In the six months since Yogi Omar bought an electric car, he’s never used a public charger.
“I plug it in at home overnight once every three weeks,” said Omar, a broadcast producer who lives in Vancouver. “Right now, I only drive on weekends because I’m working from home. I don’t drive too much, and my car’s range is huge.”
Omar bought a Hyundai Kona EV last fall, a month after his condo installed a 240-volt outlet – the kind used for clothes dryers – next to his parking space.
“I wouldn’t have bought an EV without it,” Omar said. “I’ve had an electric scooter for years, so I would have just kept riding that.”
Omar, who lives in a 31-year-old building with just 12 units, paid to install the outlet.
He shared a provincial rebate with the six other owners who decided to get plug-ins installed in their stalls.
“It cost me $3,250, and I got $1,500 back,” Omar said. “Before this, there was just one 120-volt outlet for the whole garage.”
Across Canada, many condo and apartment dwellers looking for an outlet for their EV ambitions aren’t always so lucky.
Most cities still don’t require new residential buildings to be EV-ready, and people wanting to install outlets in existing buildings can face steep costs and resistance from condo boards and neighbours.
“A lot of people tend to think most EV owners are city-dwellers, but that’s not the case,” said Daniel Breton, president and CEO of Electric Mobility Canada, a non-profit that promotes EV adoption. “It’s more people who live in the suburbs or rural areas because they have a driveway or a garage where they can plug in their cars.”
Vancouver ‘leading the way’
There are two ways to charge EVs at home. The slowest is at a regular 120-volt wall outlet. It gives you about eight kilometres of range for every hour of charging.
A Level 2 charger requires a 240-volt outlet and gives you about 30 km of range an hour. Once you have the outlet, you can either get a dedicated Level 2 charger, which can cost $400 to $4,000 before installation costs, or buy a portable EV charger for around $300.
If you can’t charge at home, you’re stuck with either public Level 2 chargers or fast chargers that can get most cars up to 80 per cent of a full charge in 30 to 45 minutes.
When it comes to making new residential buildings EV-ready, Vancouver and its neighbours are ahead of most of Canada, Breton said.
“I would say Vancouver is leading the way, and Montreal and Toronto are trying to catch up,” Breton said.
Vancouver and 13 nearby cities, including North Vancouver, Burnaby, Richmond and New Westminster, require that all newly-built residential buildings have a 240-volt outlet in every parking space.
In new residential buildings in Toronto, 20 per cent of parking spaces must have 240-volt outlets. The rest must have wiring roughed-in.
Montreal said it’s working on city-wide regulations to require some EV charging in new condo buildings.
In much of Canada, cities can’t always easily impose local bylaws requiring EV chargers in new buildings.
That’s because building and wiring requirements are decided by provincial building codes, said Melissa De Young, director of policy and programs for Pollution Probe, an environmental non-profit.
“Vancouver was able to do it because [in British Columbia] EV charging is considered out of scope of the Building Act, so local governments can regulate it,” De Young said. “There’s a barrier in other provinces.”
Right now, no provincial building codes require EV plug-ins in apartments and condos, and that needs to change, De Young said.
For instance, since 2018, Quebec has required that new houses, duplexes and townhouses have wiring roughed-in to allow future installation of 240-volt outlets, but that doesn’t apply to buildings with more than four residential units.
In older buildings that weren’t built with EVs in mind, rewiring to accommodate an EV charger can get pricey. Installation costs for each stall could range from a couple thousand dollars to more than $20,000.
Then there’s another barrier – you need your condo board’s approval.
In most provinces, condo boards don’t need a reason to deny your requests to install a charging outlet in your parking space, even if you’re paying for everything yourself.
In 2018, Ontario’s Condominium Act was changed so boards can only reject your request if it breaks the law, poses a safety risk or could damage the building.
“They can’t say no without a pretty strong reason,” De Young said, adding that other provinces are exploring similar rules.
Still, although it’s convenient to charge at home, most of us drive less than 40 km a day and could get by with charging at a public fast charger once a week, De Young said.
“A charge can last a really long time,” De Young said. “I think there’s still a disconnect between [the range] people feel comfortable with and the reality of what they’ll actually use.”