Retrofitting electric vehicle charging in strata properties
Key concepts and advice
As the popularity of electric vehicles increases, vehicle charging will increasingly be valued by renters and owners of strata units. While new developments may offer charging facilities, existing strata properties present opportunities for retrofitting.
There is no single best solution that applies to all strata situations. This guide introduces some key concepts and links to further useful resources.
Wiring electric vehicle charging outlets back to the meters of individual units allows the greatest freedom for unit owners to choose their own tariffs and avoids imposing administrative and maintenance burdens on the Owner Corporation (OC). This should be preferred wherever practical.
Where the allocated parking is within or continuous with the individual unit area, adding a charging outlet can be arranged by the unit owner without involving the OC. No more may be needed than a simple power point and the portable EVSE charge cord supplied with an electric vehicle.
Where the allocated parking space is separate from (but close to) the unit, the Executive Committee could approve fixed cabling traversing common property back to the unit’s meter as a ‘minor use’ subject to the individual unit owner covering all costs (UTMA Schedule 2.4, see resource below).
Smart systems may be needed to dynamically regulate charging rates and share the strata developments’ available supply capacity once many chargers are in use at the same time. During the evening peak, there might be very little spare capacity but there is likely to be ample capacity during the rest of the day and night. At times of high demand, a smart system will slow or stop charging. When overall demand is lower, charging rates are automatically increased. There are companies that will assess a building, design such systems and manage them if required, including the electronic billing arrangements.
In other situations, a simple kilowatt-hour counter on each line to an allocated parking space may be sufficient. This needs someone to read them periodically and prepare a table of data for billing purposes. An OC can enter into agreements to provide a service and bill individual unit owners if authorised by an ordinary resolution (simple majority at a general meeting) (UTMA s29 and s30). This may be simple if the OC has a flat electricity tariff. If the OC is on a peak demand tariff, cutting the power via a timer and relay during the evening peak is a simple way to avoid adding to the peak demand charges while leaving relatively cheap, flat-rate charging available for 20 hours a day. Time of use tariff charging could be limited to the off-peak period.
Fast charging is rarely required for home charging. For daily use most EV owners routinely charge from ordinary 10A power points. Faster chargers may be required for longer trips away from home.
Where possible it is best to resist demands for fast charging from common property supply outlets because this could enable early adopters to take more than their fair share of available electrical capacity, inequitably restricting options for later adopters.
Consider the risk for conflict and competition if you choose to have a small number of shared fast chargers on site. EV owners would probably prefer guaranteed access to slower outlets in their individually allocated parking spaces. A shared fast charger could be blocked for days while the owner of the parked vehicle cannot be found and an outage would affect all. If it is impractical to wire up the parking areas, the Owners Corporation could consider adopting a Rule (UTMA Part 6) to ensure equitable access to a shared fast charger.
The planning of staged roll-outs is discussed in the guides on the WattBlock website (see resources below). For example, several early adopters might use simple 10A or 15A sockets sub-metered from a common property supply, installed at their own cost. It may be easier to gain owners’ support for a smart system of networked charging outlets later when there is more demand.
Having sub-metered supplies behind a meter amounts to an embedded network. Some strata properties operate embedded networks. These are strictly regulated by the Australian Energy Regulator when they are supplying ‘premises’ (units). Compliance is much less strict when supplying vehicles because vehicles are not considered as premises.
In the ACT (and recently NSW) only an ordinary resolution is required to approve the installation of ‘sustainability infrastructure’ on the common property (UTMA s23), so long as certain specified details are addressed in the proposal.
Wattblock have produced some excellent guides (N.B. NSW legislation references predate some recent changes)
UTMA is the Unit Titles (Management) Act 2011 (ACT)
The ACT Branch of AEVA has several members expert in charging infrastructure who may be contacted for further advice via the secretary at firstname.lastname@example.org