What to Do With an Electric Car or Plug-In Hybrid When You Live In a Condo


With their limited range and small sizes, it should come as no surprise that nearly 98 percent of electric vehicle registrations happen in “urban areas” or densely populated cities.

While the green lifestyle is very appealing to prospective EV owners, the ever important challenge of charging a car is hard to ignore. It’s pretty easy if you have your own house with a garage, but if you live in a condo or apartment, you may be wondering how to charge your own car at home. Fortunately, we have some ideas. 

Whenever it’s time to talk about charging an electric car, we have to bring up the types of chargers involved. There’s Level 1 charging, which uses your typical 120-volt plug. To get the full 107-mile range on a Nissan Leaf, that would take almost 26 hours of straight charging. In other words, it’s not exactly ideal for daily use.

Instead, you may want a Level 2 charger, which is what most EV buyers get at their home, if they can. These operate at 240-volts and can charge cars much quicker. In the case of a Leaf, it can charge fully in about 7 hours or even less if the car is equipped with the optional 6.6 kW onboard charger.

Finally, there’s Level 3 charging, also known as fast chargers, which are very powerful and are typically used in paid stations. Some of these stations aren’t compatible with every EV. For example, Tesla uses its own system, called Superchargers. These can charge a compatible electric vehicle in just over an hour. They’re typically used for quick charges during a road trip.

Getting a Charger


Electric car owners should look to use a Level 2 charger at home, but if you live in a place with shared parking facilities like an apartment or condo, then you may not be able to install a charger.

It’s not impossible, though. A recent bill passed in California, called AB-2565, will allow renters to install a charger in their parking spots if they’re willing to cover all the costs associated with the installation. Granted, that means there’s no DIY process here (even if you’re an experienced electrician) and you’d have to use electrical engineers to perfrom the work. This is in contrast to installing a charger in a garage at a house, which you can do with whatever contractor or electrician you want or even yourself, if you have the right know-how. Some condos also require the electricity from your charging station be metered and billed back to your unit. 

This bill is a step in the right direction, but is limited in scope. It’d be great to see such a bill expand to other cities around the country.

For homeowners (not renters) with parking spots, it is also possible to install a charger in your spot in your condo’s parking garage. Technically, you own that parking spot, so you can buy and install a charger there, however, because you don’t own the facilities, you need to present your case to the homeowner’s association. Nissan and other EV advocacy groups provide whitepapers that will help convince landlords about the benefits of installing chargers at their buildings.

Scheduling Charges


If you’re renting a condo and aren’t able to install a charger in your rented parking spot, you could consider flipping the charging schedule. Instead of charging at home, charge while you’re at work. A readily available Level 1 charger wouldn’t improve your situation that much, but it may be enough to help you commute home. Eight hours on a 120-volt charger could net you just more than 30 miles, which could be usable for some city dwellers.

Another option is to install a Level 2 charger at your workplace. That’s may not sound like an easy task, unless you’re the boss of your company, but there are some initiatives in place that help broadcast the benefits of having chargers are the workplace. In particular, a CALSTART study suggests that having chargers at a business can help in terms of marketing, and even retain customers and employees. CALSTART is a non-profit organization that works with the public and private sectors to develop advanced transportation technologies and foster companies that will help clean the air, lessen our dependence on foreign oil, reduce global warming, and create jobs.

Finding a Charger


If not at the workplace, then there may be a public Level 2 charger nearby your home or workplace. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center (part of the US Department of Energy), there are 14,656 public Level 2 and DC Fast Charging stations in the country, and nearly 2,000 more private stations that you would have to pay to use. You can also make it a habit to only go shopping at places you know will have charging stations. More shopping centers are featuring charging stations and it’s a huge help for both customers and retailers. 

Owners could use an app like PlugShare to help find a station close to them. PlugShare is a service that allows EV owners to find and review charging stations. For public stations, users can even message each other to coordinate sharing and time remaining on a plug. Users can even find friendly EV owners who are willing to share their personal chargers. Another function is that users can use the app to pay for charge stations. Finally, for those who want to do a longer trip with can plan it with PlugShare.

At first, it may be difficult to grasp the concept of living in a condo or apartment while owning an electric car, and there are some hurdles to deal with when it comes to getting your own personal charger in those buildings, but it’s not impossible. Public stations are popping up more frequently, and there’s a number of resources available for EV owners to find some place to plug in.


GreenMonkeyPants says:

Actually, Level 1 (120V) charging is viable for many EV owners. The rate at which need to charge is more of a function of how many miles per day you need to drive. If you can plug in when you get home from work, and charge for 12 hours, you’re adding 40 miles to you range nightly. If your driving less than that per day, level 1 charging is perfect for you.
There have been countless studies, that show nearly 80% of drivers drive 40 miles per day or less.

Is there really a requirement to have “electrical engineers to perfrom the work” when installing EVSEs?

Robert Sage says:

This is about if you live in an apartment, you gonna stay at a charging facility for 12 hours?

GreenMonkeyPants says:

In a condo or apartment, it is easy to provide low cost 120V outlets, in a garage or shared parking area.
and yes, you’ll be parking there overnight anyway.