Increasing Access to Charging for Renters in Multi-Unit Dwellings

June 8, 2022 | | Environment

The Issue

It’s well known among the electric vehicle (EV) community that most charging takes place at home overnight. However, renters often face higher barriers to installing EV chargers at their residences due to lack of support from property owners or managers, inaction from local governments, or other reasons. Reduced access to home charging prevents many renters from pursuing EV adoption. This post will dive into these challenges and explore viable solutions.

Renters account for about one-third of US households and about half of Minnesota households. Additionally, according to data from the Pew Research Center, Black and Hispanic households are more likely to rent than own, furthering racial and ethnic disparities in EV adoption.

Furthermore, according to Atlas Public Policy, only 16 percent of vehicles in the US are owned or leased by people living in multi-unit dwellings (MUDs). That suggests that car ownership—EV or otherwise—is out of reach or undesirable for most renters. Because EVs cost a lot less to own and maintain than gasoline vehicles, they could be a transportation option for renters if charging at MUDs was more readily available.

In addition to providing EV charging capabilities, MUD property owners should also provide resources to residents for biking and walking, providing multiple options for zero-emissions transportation.

Without access to home charging, renters must rely significantly more on public charging infrastructure or opt not to drive an EV altogether. Improving charging access at MUDs can help more renters pursue EVs as a transportation option.

Local governments can encourage MUD charging development by incorporating EV-ready parking requirements through ordinances, educating property owners, and connecting property owners with electric utilities to take advantage of MUD charging programs.

EV-Ready or EV-Installed Ordinances

Local governments can implement zoning ordinances for new MUD construction projects that require developers to carve out EV ready or installed charging spots.

EV ready means there is available panel capacity, conduit wiring, and charger outlet for future charger installation in the parking spot. EV installed spots have a charger installed and ready to use. Requirements for the number of parking spaces designated EV-ready or EV-installed can be based on percentages, number of parking spots, or other criteria as explained below:

  • The City of Richfield, Minnesota, passed EV charger requirements for new multifamily housing developments. Under the ordinance, residential buildings have different requirements based on the number of units—the more units a building has, the more designated EV ready or EV installed parking spots it must have.
  • The City of Saint Louis Park, Minnesota, passed an EV charging ordinance in 2019 as part of its Climate Action Plan, requiring a minimum number of parking spaces with EV chargers based on the land use and number of parking spaces.
  • The City of Golden Valley, Minnesota, implemented an amenity points system, requiring developers to implement publicly available amenities for the project to be approved. They award “an electric vehicle charging station accessible to residents, employees, and/or the public providing connections at the rate of five percent of the required parking spaces” as one point out of five required points.

To be inclusive of renters living with disabilities, local governments should also consider requiring a certain percentage of EV charging spots to comply with American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements. Alternatively, local governments can incentivize ADA-accessible EV charging installations. See the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s guidance designed for state agencies or local governments installing EV chargers to comply with ADA requirements.

Local governments should work with new developments to ensure that EV charging is addressed in the design and planning of new buildings. Doing so greatly reduces the barriers renters face when considering purchasing or leasing an EV.

The Great Plains Institute’s Summary of Best Practices in Electric Vehicle Ordinances shows language used by cities across the US that are requiring EV-ready parking spots in MUD housing and can serve as a helpful resource for local governments.

Increasing Education to MUD Property Owners

Local governments can help property owners realize the benefit of adding EV charging—it helps them reach more niche markets of renters by offering the added amenity. To gain a better understanding of renter needs, local governments should encourage property owners to conduct a resident survey or assessment to accurately understand the changing needs of renters, including asking residents whether adding EV charging stations would make it more feasible for them to drive an EV. Here are some examples of surveys:

Additionally, local governments should share relevant programs and resources with property owners, such as the following:

  • MUDcharging.com, provided by Shift2Electric, guides housing associations, EV owners, housing association members, and utilities through MUD charging.
  • HOURCAR Multifamily EV Project: MUDs can become a site host for car sharing to increase access to EVs for residents who do not own EVs themselves.

Connecting Property Owners and Homeowner’s Associations with Utility Programs

When encouraging the installation of EV charging infrastructure at MUDs, local governments should help connect property owners with their electric utility for additional assistance. Some electric utilities have incentives or programs for EV chargers at MUDs that can reduce installation costs. Local governments should also promote utility incentives to building owners through their website, newsletters, or other communication avenues to increase knowledge of savings available. Here are some examples of Minnesota utilities with MUD charging programs:

  • Xcel Energy’s MUD Pilot Program: provides make-ready infrastructure from the transformer all the way to the charging stall at no cost to the site host.
  • Dakota Electric Association: Multifamily Pilot Program offers Rate 58, a time-of-use rate with two configuration options. Additionally, they offer dedicated commercial and industrial service for EV charging.
  • Great River Energy: Provides design services and EV supply equipment incentives for Level 2 multifamily chargers.

Case Study of City MUD Program

Smart Columbus, an initiative to reinvent mobility in central Ohio, identified the need to target MUDs to advance EVs for all in its Electrification Program. They researched the types of MUDs in their community, installation challenges, and cost of development and payment of charging services. Then they developed a streamlined incentive program (with minimum bureaucratic process) that allows them to study users’ charging behavior. They provided funding for the installation of 90 Level 2 chargers at MUDs in the Columbus region, providing benefits to property owners and tenants.

Conclusion

To create an accessible pathway to EV ownership, MUD charging must be expanded to reach renters. Local governments can support the expansion of MUD charging by creating policies that require EV-ready or installed charging stations in MUD housing, connecting property owners to existing car sharing and charging infrastructure programs, increasing education efforts, and promoting utility programs that reduce costs and assist with installation.