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Electric Vehicle Charging in Homeowner Associations
Electric vehicles (EVs) have numerous advantages, but of course they must be charged. How do you charge your EV if you live in a common interest development such as a condominium, community apartment project, or planned development, operated by a homeowners association (HOA)? California now has a law that requires HOAs to allow EVs to charge, and helps establish standards for this arrangement. This article will generally explore EV advantages and EV charging, and then focus on HOA EV charging requirements: installing a charging device requires certain steps, but they are common-sense and to the mutual benefit of all parties.
EVs are the future, and the future is here now. They offer much more efficient transportation, and provide economic, environmental, and national security benefits for not just the owner, but for everyone. EVs benefits include:
lower fuel and maintenance costs;
no dependence on foreign oil (be a patriot);
reduced pollution and reduced global warming;
silent, smooth, fast response and great handling;
safety (no risk of exploding gasoline tanks);
direct use of clean renewable energy such as solar and wind power;
quieter, cleaner streets;
no dirty gasoline pumping or garage fluid leaks;
employment of Americans while reducing trade deficits;
(soon) provide emergency power to your house with your EV.
Like many governments, it is U.S. policy to encourage adoption of EVs (we are aiming to put one million on the road by 2015). EVs are now available at a net cost of $20,000 to $100,000, with more EV models becoming available each year, and manufacturers agree EVs will eventually become a substantial portion of the vehicle market. EVs generally charge at night when electrical demand is low, and therefore there is enough electrical generation capacity to charge about 75% of all U.S. cars without needing a single new power plant.
For the owner, the cost of EV electricity is one half to one sixth the cost of gas, saving hundreds to thousands of dollars annually. For those installing residential solar, the solar will pay for itself and the owner can drive for free with a potential lifetime savings of over a hundred thousand dollars. EVs save at least 10,000 pounds of carbon dioxide annually, making it the single largest possible reduction in one's carbon footprint.
The key issue is charging EVs. Most EVs can charge with common 110-volt household outlets, 240-volt 'charging stations,' or 480-volt 'fast chargers' (sometimes respectively referred to as Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3). EVs are usually charged as home, typically with charging stations, but often using household outlets. Those considering EVs are sometimes concerned with the issue of charging, but those who have EVs quickly find that virtually all charging is easily accomplished at home, taking only a few seconds to plug the car in when arriving home and only a few seconds to unplug the car when leaving home.
Household outlets are everywhere, and an EV charging on a household outlet uses about as much electricity as a toaster. Charging this way provides enough electricity in an hour for an EV to travel about 4 miles. If an EV were to be plugged in when arriving home at 8pm, and was unplugged in the morning at 8am, it would receive enough electricity to travel around 50 miles. The average American car travels fewer than 30 miles a day, and 80% travel fewer than 50 miles a day. In most cases, household outlet charging would be sufficient. (Unlike gas cars which do not get filled every day, EVs are typically charged completely every day and are very rarely completely discharged.)
However, many people want the flexibility to charge more quickly. Charging stations, installed at home and in public places (often at places of employment), use the 240-volt electricity that comes from the utility and goes into the electrical panel of every home and building. Depending upon the EV and the charging station, plugging in for an hour provides enough electricity for an EV to travel between 12 and 62 miles. With a charging station, in only a few hours even an empty EV will be completely charged.
For those who own their own home with a parking space, in virtually all cases a charging station can be readily installed without any problems (sometimes this can be done by the owner, more often it is a quick and easy installation for an electrician). In addition to employers, there are also thousands of charging stations being publically installed across the country, on streets, in parking lots, and in parking garages. These public charging stations are either operated by 'pay as you go' service providers (usually costing a dollar or two per hour) or are sometimes provided without cost to attract customers.
Lastly, many EVs can plug into fast chargers that are now starting to be installed: these devices are expected to be used by those who are traveling significant distances away from home and by those who have no regular place to park and plug in (they are installed at places like freeway rest stops and shopping centers, and are not for home use). Fast chargers can provide a charge in only about half an hour. However, to the chagrin of EV manufacturers, while the plug used for household outlets and charging stations has been standardized, there is as yet no universally agreed-upon standard for a fast charging plug design, and this has impeded the broad introduction of fast charging. A standard will very soon be established (and in any event, an owner can put on a plug adapter to use different fast charger designs), but the reality at present is that while fast chargers are starting to be broadly installed they remain less common.
All vehicle owners fall into one of five categories: government, fleet, homeowner, apartment dweller, and HOA owner. Government, fleet, and homeowners control their properties, and consequently they should not have any issues regarding installing charging stations. For those who rent an apartment, there is presently no legal right to install a charging station: the best solution would be to work with the building owner to see if installing a charging station might be possible, or simply plug into a household outlet with the permission of the building owner. Charging this way should pose no risk to the building (unless there are multiple EVs plugged into the same circuit at the same time, which may trip a circuit breaker). However, charging like this often uses a building's common electricity, and there may be an obligation to reimburse the building owner (more on this issue later).
This brings us to the category of HOA owners, and the recent legislation that entitles them to charge their EVs. The California Legislature has enacted Civil Code Section 1353.9, which makes clear that it is 'the policy of the state to promote, encourage, and remove obstacles to the use of electric vehicle charging stations,' and it makes certain that HOAs may not 'effectively prohibit or restrict' such installations. If the statute is violated, the HOA will have to pay a $1000 civil penalty and reimburse the other side's attorney's fees. HOA Boards have a responsibility to be aware of this law, but more positively it is expected that HOAs will recognize that enabling EVs adds both value and a proactive image.
The statute identifies several EV owner compliance steps to assure that the HOA is protected from potential harm. Some of these steps are obvious: for instance, the proposed charging station must meet applicable health and safety standards and state and local codes (of course, all commercially available charging stations meet these standards). The law is also forward-thinking in approving charging stations of a type that include several charging points so that several EVs can be plugged in simultaneously: this may be beneficial for the efficient use of HOA parking space.
For practical purposes, EV owners and HOAs need to know the requirements and steps for charging station installation. First, there must be a written application to the HOA (there are no special application forms or requirements), and it must be processed by the HOA in the same manner as any building modification. If the application is not denied within 60 days, it is deemed approved, unless there was a reasonable request for additional information. As an example, if the EV owner is in an HOA development, and the charging station is to be placed on the owner's property within the development, then the process is fairly simple and straightforward, and it seems highly unlikely that the HOA could legally deny the application: the EV owner may proceed with little interference.
But a trickier issue arises in the following typical circumstance: the EV owner needs to install the charging station in a 'common area' (as previously designated by the HOA). For most condominiums and cooperative apartments, this is likely to be the case, and the classic example of such a common area is a parking garage, even if individual parking spaces are deeded to specific owners. In this situation, there are a couple of additional hurdles that may need to be cleared (the HOA does not have to require these steps; rather, these are the most that can be required).
First, there are some obvious measures: listing the HOA as an 'additional insured' on the owner's home insurance (which is generally an HOA requirement for all members anyway); having a licensed contractor install the charging station; and agreeing to pay for the electricity used. Then, there are a couple of logical requirements, such as disclosing the charging station to prospective buyers, and agreeing to pay for damage to the common area caused by the charging station (not that a charging station could conceivably cause damage). Finally, the owner must obtain a $1,000,000 umbrella liability coverage policy naming the HOA as an additional insured (with a right to be provided notice if the policy is ever cancelled). Again, some HOAs already require all owners to carry an umbrella policy, and in any event such a policy generally costs only a couple of hundred dollars (thought of another way, this is typically the cost of about a month's worth of gas).
As a practical matter, determining how to pay for electricity may be the most difficult aspect of this process. The reason for this is that charging stations are typically plugged into a special large 240 volt electrical outlet that is directly wired to the nearest electrical panel, and there is no specific meter in place that would measure how much electricity is being used. With household outlet charging, there are simple and inexpensive usage-reporting devices that plug into the outlet and allow a device to be plugged into it. However, at present the only such devices for 240V have to be wired in by an electrician -- indeed, installing such a device at the time that the charging station is installed would be a practical approach to the issue of metering electrical usage. Finally, many EVs and some charging stations can use the internet to report how much electricity is used.
Yet, even knowing how much electricity was used will not necessarily determine the cost of that electricity. Depending upon the building's electrical rate plan, the cost of electricity late at night could be quite cheap, and conversely the peak cost of electricity could be quite expensive: electricity is measured in kilowatt-hours (KWH), and the range could be from $.05/KWH to $.50/KWH. While 'your mileage may vary,' an EV travelling the statistically-average distance of 12,000 miles annually will use around 4,000 KWH.
To determine the cost of EV electricity, it is very important to understand that most all EVs will charge late at night when rates are cheapest. All EVs have built-in timers, computer-based programs, and smart-phone applications that easily let the owner set the charging time: the owner parks and plugs the EV in, but it only begins charging when it is programmed to do so. Because of the difference in rates based on the different times of usage, the cost issue requires knowing when the EV charged as well as how much electricity it used. The owner can work with the building manager to determine this question of rate timing.
Finally, there is a potential issue regarding the total capacity of the electrical panel that provides the charging station its power. It is extremely unlikely that a single charging station will trip a circuit breaker. But, if there are multiple charging stations on the same electrical panel, and if they are all programmed to begin charging their respective EVs at the same time, then there is now a greater likelihood that a circuit breaker might trip. Therefore, it might be beneficial for EV owners to confer with each other to determine whether they can use different electrical panels or program their EVs to charge at different times.
There is a developing solution for all of the various issues identified: businesses that handle correctly complying with statutory requirements regarding the HOA; properly selecting and installing the charging station; determining the amount of electricity used and determining the price rate for that electricity; and working to ensure that multiple EVs can coordinate their activities so that all are charged without pulling too much electricity at any one time. These businesses also assist the HOA by simplifying everything, acting as a liaison between the owner as the HOA, assuring payment for electricity, and even providing the necessary umbrella policy protection. It may be expected that HOAs will encourage the growth of this EV support service, particularly given the importance of this new statutory requirement for HOAs to enable EV charging.
For information on purchasing reprints of this article, contact sales. Copyright 2013 CyberTech, Inc.
You must be kidding! Now we have to subsidize the charging for these loser cars? First, American taxpayers lose a bundle on the Chevy Volt. And, we are subsidizing their purchase through cash rebates. Now we have to pay the fools who drive these cars for FUEL? I don't remember anyone filling my gas tank for free. EVER. Although I am regularly accosted by deadbeats who appear out of nowhere, trying to get me to buy them gas or give them money. Needless to say, I no longer fill my tank after dark...
All of you in CA, please stop moving to NV to escape high taxes and lunatic ideas. Because you start voting in my state, for the very same party, people, and taxes that you are trying to escape from. I'm trying to avoid them, but you keep on moving here. Thanks a lot, CA!!!
Malcolm Rawlingson 10.4.12
This is a very one sided article. The major problem in the US right now is unemployment. People that are unemployed are not going to buy electric cars. As I have noted in previous posts there is a huge downside to widespread use of these vehicles and that is they will create unemployment on an unprecedented scale. While electric cars have some advantages for end users let us take a look at the things they do NOT need.
1. No gas. OK that sounds good but now you have every single gas station owner in the US out of business. Every single truck driver delivering the gas to the gas stations is now out of work. All the gas pump maintenance companies bankrupt and of course there are no longer any gas station attendant jobs. That is the employment of several million people gone at a stroke. 2. No Gasoline or diesel engines. OK that sounds good for the environment but the result is no engine plants required. No oil changes required - that means every single lub shop in your town and every other town is out of business and all the oil change jockeys are now out of work. No oil or air filter makers needed. No pistons required, no piston rings no crankshaft forgers, no timing chains, no fuel tanks, no valves and no gearbox. Add another few million people out of work. 3. No exhaust systems. Also sounds good and it probably is but it also means no plants to make the muffler, no catalytic converters, no platinum or palladium required so all the mines in SA shutdown. Every muffler shop out of business. Millions more out of work. 4. No starter motor, no alternator, no ignition systems which means all the plants that make them are out of business. And I could go on. Of course that is the price of progress and is the way of history but there is a major difference here in the the gas driven automobile has become such an integral part of our economy that moving away from it too rapidly will have catastrophic economic consequences. Of course you could argue that other components that were not required before will be required now. The problem is that most of these new products will be mass produced by robots like the new Baxter and will produce very little gain in employment.
I challenged readers here a while back to walk around their town and see what businesses would no longer exist in an all EV society. It would devastate every single town and city business landscape across North America. No gas stations, no repair shops (electric motors are highly reliable), no lube oil stores, no oil refineries, no muffler shops. In fact like it or not much of our town and city infrastructure is based upon the gas driven vehicle. Take it all away and many towns will be gutted. Add to all of that is the fact than many auto industry jobs are well paid and you need far less people to make EV's than are required to make a gas driven vehicle.
So EV = mass unemployment. Be careful what you wish for.
Malcolm Rawlingson 10.4.12
Wendy, I did like your post and agree with you although I live in Canada so don't vote down there. As a consolation electric vehicles have a very long way to go before they replace conventional vehicles. When folks have to replace a battery after three or so years at a cost of half the car the lustre will wear off. And as I noted above such changes need to be very carefully thought out by their proponents. The world economy is very much tied to the automobile and drastically changing it will produce equally drastic changes to the economies of the world and I think for the worse.
Malcolm Rawlingson 10.4.12
Jason, I fear you are an idealist and need to understand what you are saying in the context of the real world and the real USA. Do you really honestly believe that you can just plug in your car to an electric outlet in a condo parking lot and it will still be plugged in when you go to drive it in the morning. I guarantee you that some thug will have unplugged it for you and stolen the copper charging cable to buy a few drugs leaving you with a dead car and no way to get to where you want to go. And I really cannot see - at least from what I have seen of your society - that there will be a gentleman's or woman's agreement on who charges their vehicle first to avoid the circuit breaker tripping. It will be first come first served. That would be like asking all the condo dwellers to schedule (to use your analogy) when to turn their toaster on in the morning. That is never going to happen. Such things can happen of course but I think they occur only in a country known as Utopia - in the US it will be every man and woman for themselves. Malcolm
Bob Amorosi 10.10.12
Well said Malcolm in all your posts above. Brutally true, evey point.
But you know what else scares me - an all EV society would gut our businesses and throw millions out of work, but so too will rising oil prices when they reach over $200 or $300 a barrel, and gasoline reaches $20 a gallon. These numbers are not unthinkable if you believe peak oil has passed us and oil supply will continue to dwindle year after year, while demand continues to drive up its price on the world markets. Airlines will go out of business, Walmarts will no longer be able to stock its shelves with cheap imported consumer products from Asia. The Toys-R-Us and Best Buys and Home Depots will falter as consumers can no longer afford most manufactured products. North America's huge transportation industries will crumble as it becomes too costly to run thousands of trucking companies and courier businesses. It's not just automobiles and related industries and businesses but our whole economy that is based on cheap oil.
Len Gould 10.11.12
I find it a bit disturbing that the strongest agrument against electric vehicles is that they don't need enough continuous maintenance... It was just over 100 years ago that King C. Gillette invented the concept of "disposable" products. Prior to that, consumer purchases were expected to last, if not forever, at least the lifetime of the purchaser.
Bob Amorosi 10.11.12
I agree with you Len, it's disturbing but we often forget just how many businesses exist simply for car maintenance. I think Malcolm's message here is there is a huge inertia in the economy to abandon fossil-fueled internal combustion engines in cars. I think we will certainly switch over to EVs but it will be much more gradual over many years where both exist for a long time.
On the other hand there are lots of other examples of how disposable products have trashed old businesses. For example at one time decades ago there were many repair shops for home appliances and electronics, but most are long gone because it is simply less expensive to throw away old stuff and buy new ones than pay someone the labor costs just to spend a few hours repairing. If you are more technically inclined, like you and I are Len, you can repair stuff yourself by buying the parts and tools, but we are a minority of consumers.
Rob McCaughey 4.29.13
Malcolm (10/04/12): I won't call you a Luddite, but you are close. Where do you think we will be if we stick to the internal combustion engine and the rest of the world switches to electric cars? Our country has gone through many changes with positive results. The computer/electronics industry is a recent example that is currently going through the process of change. Many old businesses are ceasing to exist, such as printed books, brick and mortar stores, typewriters etc. They are replaced by facilities that hire highly skilled engineers and technicians who make substantial salary. As the electrification continues, it is at a relatively slow pace which will give the owners and employees of the obsolete businesses time to retrain for the new age. It would be foolish to stop a trend just because a business will become obsolete. Imagine what would happen were we to hold back while the rest of the civilized world continues to modernize. There are so many advantages to electric vehicles especially in light of the fact that global warming is real and cancer caused by petrochemicals is real. Fears such as you express tend not to happen or not to happen on a grandiose scale. Take a deep breath and be happy with the prospect that the next generation will thank all of us for producing cars that don't pollute and are much more trouble free than today's incredibly complicated automobile. By the way, the subsidies for EV are chump change compared to our GDP, plus the money will stay here instead of going to hostile Middle-Eastern countries.
Rob McCaughey 4.29.13
To: Wendy, 10/02/12. Rest assured the only Californians moving to Nevada are losers who cannot compete in California. They tend to be poor, uneducated and politically conservative so they will fit right in with your culture. They will add to your economy because they tend to be gamblers, so welcome them with open arms; it is a plus-plus for both states.