Electric Vehicle info Pack

Electric Vehicle info Pack

With the increasing use of electric vehicles (EV) we are often asked if chargers can be installed in buildings.

There is no straightforward answer and there are a number of considerations when determining if installation is feasible or practicable.

Where Are Charging Stations Located?

There are typically two choices for an owners corporation. These are:

  • a lot owner may install an individual charging station within their parking space; or
  • charging stations are installed on common property and available for all residents to use.

The Starting Point

EV charging is a complex system. The first step in determining the feasibility of installing a charging system in a building is to engage a competent consultant to undertake a preliminary survey to determine the feasibility.  Such a study can provide information regarding whether EV charging of any type may be installed in the building and the different types of installation that would be appropriate. The consultant does not usually undertake the work themselves but will act as a project manager including obtaining and evaluating quotations, and provide project management during the installation.

What Does The Initial Survey Provide? 

The installation.? The initial survey will determine the infrastructure needs and can provide options for charging within owners’ lots or providing a centralised installation. The choice will depend on the particular building, including provision of adequate parking bays for common use and whether it is feasible in owners parking spaces. It can also give consideration to the latent energy (see below) available and whether solar panels are possible.

What Are The Infrastructure Considerations?

The difference between the theoretical maximum electrical supply capacity to the building and energy being used at a given time is known as the building’s latent energy capacity. Actual usage will vary throughout the day and night and it is this latent capacity that is available for the charging of vehicles. If the latent capacity is minimal, it may not be feasible to consider EV charging; or if chargers are installed, the capacity may be limited, leading to extended recharging times.

Any EV charging system will require some form of “backbone” which is provided by the owners corporation entering into an agreement with a recognised supplier.  The particular backbone installed will depend on whether the owners corporation has chosen to allow individual charging stations within lots or charging bays on common property for use by all owners with an EV.

If individual charging stations within lots are permitted, the backbone will need to run throughout the car park area to allow for a connection. An owner organises with the supplier for the installation of a charger and connection to the lot. The charger is then the responsibility of the lot occupier who meets the cost of the charging station and the energy used.

Alternatively, common property parking spaces can be set aside and charging stations installed for use by all residents with an EV. Vehicles are parked in the common bay while charging and then moved to the resident’s parking space. Users register with the provider and meet the cost of the energy consumed. This method provides flexibility by having fewer installed chargers but may suffer from disadvantages including:

  • not enough space in the car park for a sufficient number of bays;
  • it requires the cooperation of residents to promptly move the vehicle once charged.

Solar Panels

The installation of solar panels can provide additional energy to provide for EV charging. This is particularly relevant if the latent capacity to the building is relatively low.

There may be limitations regarding solar panels including:

  • minimal roof or other area available, constraining the number of panels that can be installed;
  • limited output due to suboptimal orientation of panels or overshadowing from adjoining buildings;
  • the potential requirement for approval from Council or other bodies such as Heritage Victoria;
  • solar panels generate electricity only during the day and the demand for EV charging may be skewed toward evening and night (this could be mitigated by the installation of batteries to store energy generated during the day).

Who Meets the Cost of Infrastructure?

The infrastructure provider will typically meet the cost of the installation of the backbone and charging system, with residents registering so that each user meets the cost of energy supplied during recharging. Some providers will pay a rental fee to the owners corporation based upon the energy consumed.

The infrastructure provider will usually meet the cost of the installation of the backbone and charging system and will enter into agreement with the Owners Corporation, and residents can register with them and meet the costs of energy supplied during charging. Some providers may even pay a rental fee to the Owners Corporation based on the energy consumed.  

Usually the agreement between the provider and the owner’s corporation determines that after a specified period of time, title to the infrastructure passes to the owners corporation.

Safety Considerations

The batteries used in EVs and solar panel storage are based on lithium-ion or some form of lithium metal and may present a fire hazard.  A fire can be caused by overcharging, equipment failure or impact leading to thermal runaway within the battery which can spread to batteries or goods in close proximity.

It may be necessary to evaluate the building’s existing fire services to deal with any potential fire arising from either chargers or batteries. In addition to detection and suppression systems (sprinklers and extinguishers), installation of emergency shutdown for charging stations and updated evacuation plans may be required. These will have to be assessed as part of any consideration of installing EV chargers of any kind.

Legislative Requirements

There are particular requirements under the Owners Corporation Act 2006 (OC Act) which must be complied with in respect to installation of any EV charging system.

The owners corporation will be providing a service to members over and above any existing obligations.  In accordance with section 12 of the OC Act this will require approval by special resolution, meaning that 75% of the members must be in favour.

The supplier of the EV system will require a lease or licence of common property to allow for the installation of the equipment, since the supplier owns the equipment until any condition passing title to the owners corporation occurs. This requires approval by special resolution. If solar panels are to be installed on common property to provide energy, a lease or licence is necessary unless the OC will own the panels.

If EV chargers are to be located within an individual owner’s lot, a licence from the owners corporation to the supplier is required to allow for the backbone throughout the car park and the cabling to connect to the backbone.  The ownership of a charging station within the lot will be a matter between the supplier and the lot owner.

Consideration should be given to making rules regarding the recharging of EVs, whether on common property bays or within a lot, to ensure proper regulation.

Electric Bicycles

The increased use of electric bicycles may create the need for charging points on common property (not required if residents are not permitted to store bicycles on common property). Although bicycles can be charged from any domestic power point and do not require the installation of dedicated infrastructure, there are issues which need to be recognised.

Bicycles usually use lithium-ion batteries which can be of varying quality with those of lower quality potentially more susceptible to ignition and fire. There is also a risk of fire if a charger not specified for the particular battery is used.

If bicycles are stored in close proximity to one another on common property, the ignition of one battery may spread to others. Similarly, if a bicycle is being charged within an owner’s storage lot, and catches fire, the fire may spread to other goods within the storage area, and potentially to other lots and common property.

Fire detection and suppression systems may need to be upgraded to minimise the risk of fire spread.

An owners corporation may wish to make rules regarding charging bicycles, particularly if charging is to be undertaken within a storage lot.