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EV Charging Stations Baffle MF

Meeting the demand for this new amenity was a topic at the National Association of Real Estate Editors conference.

Electric vehicle charging stations are the latest iteration of the old apartment building laundry room, according to a speaker on the “Plugging In” panel, moderated by Multi-Housing News Editorial Director Suzann Silverman, at the National Association of Real Estate Editors annual conference in Las Vegas.

Years ago, owners of multifamily properties subcontracted out the operation of their laundry facilities so they didn’t have to worry about running out of quarters or fixing washer and dryer breakdowns. Then, they started putting the machines in each apartment as a more personal amenity.

Now, in condo and coop builders, washer and dryers are the individual owners’ responsibility. In rental apartments, landlords are still obligated to keep the units in good working order. But at least they can charge more rent for the privilege of doing your laundry in your own apartment.

Now, said David Aaronson, founder & CEO of Refuel Electric Vehicle Solutions, owners and developers are wondering what to do about charging stations.

“Every multifamily owner accepts they are going to need them, but they don’t know what they need,” said Aaronson, whose Houston-based firm works exclusively in the multifamily sector. “And they all want someone to make the decisions for them.”

The former commercial real estate banker believes the EV charging station “represents another revenue stream, a very positive revenue stream” for landlords. After all, he told the group of real estate writers and broadcasters, “they have a captive audience every night.”

That doesn’t mean the road ahead is going to be simple, though. For one thing, property owners have no clue what they need. “We spend a lot of time education them,” Aaronson said, noting that many owners have no idea how many of their residents even own an electric car or truck, let alone how many might drive one in the future.”

But even after they figure out that conundrum, he added, 99 percent of the country’s existing apartment properties don’t have the electric power capacity they require to meet their requirements. “That’s a very difficult problem,” he told the conference. “It’s very challenging.”

“When we try to put in the infrastructure, we often have to call in the utilities,” he said.

When that rare property has “plenty” of unused capacity, Aaronson went on, electrical usage is not monitored, so it’s difficult to find it. Monitors to help with that issue are under development, he said. And once they become available, it will be easier to send the excess to EV stations.

What’s it going to cost?

According to the EV consultant, a Level 2 charging station costs between $ 8,000-$9,000. And a more advanced station that can charge today’s lithium car batteries is “exponentially more expensive.”

One charging port can only handle seven vehicles a month, largely because their owners plug in overnight. “In an apartment complex,” Aaronson said, “you can’t expect someone to get up at 2 a.m. to move his car. They’re going to take that space all night long.”

But even though more stations may be needed, the consultant suggested that property owners “start small” and go from there. His clients, he said, are looking at a seven-year pay out before they have to replace their stations with newer technology.

He also advised charging tenants for the privilege of hooking up where they live. After all, the electricity they use to operate their cars cost money.

“People expect to pay to fuel their cars,” he said, noting that owners in two instances his company worked on heard no complaints when they switched to a pay-as-you-go system. “They’ve never gotten free gas.”

Despite these and other issues, Aaronson believes there’s time—50 to 60 years, or so—before everyone over the age of 18 is behind the wheel of an electric vehicle. And by then, charging stations will be as ubiquitous as gasoline stations are today.

“This is the U.S.A.,” he said. “We will get this solved, and there will eventually be enough capacity to serve everyone.”


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