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If current trends continue, we’re soon going to see many more electric cars on the road. Most of the leading automakers already offer electric options or have promised to in the near future. This is great news, unless you happen to live in an older multi-tenant building.
The ideal scenario for electric vehicle drivers typically includes charging your car overnight in your garage. But in urban areas, where electric cars—like any type of car—are most likely to be found, many drivers live in apartment buildings with parking garages that were never designed with electric vehicles in mind. When older buildings were constructed, architects planned on enough power for lighting, ventilation, and the odd standard outlet. They didn’t anticipate that drivers would want to plug in their electric cars, drawing upwards of 30 amps per vehicle.
In newer buildings, this often isn’t an issue. Joseph Nagle, Director of Marketing with EverCharge, notes, “More and more new properties are allocating power resources to handle EV charging, and we’re starting to see that slowly expanding across the U.S.”
However, in older buildings, simply adding more power is often not an option. Joseph comments, “Adding additional power to a building’s underground garage is very cost-prohibitive and extremely expensive. Typically we see that if power is already maxed out in a building, it will cost between $20,000 to $100,000, depending on the location to the next available power source, to bring more power into that garage.”
Does this mean that people who want to drive electric cars and who live in older apartment buildings are simply out of luck? Will they either have to move or just give up on the idea of escaping the gas/diesel trap? Fortunately, there is another option.
In 2013, Jason Appelbaum had recently purchased an electric vehicle and, living in an apartment building that didn’t provide chargers, he faced the challenge of where to plug in. Tired of leaving his car at public charging stations for 2 to 4 hours at a time, he turned to his engineering background and devised his own solution, a system he called SmartPower, and he formed a company, EverCharge, to share it with others.
Instead of devoting all available power to one or two chargers, EverCharge’s intelligent SmartPower technology distributes power to multiple chargers, dynamically adjusting the power so each vehicle charges in the optimal time.
Joseph explains, “SmartPower uses a learning algorithm, enabling the EV chargers to communicate with each other through a wireless mesh network. This increases the capacity of the chargers 10 times. So in a typical building here in San Francisco you may have a hundred amps of free power available for adding electric vehicle chargers. With a traditional charging solution that would support 2 or 3 chargers. With our SmartPower charging solution we can support between 12 and 15 or even more chargers, depending on the driver’s habits and how they drive over time.”
EverCharge does more than just provide intelligent chargers. Their full-spectrum service includes an on-site evaluation, liaising with building management, having licensed electricians install the chargers and related hardware, monitoring power usage, billing users, and reimbursing the building owners.
What do the numbers look like for electric vehicles going forward? Joseph comments, “I think we’re in the middle of a really fast change in the automotive industry, and you can see that with all of the major automotive manufacturers coming out and stating that they are going to be releasing hybrids and electric vehicles. Volkswagen has even said that in the next few years they will only offer electric vehicle solutions. Chevy’s Bolt is going to be a sub-$35,000 vehicle, the Tesla model 3 is going to follow suit, and we’ll see quite a few others come after that. That is all with government subsidies, however I would expect by 2040 that EVs will not even need a government subsidy to be cheaper than gas-powered vehicles. We’re expecting 20 million EVs on the road by 2020, and I would expect by 2040 or so we’ll see more EVs sold than traditional gas-powered vehicles.”
Beyond the direct cost of electric vehicles, which is gradually coming down even as the technology improves, the biggest obstacle to the wider adoption of EVs is the lack of infrastructure to support them. Already, areas with high concentrations of EVs are witnessing incidents of “charger rage,” with drivers unplugging other people’s cars before they’re fully charged.
Joseph continues, “If there’s not a major infrastructure change it’s going to cause some serious problems for EV drivers. Currently, right now in the United States, there are 15 electric vehicles for every 1 charging station. With an average charge time of 2 to 4 hours that math doesn’t really add up.”
EverCharge’s SmartPower technology helps to re-write that equation.
“If people are concerned about their buildings not being ready,” Joseph advises, “they can always get in touch with their property manager to schedule a site evaluation with us. That will go a long way in getting the market ready for the EVs that are coming.”