For the past year, I’ve considered installing an electric vehicle (EV) charger in my multi-residential condo in San Jose. mind you; I don’t have an EV yet. But I have friends with EVs who visit often, so I figured it might be beneficial and convenient for others. Plus, I believe an EV charger can’t hurt from a condo resale standpoint if I decide to move from the Golden State.
Let’s face it: the electric vehicle market is growing rapidly, projected to grow at a CAGR of around 22% from 2022 to 2030. When a new demand pops up, good things happen; More models of EVs from new brands, with more options and styles, appear on the market, at wider price points.
In August, Congress passed climate legislation with significant tax exemptions that, over time, are expected to make some EVs more affordable to buy.
So, with a future safe mindset, I decided to install an EV charger in the garage of my condominium complex. Here’s the story of my “journey” in setting up an EV charger. Consider this a warning if you live in a condo building.
Why do you need an EV charger at home?
One may ask why one needs an EV charger at home, while so many are appearing in shopping malls, public places and offices. After all, the bipartisan infrastructure law has dedicated $7.5 billion to build a nationwide network of 500,000 chargers so that charging is “predictable, reliable, and accessible.”
Regardless, I believe most Americans considering an EV will want an in-home charger in their home, building, or condo garage. It’s hard to take away the convenience of filling your car in a few minutes at the pump, while spending 45 minutes on a supercharger to store enough juice to travel 200 miles or if your vehicle’s charge is low.
Also, I’ve got feedback from people in my building with EVs but the inconvenience of getting up early in the morning to charge their cars without a charger, even though Tesla has little banks of “superchargers” in a nearby garage. Be more than 250 feet from my building. Convenience is a big deal for most consumers trying to pass down a century of combustion engine benefits.
EV charger installation adventure begins
With all this in mind, in early June, I set out to start the process of installing an EV charger in my condo building. Recognizing that about ten cars in the garage already had EV chargers installed, I didn’t believe it would be a difficult undertaking.
There are no Elon Musk plans to land on Mars, but preliminary plans for an EV charger installation (Image Credit: SmartTech Research)
To streamline the installation process, I decided to use ChargePoint’s information services available to businesses, fleet operators, and homeowners on the company’s website. ChargePoint is a leader in the EV charger field and provides excellent guidance for individuals like me who need as much handholding as possible.
While ChargePoint’s website does an excellent job of getting customers ready for installation, it ultimately referred me to Qmerit, a company focused solely on installation of EV chargers.
Qmerit offers its online “wizard” that asks about your service, location, vehicle and property, and load calculation (which is important to determine whether your home or building can handle the EV charger load) ).
You also need to submit photos that help you understand your installation needs to Qmerit to provide you with an accurate estimate, for which Qmerit charges a $149 flat rate that will be deducted from the entire project cost.
This is where the fun started.
After receiving an estimate from Qmerit, it referred me to several local EV charger installation contractors for follow-up. Many of them expressed little interest in taking on my project because they were either too busy with larger projects or didn’t have time to visit the site to verify installation requirements.
The two installers got back to me. The first came out and gave me a non-negotiable estimate of $4,000 plus the cost of the charger. That quote sounded too high, so I respectfully passed.
Things got brighter a few days later, when a second contractor, NRG Electric, gave me a more reasonable quote of less than $3,000, excluding the charger (which I supplied), but including the $250 permit fee from downtown San Jose.
Keeping costs aside, I thought the biggest hurdle I would face would be getting approval from my homeowners association. But NRG did a great job with the proposal approved by the HOA in less than 48 hours.
The city of San Jose was a dramatically different story. Despite applying for the permit in mid-July, NRG informed me that San Jose would not be able to “review” my proposal until mid-September – 60 days after submission.
foundation day has arrived
Flash forward to the end of September when NRG got word that the city had approved the proposal. It is still a mystery why the proposal took so long to be approved, as the building had precedents for several EV chargers already installed.
Installation finally took place in early October. Two technicians from NRG Electric did a thorough professional job installing a direct power line from the building’s electric room, which, fortunately, is less than 100 feet from my parking space. It required turning off my unit’s power a couple of times during the entire day’s installation process, but for the most part, it went off without a hitch.
The charger I installed, the ChargePoint Home Flex, is currently available from Amazon for $749, though keep in mind that prices for EV chargers fluctuate based on demand.
The ChargePoint Home Flex EV Charger is sleek and aesthetically pleasing. (image credit: chargepoint)
It’s a level 2 charger that supports up to 50 amps (which my building’s electrical panel provides), allowing me to add a charge capability of 37 mph, 200 after just six hours of charge time Provides more than road miles. To achieve these fast charge times, the Home Flex requires a 240-volt connection—similar to a traditional clothes dryer.
On the downside, since I don’t have Wi-Fi connectivity in my garage, I can’t take advantage of the Home Flex’s online features, such as schedule setting, Alexa voice control, or reminders when power is cheap, so I never forget when. Have to plug in.
More seriously, there’s no way for me to protect the charger from others who want to charge their cars when I’m not at home, so I used a $20 bicycle padlock to secure the charging handle from unauthorized persons. Took help.
While single-family homeowners are likely to have an easier EV charger installation experience, as the process is less regulated than in a multi-unit dwelling (at least in California), I was surprised that the necessary How much time was required to get the permit?
Obviously, these permit rules are in place for safety reasons as most of today’s multi-unit condos and apartment buildings were not built with EV charger installs in mind. Still, 60 Days is laughable enough, especially in a state like California that sees itself as the leader of the EV phenomenon.
We are also talking about a non-trivial market. As of the end of 2021, in the US, there are approximately 5.2 million multi-family residential buildings (which include everything from duplexes to large high-rise buildings) with 40 million housing units. States and cities should do a better job of streamlining the EV installation process from week to day.
Finally, there is the matter of cost. With gasoline approaching $7 a gallon in California today, more people are taking the EV plunge, even though the average price for an electric vehicle is around $66,000.
Add an average of $4,000 for EV chargers, installation, permissions and the total cost becomes almost prohibitive. Indeed, companies like ChargePoint are doing their best to simplify the process and reduce hardware costs. However, the government needs to do something excess Better job of shortening the timeline.
The bottom line is that I never would have guessed that a simple installation of an EV charger in my condo building would have taken about three months. Sadly, I suspect that my experience is not unusual.
Let’s hope cities like San Jose start paying attention.