Electric Cars

Time For Your Building to Plug Into Electric Car Charging?

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March 9, 2016 — In 2014, more than 10,000 plug-in cars were on the road in New York State. That number is projected to triple by 2018 and reach 1 million by 2025. It would be natural for an enterprising co-op or condo board to sense an opportunity. After all, someone has to charge all those cars.

Unfortunately, boards are unlikely to make significant money catering to electric vehicles. Because of the low cost of electric fueling and the general inconvenience of providing the service, charging stations are not effective moneymakers. However, despite the lack of profit potential, electric vehicle charging can offer value for boards looking to attract high-quality tenants while doing the planet a favor.

Beam Charging is the biggest provider in New York, with 120 charging stations citywide, which are operated by Blink/CarCharging. ChargePoint is the national leader, with just under 27,000 locations across the country. ChargePoint communications director Erin Mellon says charging stations offer convenience for drivers and aid for the environment, but not windfalls for station owners.

“Most businesses across our network are not making money with EV charging stations,” Mellon says. “That’s not their number one goal.”

The Seward Park Co-op on the Lower East Side of Manhattan is a case in point. When the board installed four charging stations in 2011, it was motivated by environmental concerns, not the profit motive.

“We were trying to find ways to become a greener community, not to sound like a cliché,” former Seward Park board president Michael Tumminia says, explaining that the board wanted to make electric vehicles attractive to their shareholders. “We’re a community of 4,000 people and wanted to encourage people with ease of use.”

The way the stations charge money varies. At some stations, you pay a flat fee – for example, 49 cents per kilowatt hour at GMC Parking at 550 W. 45th Street. Others charge by the hour – at Imperial Parking Systems at 165 E. 77th Street, it’s $2.95 per hour with a maximum charge of $24. Some stations, including those partially funded by tax dollars, are free.

It doesn’t take much money to charge an electric vehicle, but it does take a lot of time. Most chargers need between three and six hours to get a car to 100 percent. Charging an electric car isn’t complicated and it’s not a huge burden on customers to do it themselves. Often, the car owner needs to swipe an RFID card to get the charging station to work. It’s like using a credit card to pump your own gas. If buildings want to offer a luxury experience, valets can do it.

Beam makes an agreement with the properties, which get a portion of the revenue, while Beam owns and operates the station. Sometimes Beam reimburses for electricity, but agreements vary. ChargePoint, on the other hand, sells equipment and charges an annual subscription fee. It’s up to boards to figure out the best fit for their building and their budget.

As Seward Park’s experience shows, electric car chargers can be assets because they reflect and strengthen a community’s values. They can also, as a bonus, make a co-op or condo more attractive to buyers.

“It’s an additional amenity for the property,” says Suzanne Tamargo, spokesperson for Blink/Car Charging. “More and more people are driving electric cars. Usually if buildings don’t already have one resident driving an electric car, they’ll have one soon. It’s a way to remain competitive and be proactive before residents start asking for it.”

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