This is a two-part blog series on how automotive amenities are shaping renter user experiences. The first installment examines the installation of electric vehicle chargers onsite, and a later story will dive into the growing car sharing trend.
Last week, at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Chevrolet unveiled a new all-electric vehicle (EV) – the Chevy Bolt – that will cost slightly less than $30,000 after federal tax rebates and be able to travel 200 miles on a single charge. According to a press release from the automaker, the new model is designed “to deliver a long-range electric vehicle attainable by the masses.” By contrast, Tesla has offered all-electric car models that start at around $70,000.
With the introduction of the Bolt, EVs are poised to become more prevalent at apartment communities. What are your plans for accommodating a growing number of these drivers? Always looking for the new, cutting-edge amenity, some communities already have installed charging stations to simplify and enhance a resident’s living experience in their rental home.
Alliance Residential Co. (Alliance), which owns and fee manages apartments in 29 metropolitan markets across the country, was an early adopter of EV technology and currently has charging stations installed at 32 of its properties, according to Kelly Vickers, director of sustainability.
The majority of Alliance’s charging stations are located in California’s largest markets, including Los Angeles, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay Area. That’s hardly surprising given the relatively high demand for EVs in the Golden State — nearly half of the 330,000 EVs registered in the U.S. are in California, according to the New York Times. Alliance has also installed charging stations at communities in Austin, Texas; Denver; Georgia; Phoenix; and Washington state. In all, the firm has 124 charging stations across its portfolio, Vickers says.
For Vickers and Alliance, the stations are about delivering a sought-after user experience and meeting the needs of both prospective renters and current residents who drive EVs. “In those markets where EV adoption is high, it’s just aligning with our residents’ lifestyles, and it’s allowing them to drive the cars they want while providing greater flexibility,” Vickers said. “Workplace charging is pretty common, but it’s also nice to be able to come home and charge without having to stress about finding an outlet.”
“I think in markets like L.A., San Diego, the Bay Area, Seattle and Austin – some of those bigger urban markets – this is an extremely important amenity,” Vickers added.
As for whether its communities make residents pay for using the stations, Vickers says the decision is left to the ownership of a property. She estimates that the majority of Alliance-managed communities do not charge renters, but she notes that apartment properties do have a number of options for collecting fees from users, such as charging for the amount of energy consumed or the amount of time the vehicle is hooked up to the station, or offering a monthly subscription plan. Vendors who serve the multifamily industry by maintaining the stations and collecting fees for communities include Blink, ChargePoint, CarCharging, Inc. and EVgo.
Broadstone Little Italy, an Alliance-managed community in San Diego, has three Blink charging stations, which are free for residents to use, according to Michael Brown, business manager for the property. Prospects commonly ask about the stations, and the number of EVs at the community currently totals about a dozen, Brown said. “We do have prospects who come in who own electric vehicles like Teslas and will lease because of the [stations],” he said.
On the other hand, Met Lofts, a Los Angeles apartment community managed by Alliance, has two ChargePoint stations that EV drivers can use for a “nominal” fee (the property also features two Tesla stations that are free), says Marie Hershberger, business manager at the property. Like Brown, she’s noticed “a great deal of interest” in the stations on the part of prospects. “But many further inquire about assigned charging locations, which we do not offer,” she said. The stations are instead available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Asked how EV chargers rank as a preferred amenity when compared to features such as high-speed Internet, fitness facilities and pools, Hershberger noted, “They are making their way up in rank. I have found that 5 percent of prospects and residents are very interested in this amenity. This is based on my current location, but that may be greater in different areas.”
Multifamily professionals note that, at least at this point, EV stations do not offer a strong ancillary income opportunity. The average rate for the user can range anywhere from “$5 to $12 per charge,” according to an NREI column by Laura Khouri of Western National Property Management. Furthermore, the cost of installing a station and the attendant infrastructure can be significant. According to an April 2015 report by the EV Charging Pros and LightMoves consulting firms, the capital cost “often exceeds” $15,000. Instead, the benefits to owner/operators include meeting a rising demand, being able to market a property as eco-friendly and, depending on the jurisdiction, tax credits.
Are EV charging stations the in-demand amenity at the moment at your communities? Is the new Chevy truly a game-changer or is the technology a passing fad? Should communities offer charging for free, or is this a good opportunity for ancillary income? Electric cars and car sharing are slated to be topics at a session at AIM 2016: The “X” Experience, and panelists and attendees will be exploring these questions and more.
In the meantime, tell us your thoughts about EVs in the comments thread below.