How do I get an electric car charge point for my apartment block parking space?

Property Clinic: Will the management company pay – or can it even be done at all?

I live in an apartment in the Dublin suburbs. The development was built about 15 years ago and has both underground and overground car parks. Our car park space is in the underground section. My partner and I both have an interest in environmental issues and we are now considering buying an electric car.

However, we probably will not go ahead with it unless we have charging for the vehicle on-site, preferably in our own parking space, as we do not want to have to spend time queuing at the local on-street charger or to have situations where we cannot get the car charged in a timely way.

We have emailed our owners' management company (OMC), via the managing agent, about this but it says it has no plans in 2020 for electric vehicle (EV) charging points. The OMC is also saying that it would not support our installing our own charge point (if this is technically possible) in our own space. Does it have a right to say this?

Also, given the importance of climate change, shouldn't all progressive residential developments be moving to install EV charging points?

Many thanks for your query on what has become a topic of discussion in many multi-unit developments.

EVs are at a relatively early stage of roll-out in Ireland. It is estimated that about 1.5 per cent of new car sales in 2019 were EVs and the figure may rise to about 3 per cent in 2020. EVs now constitute well under 1 per cent of the total stock of cars.

As EVs may provide an important contribution in reducing carbon emissions, you are right that residential developments with car parks should now be considering the implications of EV. That said, EVs and charging create a number of practical challenges in multi-unit developments, especially those built before EVs became available, ie where no charging points were installed when the development was built.

I know of several OMCs that reviewed this issue in the past year but for a variety of reasons, most (if not all) are adopting a wait-and-see approach on installing charging points.

As to you installing your own charging point, there are cases where owners who have electricity meters close to their car park space have cabled up their own EV charge point and pay for the electricity used via their own meter.

However, there are reasons why OMCs can be reluctant to allow owners to do this. Firstly, while such a solution may be okay for one car park space that is located close to the relevant meter, it can create problems if multiple owners install their own cabling or if cabling has to travel any distance, which it sounds like might be the case in your development with both underground and overground car parks.

Secondly, there are some technical issues. ESB Networks is not enthusiastic about individual owners making connections off individual power supplies in car parks, for health and safety reasons. Also, while meters are normally marked as connected to one apartment, connection terminals linked to individual apartments are rarely marked and this could mean an EV charge point is connected to an incorrect connector. Furthermore, meter boards normally do not have too much spare capacity so they can probably just facilitate a minority of apartment owners.

An alternative approach by individuals looking to install charge points is for them to ask that these be connected to the common area electricity supply (thus avoiding the problems of connecting to their own meter). This leads to the question of who pays for the electricity. Again, this may not be a big issue with one or two EV users. However, as the number of EV owners grows, it would not be fair for owners who do not own EVs to subsidise owners who do, via OMC electricity.

Another technical issue may relate to electricity “loads”. As the number of EVs rises, and the number of fast chargers grow, an OMC has to be careful that surges in electricity usage do not overload the system and knock out power for apartment owners. This raises the question of whether the current base infrastructure is adequate.

A further issue relates to standards used for charge points. This matter is still evolving and it would be important that individual owners don’t lock into proprietary standards (as per some solutions currently on the market) but instead favour open standards that will link to each other and to any wider OMC infrastructure.

So there are good reasons why an OMC may wish to discourage individual owners from installing their own charge points, but would prefer that charging points be installed centrally via the OMC.

Of course, for the OMC, the fact that the standards continue to evolve is also an issue as is the fact that it should not adopt a “closed standards” solution. There is also the question of who pays to put the charging infrastructure in place, ie does the OMC pay centrally or can it in some way link the costs of this infrastructure to EV users in the development. It may be possible to develop a pricing model which means users pay slightly above the market rate for electricity, thus allowing the OMC to recoup its initial costs of fitting the technology over time.

There are multiple issues involved, some quite complex. These help to explain why OMCs have been slow to retrofit apartment developments for EV charging. However, there is no doubt that this issue is now moving up the agenda for residential developments.

My advice to any OMC would be to get expert advice before installing EV charge points and there are now a number of EV consultants who advise on this issue. Organisations such as the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI), Engineers Ireland, and the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland (SCSI) may also provide advice.

There may also be a role for increased government involvement on this matter. The Government has set an ambitious national target for numbers of EVs on Irish roads. Many people live in apartment developments yet there is currently no assistance (either financial or technical) to support OMCs in installing EV charging points. Leaving the roll-out of charge points, and the issues involved, to individual multi-unit developments to navigate will inevitably slow down the uptake of EVs in Ireland.

Finbar McDonnell is a chartered property manager and a member of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland,