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Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

On Father’s Day 2022, I laid a bet with my (77 years) old man – that within 3 to 5 years sales of electric vehicles in Australia would overtake sales of fossil-fuelled vehicles.

As with many Baby Boomers, Dad simply could not believe that all of us Gen X, Y, Z, and I types, would be gullible, or stupid enough to buy cars with uselessly short-range and expensive, incendiary batteries. My father is a very smart and capable chap, but rather than spending a few hours deconstructing the internet myths, legends, and memes that have inculcated his views, I did the easy thing and laid a bet instead.

I am very confident I will win that bet – for the simple reason that I am getting so many enquiries about EV charging stations, there must already be an entire fleet of EV’s on its way!

With the assistance of my trusty research clerk, I sat down and started to get up to speed. The more I read the more I could see that our legislation in Queensland is pretty good to deal with the issues, but that there would be some very significant traps. I also recognised that one size definitely does not fit all.

There are issues of physical and legal access, balancing of lot owners’ rights, allocation of scarce or constrained resources, fire, and other safety issues, just to name a few.

So, one article simply cannot do this topic justice, or from my perspective, arm you with the minimum information necessary to enable you to make good decisions, about the issue (or for you to help others to make those decisions).
Instead, what I have done is to draft a series of articles, to cover the topic, in a (hopefully) pithy and useful way.

In this article I cover ‘know thyself’ – what any self-respecting Body Corporate should know, before a lot owner asks if they can install an EV charging station, or some nice young fella offers to install one for the Body Corporate on common property as a ‘service for lot owners’.

Next will be ‘know your product’ – what are EV charging stations, how do they work, what do they need and are there any standards for them? That way, when the time comes you can tell the sheep from the goats.

After that I’ll talk about being a boy scout. That is, ‘be prepared’ – rather than being a reactive, hot mess, bodies corporate and their committees can work out answers to the tough questions, before they are asked! Simple and powerful measures can then be taken to ensure things such as owner equity and fairness in the allocation of resources (as opposed to, for example, ‘first in best dressed’).

The fourth installment will be ‘you want what?’ – that is, we take a look at a typical lot owner’s request for permission to install an EV charging station, what you can expect to see, what you might see and what you should ask to see.

Finally, we will have a look at ‘conditions and compliance’ – the sorts of things that any approval should, or must, include and why. For example, insurance, maintenance, cost, fire safety and the like.

What then, should a body corporate know about itself, before (and well and truly before) a lot owners comes pounding on the door asking to install a charging point for their Mercedes Benz EQ?
‘Know Thyself’ Checklist

  • Survey Plan – every registered survey plan, that describes any part of the scheme land, including all lots and common property.
  • Currently recorded CMS – that is, the one that is currently recorded in the Freehold Land Register, and not the copy that’s sitting in your draw. It’s the recorded one that counts.
  • Utility Infrastructure Diagram – not the dodgy rubbish one in the currently recorded CMS that has been rescanned or photocopied to within an inch of its life. No, I mean the first clear copy that you have, which is usually in an older CMS.
  • Exclusive Use Plans – ditto
  • Utility Easements – now this is real utility easements, to or from Energex and such, and not the table of statutory easements in the CMS. These sorts of easement are rare, but if you have one affecting your scheme, then make sure you have a full copy (i.e. survey plan describing the easement, Form 9 and terms). If you have a pad mount transformer in your scheme, then you may have one of these easements.
  • Original Building Plans – hang you head in shame if you don’t have these (and yes, I include 30-year-old plus buildings in this category as well!). The plans should include wiring diagrams. If you have a young Body Corporate and the developer refuses to cough the plans up, come and see me; I’ll prosecute them for you, for breaching the Act.
  • Development Approvals including Approved Plans – ditto.
  • Renovation / Improvement Plans – if Fred in Lot 6 installed a 10-seater outdoor heated spa 5 years ago, then there should be a record of that, in the Body Corporate records. In turn that should include details of the three phase that he had to pull from the fuse box into his courtyard to run that monster.
  • Electrical Infrastructure Inventory – all of the items above, any (and every) Body Corporate should already have. This item is a new one, and it’s the first of many things you will have to do specially to deal with EV charging stations. You need to know through what arcane devices all the little dancing electrons party their way from the kerbside into your toaster, and back again (it’s an AC supply, after all). In particular, you need to know the specifications for all of those devices, how old they are, when they are due to be replaced, and how big and electron dance party they can cope with, safely. The things we are talking about are transformers, meters, safety switches, fuses and cabling; everyone always forgets the cabling for some reason. I digress, but when I did a reno some years ago, we discovered when upgrading it, that the cable supplying electricity to my house was just a little bit toasty – we had connected so many appliances in the house, that the 40m long supply cable running down the access easement was drawing so much current that it was physically hot!

That should about cover it. Of course, I reserve the right to add items later, but you should have all of this stuff, at a minimum. That is, unless you like waking up to electrical fires at 3am in the morning. Tune in next week (or whenever Smart Strata agrees to publish the next one), to read ‘know your product’.

This article was contributed by Michael Kleinschmidt from Stratum Legal 

Leave a Reply

  1. Bill Drewe

    Fantastic advice and I look forward to the rest. Thank you Michael.

  2. Mary Barram

    Thank you, Michael and Smart Strata – this is an extremely important & pressing issue for body corporates to get on top of. We have about 40 garages in our 40 year old apartment block and any day one or more owners could drive in with an electric vehicle (I plan on my next vehicle being electric so I’m very supportive) – we have to get ready ASAP! Please prioritize researching this information & advice for us. Thank you.

  3. Judith Ann Fisher

    Very interesting. I’m wondering if a lot owner would need body corporate approval to install a charging station in an enclosed garage attached to his lot.

  4. Peter Kermond

    Hi Michael,

    I guess the issue is who pays for the power? I’d be interested in your thoughts on how Strata can manage that. It’s not like water where one might have ‘common water’, power is expensive and getting more so. If there was a system where the charger’s electricity could be charged to the lot owner then the cross subsidy would be eliminated.

    Perhaps there is a gap in the market for a charger where owners enter a pin or swipe a card which is at a scale where the BC could install a couple of these.

  5. Michael Kleinschmidt

    Hi Peter, I will be traversing that in future articles. Where possible, user pays is best. Thankyou to you and my other readers, for your interest in my article. Regards, Michael

  6. Bob Morgan

    The way forward is for each body corporate to install and pay for the backbone cabling to allow all car spaces within the body corporate to be cabled in. This would include the main EV System breaker on your main switch board with Comms and power cable, cable trays and conduit’s along the centre of each of the access driveways to to each level. Along side this cabling, a comms cable is also laid leading back to the main switchboard area at which the power control and billing computer is located . In our 130 apartment complex the background installation feeding a potential 130 car spaces over 12 levels is costing circa $85,000.
    In addition, each individual owner will pay around $1800 when they want to connect their car space to the system. As well as this an owner will have to provide and install their own compatible 6.5kwh charger and car cable. (Similar to a household charger. Currently these run between $3000 to $4000. Note: The very fast public type chargers will not be able to be installed due to limitations of available power in the streets and the buildings.
    When you plug your car in, the computer will average the available power over all connected points and charge for the power supplied.
    It is important to realise that there is not unlimited power available in the street nor spare capacity into you building but this system allocates fairly the available power over all connected cars that are not fully charged and are still requiring current.
    Install that backbone capacity into a building adds value to every apartment to offset the Body corporate cost in installing the Backbone.
    A small individual contribution to the BC from every connection could be included in the individual installation cost but we chose no to do that as every owner benefitted in the value increase of every apartment.

  7. Linda Smith

    Any idea what special fire ratings will be required? Apparently, if an EV catches fire, it is almost impossible to put out. As the fire retardant is sprayed on, the batteries keep reigniting….

  8. Michael John Kleinschmidt

    Hi Bob, Thanks for your post – you are a man after my own heart. I recommend my Body Corporate clients follow the 6 P’s – Prior Preparation and Planning Prevents Poor Performance…. The trick is to do that in a resource constrained environment.
    Hi Linda, I will ensure that I specifically deal with fire issues, in a future installment.
    Thanks Phillip – my old man has very good taste in wine, so I am hoping to win that bet…

  9. John Hodson

    Hi Michael,
    I’m a little surprised by your eager anticipation of this massive surge in sales of EV’s, I hope you have more substantial detail than just an uptick in phone queries to support your enthusiasm.
    As you said, ‘one size won’t fit all’ when it comes to makes and models of EV’s. What I need to know is who is responsible for the cost of upgrading the BC’s energy infrastructure to accommodate this expected increase in EV’s on our roads? Given that most homes and units won’t have the capacity to support the power requirements of charging an EV, even with or without the addition of solar and batteries. Not only the cost of upgrading cabling from the BC’s Distribution Point to the unit, but generally substations may also need to be upgraded as well. The overall cost can become so overwhelming and lead-times could blow out to months or even years that could shatter the illusion of going green is not really what it’s cracked up to be about. What would you care to suggest in the meantime?

    John Hodson

  10. Michael John Kleinschmidt

    “We’ll all be rooned,” said Hanrahan… ‘rooned by the cost of infrastructure upgrades
    … or do we prefer to be ruined by the climate change we are already experiencing?
    The Hanrahans of the world that I have met are usually of a certain age, set in their ways, secretly ashamed of the damage that their lifestyle has caused the environment (unless, of course, they are closet sociopaths), and are to a greater or lesser extent, denialists.
    Mild denialism can take many forms, one of which is ‘The solution costs a lot. Is there actually a problem?’.
    Another one is ‘That new technology is untested, and is actually unsafe’.
    Well, if I had a choice between half of rural NSW’s population centres going underwater 3 times a year, or the odd battery fire, I’d go with the battery fire (and, I’d beef up safety standards for batteries and introduce criminal liability for deaths caused by failure to achieve those standards).
    Now John, I welcome your feedback, but I sense a bit of ‘anti-green’, based on cost and fairness issues (i.e. user pays).
    I’ll address costs in a future article, and needless to say I go with fair, which to me is ‘user pays’ whenever possible.
    I hate people who get a free ride, taking limited resources for their own use, because (for example) they get in first….
    The Courts have already ruled about this on other issues, and the Body Corporate ends up being like an underwriter – it will end up picking up the tab for extra capacity; but only if the Body Corporate does not get pro-active and in front of the issue first.
    All will be revealed in future articles…
    Finally, why am I confident of the flip to EV?
    First, because EV is here, and now, while hydrogen has a while to go.
    Second, because by the choice of our car, the rest of us finally get to say ‘Okay Boomer’…

  11. RAYMOND MICHAEL SIMPSON

    RESEARCH : 1. Visual readable unit electrical meters installed in each unit?
    2. ? Has the voltage of an installed EV charging device enough power to be injurious to heart pacemakers close to the device?
    3. Roof panels to be the source of the power by which any vehicle can/may be charged in daylight hours?
    4. Can a “smooth space” for EVC be set aside as accessible during specified hours in a community car park; eg. overnight?
    5. Any discount for pensioners?

  12. Antonette Lara

    Thank you for a very informative article. Keep it up!