How this Guelph condo building is getting ready for an EV revolution

GUELPH—Susan Parks paid $2,500 for an electrical line that runs to her spot in the parking garage at her condo in Guelph.

It’s a rough-in for an electric vehicle (EV) charger.

But she doesn’t own an EV.

Along with 85 other gasoline-powered car owners in her condo, Parks signed up for the rough-in to ensure that when she does buy an EV, she’ll have a way to charge.

“It’s a good deal financially,” she said. “And everyone was getting it done.”

With EV sales on the rise – making up more than eight per cent of all new car sales in Canada last year — the difficulty of installing charging stations in condos and apartment buildings is a growing concern.

There are no federal or provincial requirements for condos to provide EV charging infrastructure, according to Electric Autonomy Canada. The Ontario Condominium Act, however, requires condo boards to allow owners to install their own chargers, except in exceptional circumstances.

But a future where every owner runs their own electrical line not only puts all the costs on individuals and results in clumps of wires snaking through parking lots, it could penalize late-comers after the early-adopters use up all the electrical service available for the building.

This eventuality is what pushed the condo board at the Riverhouse Condos in Guelph to appoint an EV committee, who came up with a solution.

“(Allowing individuals to install their own chargers) is a trap. It divides people up,” said Tom Jenks, a member of the condo’s EV committee. “We had to do this as a building and take care of everybody.”

The plan saw eight subpanels installed throughout the parking lot so that every owner would be an equal distance from the main electrical line and wouldn’t have to pay for cable all the way back to the electrical room. This also evened out the cost for the closest and furthest spots away.

To pay for the sub panels, the condo needed about 60 of the 131 unit owners to sign up for a rough-in. They hoped to get 10 or 15 people the first year and the rest over the next decade, financing the project with a loan.

But when the plan went to a vote in April 2021, they got 84 people to sign up right off the bat. Only two of them owned an EV.

They had all the money they needed, and didn’t end up needing a loan.

The overwhelming result was the product of months of research and communication, flyers and meetings, said Jenks.

“We knew this was going to be a hard sell,” he said. “We had to do it completely honestly and transparently and break it down into small chunks so people would actually read it. It was crucial to get buy-in.”

Condo manager Kevin Pereira said he was impressed by how thorough the EV committee was and said that’s how they convinced their neighbours to invest in something that wasn’t immediately useful to them.

“It doesn’t matter if you want an EV. Many of our residents are in their 80s and will never get one. But it will increase your property value regardless,” he said.

Pereira described how the EV committee did all they could to reach everyone in the building, chatting in the hallways and elevators and organizing information sessions, including one where they brought in a real estate agent who said a charger would increase their condo’s resale value by $10,000 to $15,000.

Riverhouse condos in Guelph.

As an extra incentive, owners who signed up at the beginning would be given the cheapest buy-in price: $2,500. Any owners who wanted a rough in after that would pay $3,000, increasing five per cent every year after.

Jenks said that the project was structured so residents not interested in participating weren’t on the hook for the costs.

“It’s the best of both worlds: if you get it now it’s cheaper; if you don’t want one, you don’t pay anything,” he said.

Word has gotten out among other condos in Guelph, and board members have come to take a tour of their project, said Bill Summers, president of the board at Riverhouse.

“There is much that can be done in condo buildings to help fight climate change, though it is a lot of work by dedicated volunteers to make it happen,” he said. “This project (shows) others what they can possibly do for their condo buildings, as EV infrastructure in a building is a major hurdle for EV vehicles in the future.”

The rough-ins don’t look like much: A silver metal pipe that runs along the ceiling and down the wall to a small electrical box that looks like it should have a light switch or a plug in it. There are dozens of them sprinkled throughout the parking garage, and a few Xs in red tape where more are set to be installed.

Jenks, who owns a Toyota 4Runner, doesn’t think he’ll ever buy an EV. But he’s proud of his rough-in and the work he did to convince his neighbours to get them too.

“Whoever gets that parking space will thank me – thank us,” he said.


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