At My Green Montgomery, we like to share information that will be helpful for residents. This Case Study is especially helpful for Homeowners Associations.
A longtime resident of the Clarksburg Condominium II in Clarksburg, MD, Robert B. first heard about Tesla’s electric cars in 2010. Since then, motivated by environmental sustainability and energy independence, Robert has been considering how he could make successfully transition to a zero-emissions electric vehicle (EV). Like many prospective EV drivers, access to reliable charging was one of his main considerations.
In the Spring of 2022, Robert and his community took action to address this barrier by researching, gathering support, and installing Level 2 EV chargers in their shared parking lot. Robert shared his experiences in this Case Study to help other residents of multifamily and common-ownership communities navigate the process of installing charging, also known as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE).
Robert bought his first electric vehicle – a Tesla Model Y – in 2021. He knew he wanted a home charging solution to minimize disruptions to his lifestyle, so he had already prepared his own garage for charging equipment. But many Montgomery County residents, including some of Robert’s neighbors in the Clarksburg Condominium II community, do not have a private garage or parking space to install a personal EV charger. According to Robert, “You cannot own an EV if there is no way to charge your vehicle.”
As the President of the Clarksburg Condominium Association for the past 11 years, Robert was motivated to add charging stations to the surface lot parking available to condo community residents and visitors. With more major automobile manufacturers committing to phase-out gas vehicle production in favor of EVs, Robert views EV charging stations as more than an amenity, rather as a critical necessity for the community.
While Robert was committed to install some EV chargers in the community parking area, he knew that the project would require some effort in planning, as well as the approval of the condominium association. Robert brought the idea for this EV charging project to the condo’s management company, which helped guide and assist him as he sought approval for this project expenditure from the condo residents. The management company was not fully supportive of the project in the beginning, but by working closely with them in the process helped ensure it was “by the book” according to the association’s regulations and bylaws. Moving forward with the project required an affirmative ‘yes’ vote from two-thirds of all condo residents in the community’s two forty-unit buildings.
As a part of initial outreach to his neighbors, supporters of the EV charging stations sent an email survey to all residents to gauge their interest in this project. Next, the association held several open forums with community residents to discuss the project and share educational resources about the benefits of EVs and EV charging projects.
Robert also personally spoke to several homeowners via telephone to address their concerns, and he worked hard to dispel the myth that EVs are luxury vehicles – market data shows that the price of EVs is comparable to many ICE vehicles available today. Robert consistently made the case for the project by focusing his messaging on three key points:
The condo association even developed a Frequently-Asked-Questions page on their website to provide clear answers to residents.
The Clarksburg Condominium Community does not have assigned parking for each unit; instead, parking is accessed on a first-come-first-served basis. Luckily for Robert, there was ample parking in the shared surface lot, about 1.1 parking spaces per unit. Robert identified a potential ‘EV area’ with six parking spots somewhat set apart due to a green space which would be perfect for the charging stations. He then began researching charging equipment, with the intent to buy and install two dual-plug charging stations to serve four parking spaces. He also learned about the Maryland Energy Administration’s cash rebate of 40% of the cost of the EVSE equipment and installation (up to $4,000 per station). But upon researching further, he learned that the Maryland rebate counts a dual-plug charging station as one station, even though it can charge 2 vehicles simultaneously. Due to this structure, Robert calculated that the out-of-pocket cost for six single-port chargers would be less than the net cost of three dual-port chargers. Robert selected JuiceBox PRO commercial grade chargers from EnelX for this project. The Clarksburg II chargers are advertised on PlugShare and open to the public
In addition to the 40% cash rebate from the State of Maryland, Robert also researched any assistance he could receive from the utility, Potomac Edison. The power company’s “EV Driven” program offers an incentive of 50% of the equipment and installation costs, up to $20,000 per site. Further correspondence with the utility revealed that “the early bird gets the worm” – there was luckily a nearby transformer with enough spare capacity to handle the increased electrical load presented by these planned EV chargers. Typically, the utility builds their infrastructure at capacity, and the end customer must pay for any transformer upgrades that are needed to serve new electrical demands. In this case, with untapped capacity existing nearby, the condominium would only pay the ‘connection fee’ ($2,000) to connect the dedicated 400-amp electric service from the transformer to the new meter planned for construction as part of the EV charger installation.
With these details in mind, Robert developed a budget to share with other residents, and by his calculations, the project was eligible for at least $44,000 in rebates between the utility and the State of Maryland. Robert received great support working with his utility on their multifamily residential EV charging program and encourages others to consult with their utility early to get the best guidance.
The incentives, as well as the fact that public use of the chargers would create a revenue stream to help offset expenses, made a big difference for some residents who opposed the project based on cost,. In the end, Robert’s advocacy prevailed, and the EV charging project received the required affirmative votes to be approved by the association. The management company coordinated this effort, getting the community legalities finalized and helping Robert to develop a bid for local contractors to do the construction and installation work. Several contractors responded for the work with proposals ranging around $60,000, including the hardware (breaker, panel, an additional meter specific to the chargers, and the charging stations themselves), labor, and installation costs for six single-plug EV charging stations. Labor accounted for approximately 60% of the contractor’s total costs for this project.
The cost of the project after the state and utility rebates was just $16,000. The community was able to get financing for the full $60,000 up-front cost of the project through the Montgomery County Green Bank and City First Enterprise’s Small Business Energy Savings Support Program.
The Clarksburg Condominium II project required both an electrical and commercial building permit. The selected contractor was responsible for securing the necessary permits from the Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services (DPS). Permit applications must be submitted with all required documentation and drawings, and signed by the correct stakeholders, and it typically takes DPS no more than three weeks to issue a response to a permit request. Unfortunately, due to oversights by the contractor, it required several rounds of correspondence with DPS to approve the permits.
Robert describes the permitting delay as the biggest hurdle to overcome with the project. He advises project leads to inspect the templates submitted by contractors for the bid closely and ask to see the permit number or document BEFORE any kind of ground-breaking or construction begins. This is a best practice for confirming with the DPS that the work underway conforms to the permit that was issued.
The charging stations were installed and electrified by March 16, 2022. Six single-plug chargers were purchased for this installation, but the full scope of the project included pre-wiring for 11 additional chargers to be installed in the future at nearby parking spaces. This is a critical best practice utilized as part of EV charging projects, especially in commercial spaces – when breaking ground to install charging, plan ahead for increased need and use the opportunity to lay conduit that can accommodate additional future EV charger installations easily and inexpensively. By laying large enough conduit during this installation project, no retrenching would be needed to add chargers to future spaces. This especially cuts down on the labor costs associated with these kinds of installations.
Maintenance of the charging stations required a commercial-grade approach for this multi-unity case.
For these JuiceBox PRO chargers, the maintenance service subscription is $10 per month per plug, and ongoing WiFi networking fees are about $720 annually. Owing to their networked capabilities, the installed chargers can easily process payment via credit card. Condo residents pay $0.20 per kWh to charge, while the public pays $0.30 per kWh.
For the 400-amp connection from the transformer to the new meter required for this project, there is currently no set rate from the utility, Potomac Edison. The utility will charge a monthly demand charge based on the maximum kilowatts demanded by the site at a given time. Robert expected this surcharge to amount to $50/month; however, after the first month of operation, the community received a $200 demand charge on their utility bill.
They had tested the system by having six units charging simultaneously – Robert said it was a learning experience and was confident they would find ways to reduce their peak demand to avoid these charges in the future. One way to do this is by encouraging EV charging at different times of the day, such as during the daytime or late at night, rather than at the typical evening peak time. They can also use smart features of their JuiceBox PRO chargers to manage charging.
The result of this installation project ensures that Clarksburg Condominium II residents have access to EVSE, and can confidently move forward in choosing electric vehicles. In the first month of operations, the chargers have powered approximately 4,000 miles of driving, offsetting 130 gallons of gasoline consumption. The Clarksburg II chargers are advertised on PlugShare and open to the public.