. i.e. 40kWh/110kW*60 minutes = 22 minutes approx.…

Fortunately, the real-world consumption rate is a lot less, and our friends at Nissan tell us that we can expect to get about 270klms out of that Leaf. Turning now to ‘filling’ the battery back up, by charging it, and again ignoring all of that other pesky, real-world stuff, a 10amp GPO, at 240v is going to deliver 2400 watts of power, or 2.4kW. As we need to put 40kWh ‘back in’ to the battery, that will only take us about … 16 hours to do. A 15amp GPO gives us 3.6kW, which cuts charge time to about 11 hours. Now while l like a sleep in as much as the next fella, my little Leaf is not going to charge in the time between when I arrive home of an evening and the next morning when I drag my sorry carcass back to work.

So, how do we solve this conundrum? The answer is a hell of a lot more electrons being pushed down the charging cable, with a lot more force; i.e. more Amps and / or more Volts. Our friends at Nissan recommend that I see Jet Charge, so they can supply me with a dedicated wall charger for my Leaf. About the size of 3 reams of copy paper, the charger sits on the wall and pumps out 6.6kW, resulting in a full charge in about 6 hours.

Having the patience of a gnat however, I start googling and discover… DC fast chargers, available in 50kW or 100kW options, which will charge my battery in 1 hour!  Fantastic I say… but ‘can the wiring in my unit handle all that juice?

And that, ladies and gentlemen is the rub. My ‘normal’ 10amp GPO circuit, has a 16amp residual current breaker, with overcurrent protection, and cuts out at 3.84kW. My wall charger is going to take two, ‘normal’ power circuits, for 7 hours at a time. After poking about in my meter box, I see that my main ‘breaker’ is rated to 100Amps. That’s the most power that I can use, in my entire unit, at any point in time. Ignoring the AC / DC issue, at 240 volts, 100 amps is going to give me 24kW max. Where do I get the extra kW’s for my DC fast charger? Well, Fred in Unit 12 next door is never home, so I might use some of his power… I’ll pay him for it of course.

Now that, is a very basic summary of the three, widely accepted, categories or standards for EV charging that we currently have, which RACQ has summarised simply and elegantly on its website:

  • Level 1 – you plug in into a 10amp GPO using your Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE).
  • Level 2 – you plug into a wall box charger, which is connected to a ‘standard’ power supply.
  • Level 3 – you plug into a dedicated high-power EV charging station (DC).

As for how you ‘plug in’, including the format of the plugs, well that info probably has the same useful shelf life as a copy of ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, on BetaMax video tape.  We don’t know yet who will win the VHS v BetaMax style war, between Type 2, CHAdeMO and Tesla connectors. Suffice to say that (no doubt) they all do a very good and safe job of bridging the gap between electricity supply and car, with various pit stops along the way, including the electronics which deliver the river of electrons in a beautiful, uniform and useful stream.

You will note that I have (just then) completely passed over the fascinating topic of how the chargers do their thing, with all sorts of clever circuits and cleverer programming, resulting in a rejuvenating charge, that massages your battery, soothes away all its cares and reduces wrinkles…. In fairness, that stuff can actually make a difference in strata installations. As such, I will talk about it in my next article, because it’s relevant to how bodies corporate can make themselves ready for lot owner requests to approve EV charger installations. As a teaser, consider this. Level 1 charging (normally) involves nothing more or less than a lot owner putting in an extra power point, wherever that may be required.  Level 2 requires a ‘box on the wall’ and (usually) the equivalent of ‘2 power points’ worth of wiring to the box (yes, I know, all of you electricians and electrical engineers out there will crucify me, so just don’t start!). Level 3 on the other hand, crosses a line – the lot owner needs power from another lot, or the common property….

This article was contributed by Michael Kleinschmidt, Stratum Legal.

Leave a Reply

  1. Richard Tibbie

    There is going to be a whole lot of trouble when 50% of vehicles on the road are EV and they all want to all get charged at the same time in the evening and overnight to be ready for the next days work. This is also peak demand time for electricity use for other applications. It is envisaged by the likes of Chris Bowen, the countries electrical transmission network is capable of handling this flow of electrons whilst the peak load demand is going to be satisfied by renewables ?? Sorry to disappoint you Chris, this is not going to work.

  2. Susanne Armstrong

    Thanks for your witty and easy to understand breakdown on this complex topic Michael!

  3. Ross Baker

    My conceren are,

    1. If there is a fire in the battery, conventional fire fighting equipment as in most complexes, will not put this fire out.

    2. The energy contained in the battery is far greater that a petrol or diesel car. Both petrol and diesel need oxygen to burn, a battery does not.

    Suggest electric cars are not parked or batteries charged in the basement of the complexes.

  4. Roy

    This is all going to end up in tears for a few years/decades. I see at present people losing patience, tempers, manners etc like Road rage. I have already seen it with people not patient enough to wait 5 minutes whilst they use a bowser and clean their windscreen. In fact it is worse at the Air Point having to wait 10mins for some pedantic person to achieve 32psi all around.
    We got an Engineers report and it went into the capacity of the Sub Station and underground Cabling to each (we have three three storey Buildings and some Villa’s. For it to work for us for all residents, they would have to share a EV Charger, who then gets priority, who needs to set an alarm for 2AM when it is free, all sorts of issues we gave up. We do not currently have a Petrol Bowser so why install EV Chargers.

  5. Jedd Portsmouth

    Would it have been possible to write the article without smart ass comments regarding men’s health issues in the introduction?
    I understand you’re attempting to throw a little humour into the subject, but I wonder why you didn’t make fun of women’s health issues? Would that be because it’s in very poor taste?

  6. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Richard, you make a good point about peak demand to charge cars, versus peak generation time from renewables. At my office, my Body Corporate is going to install an oversized PV set-up, so that we can charge our cars at work. Then, when the regulations and available products catch up, we will drive that power home (in the form of fully charged batteries), and use it to power our houses overnight. That is a solution which will work for us, and my point is that the big problem of peak generation v peak demand, will be solved by lots of little solutions. The task for Government, is to (a) facilitate a very broad range of solutions (indeed, if possible to define a framework, that enables people to come up with their own solutions) (b) get out of the way and (c) regulate to catch cowboys and stop danger.

  7. Michael Kleinschmidt

    My pleasure Susanne. I find that a lot of what is being written about this topic at the moment is jargon intense and usually aimed at selling you something. I am going to keep it simple and focus on the real, immediate issues and how we can solve them for the mutual benefit of lot owners and bodies corporate.

  8. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Ross, both good points. I am going to address the QFRS recommendations in a future article. Issues like these, usually involve increasing standards (for new buildings), requiring retrofits in existing buildings and banning installations that simply cannot, reasonably, be made safe. Of course, that should go hand in hand with regulation of safety / fire standards for the batteries and statutory liability for manufacturers, distributors and retailers. In that regard, my personal favorite is directors liability. It’s amazing how safety increases, when someone’s @$$ is actually on the line, with respect to what they make, distribute or sell…

  9. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Roy, one of the buzz phrases at present is ‘demand management’. With some clever electronics, and admittedly a full (soon to be emptied) wallet, you can rig up some clever electronics to charge multiple vehicles in whatever sequence or combination you like. The solutions I have seen for this, so far, are really consumer orientated, in that they tend to focus on the individual’s needs. I am going to try to (if I have the time) dig into the larger scale solutions which I suspect are used in high demand public installations, to see if they could be adapted to Body Corporate scenarios. Strata is a big market, and I (hate to, but as a realist I do) have faith in greed – if there is a market for it, then someone will build it and sell it.

  10. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Jedd, 100% agree with you – I am a smart ass.
    I try to use my evil powers for good however – to educate.
    Despite my good intentions, I know I am going to offend people from time to time.
    As a rule I don’t apologise for it, unless it’s warranted. In this case, it’s not.
    Being a middle aged man, getting older (it sometimes feels by the day), I’m entitled to joke about men’s health issues.
    If your offended by that Jedd, well, lighten up mate…. or have a cup of concrete.

  11. Robbie

    What is the situation with home charging in countries such as USA, and in particular states (California) that have the largest uptake of EV’s (and renewables)? Have they reached this mathematical ‘crunch’ point yet, or have they solved it or found a ‘work around’ / fudge ?
    a) condo blocks (equivalent of our Strata)
    b) electricity grid as a whole (as per some of the comments here about network load at peak times)

  12. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Robbie – short answer is, I don’t know. I leave that to the policy wallahs to investigate, because the legislation is enough to cope with by itself! I have no doubt that at least one state or municipality over in the USA will have developed a good approach to this issue. If you find one, please post it – I will read with interest.

  13. Steve Barber

    Hi All thank you for the update, as the secretary of a 92 apartment complex we are already fielding enquires re smart car charging. My research indicates that our current electrical switchboard will need a significant upgrade to cater for the predicted additional load and that we may also need to install a back up generator when the power is lost during a cyclone or major flooding event. I would like to understand the body corporate responsibility with this challenge? I’d service stations are currently not required to provide electrical changing (they may do in the future), is their an equal partnership between the BC and the owner/tenant? There certainly is much to consider and commence financial planning for.

  14. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Steve,
    There are some decisions of the Supreme Court of NSW which, in essence, require a Body Corporate to upgrade utility infrastructure, so that all owners can get access to an equivalent level, instead of those who are ‘first in, best dressed’. At present, I am designing a ‘best practice’ approach, which is likely to involve incremental stages of upgrading, of infrastructure, as more access is required. The costs of the upgrades is borne progressively by all owners who have, or who are obtaining, access. Of course, that is for larger schemes, such as yours. I might share that model, if I get a chance, at the end of this article series.

  15. Roy

    Thanks Michael, I could not agree more with your Comments. Maybe we should Pander to the Greed and allow Private EV Power suppliers install Units in our Lucrative Strata Complex’s i.e 100 Units or more, as with Gas Installation. We Pay Origin to install Gas Bottles and we Pay them for Gas and Bottle Inspection/Maintenance and only them. We have Pay TV the Company Install the dish etc and the Users pay for use. We have Council (Clean Away) which supply the Bins and Maintain them and Charge us for emptying them. We have Sanitary Bins in all Common Area toilets that Sanokil provide maintain and empty. We have NBN that Telstra Install/Maintain and we pay for usage. Possibly we could have EV Solutions PTY Limited (made up) Install Systems we Rent/Hire the equipment and each owner pays them the Bill. Now there is a Solution working together to achieve the same end point. They would then also maintain the equipment. I think we will wait until some entrepreneur comes up with that. It may cost a fortune for a charge but hey the Individual uses it and has the option to go and charge anywhere. Back to we do not supply a Petrol Bowser so why an EV Charger.
    Just trying to think outside the Box, I do not see why it is a BC responsibility to Charge Peoples Vehicles, especially at present when very few Owners have one. We have had 1 request from 114 people.

  16. Phil

    A bit late to the conversation, but I think Roy’s suggestion “EV Solutions PTY Limited” is a logical way for body corporates to go. I don’t see the need for every lot to have their own charging point. They should be a shared facility, it’s part of strata living. If you don’t like it buy a house. Some commercial EV chargers have rates for charging and a time limit for the parking. If you overstay your charging time you are charged for parking.

    Someone needs to do the math and determine how many charging points are needed per lot. In my opinion I don’t think it would be all that many. Eg. 100 lots, 80% have a vehicle, 50% are electric, battery charge lasts a week, day + night charging times (2 slots/ day) = 3 approximately. Sure it won’t suit every scenario but it’s part of the compromise of strata living. Like others have said, we don’t have petrol bowsers do we need charging stations?

  17. Len

    Not everyone has the same needs. I charge my EV from 100% solar at my shed (separate from apartment). Usually only necessary once a week; others will charge at work or otherwise variably during the day. People who come home and need to plug in each night ‘generally’ will not have a flat battery, just need enough to cover their regular commute/use. Charging can be sheduled so as not to impact peak demand times.

    Charging at home generally is an expected part of EV ownership. In my apartment I don’t have to share a community bathroom facility and I feel the same about EV charging – it should be in my own space.

    Apartment blocks of size should include a couple of rapid chargers for when 10 or 15A wall plugs are insufficient and maybe for visitor/public access.

    I really enjoy the EV and see daily benefits. Won’t have my shed for ever and I have been denied option to charge in my apartment car park, so I will be selling in the nearing future – yes, I will buy a house and be in control!

    BTW, once upon a time, used to have own bowser on the farm and all our visitors used to fill up to save stopping at the servo.

  18. steve smith

    It’s great that you elaborated that understanding the kilowatts’ electrical function of charging stations could help make the most of their process. My friend informed me yesterday that he was gathering information about electric vehicle charging station installation in their clothing company’s workplace for quick-turnaround charging. He asked if I had thoughts on the best consultation approach. I appreciate this helpful article for your explanation about the importance of proper station security. I’ll tell him he can consult a trusted electric vehicle charger installation service to gather details about the process.