EV Charging at Multifamily Housing: Challenges and Solutions

Mar 27, 2024 | Blog |

Here at Interfaith Power & Light, our goal is to be guided by principles of climate justice and equity, and our work toward clean transportation is a critical piece of this objective. As we move toward transportation electrification in order to protect our Sacred Earth and communities, we must focus on historically underserved communities. One way to do this is expanding electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure at multifamily housing complexes, including apartments, condominiums, and duplexes across the country. This blog post will help break down our justice-oriented view of EV infrastructure, the challenges that block widespread multifamily charging networks, and how we can move forward to create a charging system that works for everyone.

Historically, American transportation systems have been marred by racism, classism, and anti-worker sentiment, creating structures that are unjust. In addition, communities of color and low-income communities are disproportionately harmed by air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels; these communities are also more likely to live near major roadways, shipping hubs, and other transportation routes due to historically racist practices such as redlining. Today, “Black and Hispanic Americans are exposed to 56 and 63 percent more particulate matter pollution, respectively, than they produce.” This is especially concerning for people of faith and conscience because all our spiritual traditions call on us to treat our neighbors with respect, dignity, and compassion. 

According to Plug in America, a national electric vehicle advocacy organization, residents of multi-family housing are more likely to be lower income, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color) and/or members of historically polluted communities. This means that multi-family housing residents have an unprecedented opportunity to benefit from the health, financial, and environmental benefits of vehicle electrification. However, one of the biggest factors in the decision to go electric is charging availability. Currently, approximately 80% of EV charging is done at home, as it’s more affordable and convenient, meaning that multi-family housing residents without easy home charging access face a significant hurdle to widespread EV adoption. In fact, a 2022 survey found that the most significant economic factor for consumers when deciding whether to purchase an EV is access to inexpensive at-home charging

While equitable charging access is so important, there are many barriers to expanding multi-family housing charging systems. Firstly, neither landlords nor tenants want to pay the up-front costs associated with EV chargers. There is typically a cycle of quick turnovers in the multifamily residential housing industry, so property management companies are unlikely to view installing EV chargers as worth the initial investment and ongoing maintenance. Tenants, on the other hand, are not typically in the position to demand landlords install chargers, and are unlikely to commit to the time, energy, and money required to install chargers at housing they do not expect to live in on a long-term basis. 

So which solutions create the foundation for long-term, sustainable growth of our multifamily EV charging infrastructure? New building codes that require builders and property management companies to have “‘EV Ready’ plug-and-play access for every resident with parking in all newly-built homes, – whether single family, duplex, or multi-family housing.” EV Ready parking spaces are parking spaces that have “electrical panel capacity, a raceway, conduit, and receptacle installed.” Essentially, these parking spaces are electrically functional and only require a portable cordset to become fully functional EV charging stations.

According to Plug in America, there are four components of equity-centered multifamily housing EV code: providing each household unit that has parking with at least one EV-Ready parking space, requiring at least low-power Level 2 and Receptacles, wiring receptacles directly to each tenant’s electrical panel (versus allowing a middleman to charge a premium), and installing clear signage that advertises each parking spaces’ EV-Ready status. Another critical mechanism that can help facilitate charging installation is Right-to-Charge laws, which “are intended to prevent homeowner associations or landlords from arbitrarily blocking residents who wish to install charging.” There are also provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that help offset the cost of EV charger installation– “starting January 2023, new installations of EV charging stations may qualify for tax credits of up to 30% per charger (including infrastructure upgrades and installation) up to a $100,000 max.” (Check out our blog post on federal funding for EVs for more information!)

Overall, while multifamily EV charging poses some complex hurdles, a systemic, regulation-focused approach can help mitigate these challenges and create equitable charging access. We no longer have time to wait to address the climate crisis, which is fueled in part by dirty, polluting fossil fuels burned by vehicles with internal combustion engines. A robust charging system can help put us on the path to zero-emissions transportation, and we as people of faith and conscience have a moral opportunity to work for environmental justice and equity in implementation for the sake of our communities and Sacred Earth. We need your support – learn more about IPL’s work to instate robust national clean car standards here, and click here to access our library of past EV webinars.

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