Electric Car Charging Stations for Private Garages

I recently stumbled upon an interesting article about a California-based company which installs electric car charging stations in private parking garages.  Having been contacted by several California community associations looking for a way to accomodate their members’ desire to buy electric cars and charge them in the associations’ private garage, I was excited to see that Coulomb Technologies sells its “ChargePoint” charging stations, which are about the size of a parking meter, for about $2,000, and, according to the article , they are easily installed in most garages which are already wired for lighting.

But wait, it gets better!  According to the article, a charging station may actual generate revenue for the association.  The electric car owners purchase a subscription from Coulomb Technologies, which entitles them to receive a key fob that activates the charging station, and the association receives 80% of the subscription fee.  Of course, to determine whether or not this is a fiscally prudent thing to do, the board of directors would need to determine the cost of the electricity typically needed to charge an electric car as it compares to 80%  of the subscription fee.  If those numbers don’t add up (if in addition to the cost of the charging station itself the association will be “subsidizing” the cost of the electricity to charge a car), then it strikes me that it would not be fair to the majority of the owners (who don’t have electric cars) to share that expense.  According to Coulomb Technologies’ founder and CEO, however, a condo or co-op community could expect not only to break even but to begin seeing a return on investment in about five years. 

It also seems to me that, as I have discussed regarding solar panels, a power purchase agreement or lease would be another way to fund the cost of installing these charging stations.  The investors purchasing the stations, of course, would receive the subscription fees, not the association, but it would be a way for the association to make this service available to its members without any capital outlay by the association.


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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Like you, I am very enthusiastic about the future of electric vehicles and their appropriateness for multi-family communities. The prospect of the community profiting from charging stations on their premises is an added bonus. Nevertheless, I suspect the process is much more complicated and expensive than we may hope or expect. High subscription fees may actually discourage homeowners from purchasing electric cars from the start so homeowners should be involved from the very beginning to help way the costs, disruption and benefits of the stations. Designs will have to be made, an electrical engineer may be necessary and permits will likely be required. Additionally, only licensed and insured contractors and subcontractors should be hired to install the units. Like any major construction project, careful consideration should be made regarding statutes of limitations regarding construction defects and appropriate insurance requirements be put in place and adhered to. This is a significant capital expense that: (1) will be used for many years, (2) will not pay for itself for at least five years, and (3) will involve significant voltage that if installed or used improperly could cause significant injury or death.

    • Thank you for your comment, Cary. Since insurance coverage and legal liability risk management are my “thing”, you’re speaking my language! I agree that there would be both technological and liability risks to be managed should an association decide to move forward with this, in addition to the first steps in the analysis – will it work for this community, and how will it be paid for? This is the kind of analysis that community association managers and association attorneys are skilled at helping board members navigate. Helping an association apply that analysis to successfully plan and finance a “cutting edge” project like this would (dare I say it) be fun!

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