Electric Vehicle Charging FAQ

December 1, 2022

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 carpark. I believe 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.

Chances are if you’re reading this article, you may already have EVs in your building and might have had requests for EV chargers to be installed. As an EV charging solutions provider, we’re certainly seeing the demand for apartment EV charging solutions grow as more vehicle brands expand their range in the market.

The initial requests we get range widely however there are three main issues that Body Corporates come to us with questions on:1. How to ensure there is enough power available at the building for the addition of EV chargers?
2. How to individually meter electricity usage through EV chargers and bill users accordingly?
3. What type of EV charger do I need at my building?

This article aims to briefly discuss apartment EV charging and address these three issues by introducing key software technologies and EV charging solutions for apartments. In future articles, we’ll present a number of EV charging options you can consider at your building which incorporate these technologies.

Is There Enough Power at the Building for EV Charging?
An EV charger can draw more power than an individual apartment unit, and chances are your building isn’t designed with the spare power needed for high EV uptake.
The solution to this is a load management system. Load management acts as a calculator, safely distributing the spare power to EV chargers in the building. Without this load management technology, your building will be severely limited in the number of EV chargers that can be installed. With load management, you’ll likely be able to allow all residents to install a private EV charger.
Load management systems also take advantage of the fact that not everyone will need to charge from 0% to 100% in one night. Load management systems rotate the operation of EV chargers to ensure the power available is distributed evenly across all EVs on charge. The number of EVs on charge at any one time can also be maximized, by throttling the power output of the EV chargers. This is also critical for controlling the EV charging power output within the limits of the building.

How Is Electricity Billed for EV Charging?
The need for a load management system for EV charging leads to the next technology critical for apartment EV charging, a billing software. Load management systems function best when the power supply to EV chargers is fed from the common power of the building. This means that all electricity used through EV chargers is billed to the Body Corporate via their monthly energy bills. This is a problem as we can’t have the Body Corporate (and by extension, owner levies) subsidizing EV owners ‘fuel’ costs.
For this reason, an EV charging billing software is required. A billing software will record how much electricity a charger has used and bills the user for the cost of this electricity, directly from their credit card. These funds are collected and sent to the Body Corporate in line with monthly energy bills. This allows all electricity usage costs from EV charging to be fully recovered by the Body Corporate, leaving no one out of pocket, and no one subsidizing anyone’s vehicle running costs.

What Types of Chargers Can Be Installed?
There are a wide range of EV charger types, all with different features and functions to suit different applications. The following sections will outline some key considerations when selecting the most suitable EV charger for use in an apartment setting.

Smart EV Chargers
The need for load management and billing technologies also means that there are restrictions on the type of EV chargers that can be installed in the building. ‘Smart’ EV chargers are needed so that the charger can communicate with the load management and billing software; the EV chargers need to speak the same ‘language’ as the load management and billing technologies.

AC vs DC Charging
There are two types of EV chargers available, AC and DC. AC chargers offer a slower charge rate (up to 22kW which can provide up to 150 km per hour of charge). DC chargers on the other hand can offer charge rates up to 350kW, allowing you to reach a full charge in 10 – 15 minutes. For apartment settings, AC chargers are best suited to charging in private car spaces, where an EV owner can plug their car in and leave it to charge overnight. DC chargers should only be considered for shared use charging applications, where a high turnover of EVs is required at the charger. Typically, due to cost considerations, DC chargers in the range of 25 – 50kW are best suited for shared charging in apartments.

Single vs 3-Phase
AC chargers can be connected at single-phase or 3-phase. The main difference here is simply the power that can be supplied to the charger. A 3-phase charger can provide three times the power than a single-phase charger (22kW vs 7.4kW, or ~150 km per hour of charge vs 50 km per hour of charge). Typically, power constraints at the building mean that selection of single-phase EV chargers are best for widespread private charging, with a 7.4kW charger still providing enough power for overnight charging.

Tethered vs Socket Chargers
EV chargers come in a range of sizes and with a range of features. AC chargers can be bought with an attached cable (tethered) or with no cable attached (socket). To charge at a socket charger an EV owner will need a connecting cable, which are readily available and are often supplied at vehicle purchase. Socket chargers are popular in apartment settings because they remove the need for cable management; owners can simply store their cable in their vehicle when not charging. This is also beneficial as the majority of AC chargers in the public are socket chargers.
Finding a suitable location for the installation of an AC charger is straight forward. The best location is the back or side wall of a car space or the surface of a pillar. For car spaces that have no wall or pillar available, pedestals or mounting posts can be supplied.

Where to From Here?
This article aims to present solutions to three of the most common questions we get in relation to apartment EV charging. The following articles in our series will next look to discussing the pros and cons of specific EV charging options that you can consider at your building. Stay tuned!

This article was contributed Tait Bonito,  JET Charge.

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