EVs Encounter Condo Conundrum

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt

Japan is the world’s center of gravity for plug-ins one actually can buy. News from the land of Nippon also illustrate a little detail that prevents EVs from wholesale adoption.

There is an EV conundrum that had been largely overlooked or ignored amongst the hype: So you need a charging station in your garage. What if you don’t have your own garage, because you live in an apartment complex? Range-challenged EVs are targeted at dense cities, and where do people live in dense cities?

Even if you could convince your building’s management that the greening of the planet is their moral obligation, there are other obstacles to overcome: “It is more difficult to install chargers and 200-volt power sources in buildings with multiple households than at a single-family home because fees must be collected from individual users and security measures must be in place to prevent unauthorized use,” writes The Nikkei [sub]. “Installing them at existing condo buildings is even more time-consuming because it requires approval from the residents association.”

Those pesky little details. Running fiber to your wall to give you gigabit Internet sounds downright trivial compared to equipping basement or (oops!) roadside parking spaces with hefty chargers. And where is my gigabit fiber anyway?

To allow condo-dwellers to charge up, you need to – brace yourself – build new condos. This is what “a growing number of real estate developers” in Japan are planning to do. They intend “to build condominium complexes with parking lots and garages equipped with electric car battery chargers, expecting the cars to become widespread in the near future,” reports The Nikkei. It will be slow going.

Daikyo, one of Japan’s largest condo builders, “will set aside roughly 10 percent of the parking space to install EV battery chargers at the 70 or so condo complexes it will build in the Tokyo metropolitan area next fiscal year.” Smaller builders Itochu and Mitsui Fudosan are working on 10 buildings. Let’s hope they will put in the conduit for the remaining 90 percent.

Here is another sign that chargers won’t grow like mushrooms in the dim light of condo garages: The chargers need to be administered, usage of chargers needs to be — charged.

For that, Japan’s Fulltime System Co. has devised a system that allows the tracking of EV battery chargers at condo complexes from one single location. According to The Nikkei, Fulltime “aims to win business at 50 new and existing buildings this year, charging each building several hundred thousand of yen for the service.”

Nasty legacy infrastructure.

At least something is done in Japan. I shudder at the thought of the discussions with my former Upper Eastside co-op board.

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href="http://www.tomokoandbertel.com"> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href="http://www.offshoresuperseries.com"> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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  • Zeus01 Zeus01 on Jan 13, 2011

    "Charly is right. Just exactly where is the money for maintaining highway infrastructure going to come from if use of EVs become widespread (not likely any time soon) and road tax revenues decline? It isn’t “sleaze”, it’s reality. Our roads and bridges aren’t going to fix themselves." True, there has to be a viable user-pay method of supporting the cost of maintaining our highway infrastructures. But the devil of course is, as always, in the details. And this is where the sleaze comes in. Not sure how the details play out in the states, but here north of the 49th parallel fuel taxes were originally introduced specifically for the understandable purpose of maintaining our highways. Said funds generated were directed to this cause exclusively. So far, so good. But governments of all levels have the damnedest habit of becoming addicted to the succulent taste and smell of other people's money, namely that of taxpayers. Soon this revenue was quietly rolled into that black hole known up here as "general revenue." Now it could be mis-appropriated at will, and with the smoke-and-mirrors show that the feds cooked up we peasants didn't know what struck us. How bad was the sleaze? One Readers' Digest article years ago stated that out of all funds raised from fuel taxes the feds were only returning 16 cents on the dollar to our highway infrastructure(!) I'm not against having some form of user-pay system levied against those driving pure-electric vehicles. An annual tax on odometer miles driven would be fair. OR a system of toll highways could work if administered fairly. But bureaucrats are notorious for dropping the OR in favour of AND when it suits their whims. Typically they introduce one method, then once that has been grudgingly accepted they, over time, introduce another and then another. And the odds against even a modest majority of funds reaching their intended target are high. It's called sleaze, folks. Plain and simple.

  • SchmilBit SchmilBit on Jan 15, 2011

    You've made me realize this will be a HUGE problem -- the build-out for charging these cars. I live in a high-rise building in Chicago, built in th 1960s, 600 units, an underground garage with 300 cars, 75 of which are "floaters," which means they are parked randomly by the garage staff wherever there is room. After 2-3 years, these floaters will inherit a permanent assigned space. We do not have deeded spaces. Many garages in Chicago operate this way. There are many, many buildings like mine. I'm president of our condo board. The chief engineer is a friend of mine. I asked him about running 220 or even 110 power to spaces in the garage. He rolled his eyes. In Chicago, all electriity has to be run in conduit. Most big cities (where the highrises are) will have similar codes. Our garage is pretty spread out (it's on one level) with the electricity entering the building sort of at one end of the garage. There are several "rooms" in the garage with fire doors, etc. The ceilng of the garage has lots of sewer and other piping already in place? A tough place to run big, new conduit. Where would the new conduit run? Would you run a heavy-duty line (3-inch conduit) to a junction box, then break it down, etc. fanning out to individual parking spaces? Would this conduit have to go in the floor (breaking up concrete) because it would be tough to run it along the ceiling, and impossible to run along the walls? Would electric cars get assigned spaces closer to the electric source, which would make them more "desirable" because they'd be closer to the door into the building? And finally, WHO PAYS FOR THE BUILD-OUT? It would cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to create this infrastructure, and if 50 people have electric cars, it would be too costly for them to pay for it. And it would be completely unreasonable for non-electric people -- and the 300 non-car residents -- to pay for any of it. I can't see us spending this kind of money for a limited "amenity" when we need to spend first to upgrade to faster elevators, a new roof, better windows, energy-efficient boilers -- the list goes on. And all this assumes there is some easy way to meter the electricity use. If you have to tap into Edison's power ahead of our building's master meter, you have even more problems and cost. SO I JUST DON'T SEE HOW THIS COULD WORK for the majority of high rise buildings, where many of the electric car people curently live. A suburban commuter driving a VOLT, no problem because there's no range anxiety. A suburban commuter with a LEAF on a cold day where his battery is down 30% and he gets stuck in traffic from an accident and sits there with his heater off, afraid to waste power -- not going to happen. I'd like to see more about the real-world life of electric cars, among the people most likely to own them. And I haven't even mentioned the tens -- maybe hundreds -- of thousands of Chicagoans who park on the street! Welcome to the big city.

  • Redapple2 Another bad idea from the EVIL gm Vampire.
  • Daniel J Alabama is a right to work state so I'd be interested in how this plays out. If a plant in Alabama unionized, there are many workers who's still oppose joining and can work.
  • ToolGuy This guest was pretty interesting.
  • NJRide So this is an average age of car to be junked now and of course this is a lower end (and now semi-orphaned) product. But street examples seem to still be worth 2500? So are cars getting junked only coming in because of a traumatic repair? If not it seems a lot of cars being junked that would still possibly worth more than scrap.Also Murilee I remember your Taurus article way back what is the king of the junkyard in 2024?
  • AMcA I applaud Toyota for getting away from the TRD performance name. TuRD. This is another great example of "if they'd just thought to preview the name with a 13 year old boy."