Electric Vehicle charging in flats

Electric vehicles are growing in popularity but blocks of flats may not be able to handle a smooth transition due to lack of allocated spaces.

Climate change and tackling air pollution are two issues that have been pushed to the top of the political agenda in recent months, with the government calling on the commercial sector to develop eco-friendly solutions that we can adopt without too much disruption to our daily lives. One change that has been noticeable on UK roads in recent years is the increase in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The government announced in 2017 that the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans will be banned in the UK from 2040, although there is now a steady push for this deadline to be earlier. Sweden has just announced that the sale of electric cars outsold combustion vehicles for the first time in April this year. But, at present, the market for electric cars in the UK is still relatively small, with around 155,000 of these vehicles sold in the UK in 2018, and around 4,500 more being registered every month. By comparison, there are around 30 million fuel-powered cars (source: Wired UK) in the country. However, during the next 20 years we will all be switching to electric vehicles (EVs) and where there are EVs, there must be charging facilities.

Charging points have already sprung up at motorway services, at railway stations, at supermarkets and in car parks but increasingly vehicle owners want the convenience of charging their car at home. Studies show that 75% of electric vehicle charging will be done at home. The convenience of getting into a fully charged car (rather than standing at a petrol pump) in the morning is a huge appeal to prospective buyers.

This is no problem if you live in a freehold property but leasehold flats throw up more challenges. Developers are now installing electric charging points in new blocks as standard but for anyone with responsibility for an existing development that wants to install charging points, there are a number of issues for property managers to consider.

Start with the lease

As ever, the starting point is always the lease. In the majority of cases, residents will need a license to alter from the landlord to install one or more charging points. This formal, written consent will normally cost around £650, which will need to be covered by the resident/s in question – assuming the freeholder is happy to oblige.

The supply

Once consent is obtained, there are also issues around location of charging points and electricity supply to be considered. Some flat owners may have an allocated parking space or garage demised to them but the electricity supply to that parking space – if there is one – won’t be connected to the electricity meter in their flat. As most leases provide for a right of use of parking spaces without ownership, car parks are normally connected to the communal supply that is covered by the service charge. When only a handful of residents are gaining the benefit from the electricity that is being used by EV owners, this is unlikely to be warmly welcomed by the majority and may not be possible under the terms of the lease.

The good news is that EV charging technology is rapidly evolving to keep pace with demand and there are now options on the market that can get around many of the problems that residential blocks throw up.

Pay-as-you-go solutions working in tandem with cloud-based mobile apps – similar to those now being installed in public spaces and by employers – mean that electricity used by individual residents can be monitored, logged and paid for. Flat owners can use such systems to pay their costs back to their block on a monthly basis, so that residents who don’t use charging points are not subsidising those that do.

Installation

Set-up is simple, with very little electrical work needed to install a simple pay-as-you-go charging system. Your existing landlord/communal area supply service distribution equipment will hopefully be extended and a dedicated distribution board installed to feed the new charging points. Sizing will depend on how many charge-points you require now or wish to allow for future expansion. It should be possible for all wiring to charge point locations to be run using the building’s existing wiring containment system where feasible, ensuring the installation is as discrete as possible. If not, then galvanised cable tray may be needed to disguise any additional wiring.

Cost

Of course the other big question that residents will be asking property managers to answer is how much will the installation cost and who pays? And costs to residents may be partly covered by a government-subsidised grant from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). The OLEV Grant is also known as the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) and provides £500 off the cost of purchasing & installing a home charging point. However, as with all government grants, this one won’t be around forever, so if you are considering EV charging points, now is a good time to think about installing them, while financial assistance is still available.

One exciting aspect of EV charging technology is that in future, once charged, EVs will be used as mobile batteries that, rather than just taking an electrical charge from a residential supply, will also be able to put electricity back into the system, making charging points carbon neutral – or even carbon positive. New storage batteries currently in development are expected to unlock a range of in-home energy production methods. These batteries will be able to store power at a local level and further down the line, may even distribute power across a community.

Conclusion

Now is the time for property managers and landlords to start thinking about providing charging facilities and to have the conversation with residents – whether or not anyone in your block/s owns an EV. In future they will and it is well worth being prepared to deal with the questions that will be asked by residents about installing them – in 10 years’ time they will be standard too.

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