It costs four to six times as much to install EV spaces into a building as a stand-alone retrofit as it does to just build the spaces as part of new building construction or major alterations. 

That’s among the findings of a paper released earlier this fall, prepared by Energy Solutions for Tesla, ChargePoint, and the California Electric Transportation Coalition. It looks at the costs building owners face, and concludes that it’s a lot better to think about charging electric cars up front, rather than wait for policy or mandates to catch up. 

Looking at urban markets, public charging infrastructure isn’t looking like the most serious challenge for the viability of electric cars. Simply being able to charge at home or at work is. People living in apartments, condos, or plexes need places to charge overnight—or at the very least, a place to plug in at work. 

As the result of a push and pull between a group of shareholders in California, including CARB and the organizations involved in this paper, with the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the code was revised in the state to also raise—beginning January 1, 2020—the percent of new EV-capable parking spaces in multi-family dwelling buildings to be 10 percent. Voluntary tiers up the percentage to 15 and 20 percent.

According to the paper, workplace and non-residential building charging will need to accommodate a fleet that’s 18 to 24 percent plug-in vehicles in 2030. 

California has a goal of deploying 1.5 million zero-emission vehicles and 250,000 public EV charge points, including 10,000 DC fast chargers, by 2025. 

Charge Point 240-Volt Level 2 charging station at the Elysain apartment building.

Charge Point 240-Volt Level 2 charging station at the Elysain apartment building.

Primarily, the report looked at two scenarios. First, it examined the cost to build EV-capable parking spaces in a standalone way, to match the upcoming requirement that 6 or 10 percent of parking spaces be EV-capable (not installed with EVSE, but with a plug that could service it at 120V or 240V)—upped from the previous 3-percent requirement passed in 2014. Secondly, it looked at the cost to install EV-capable spaces as part of certain other building alterations, like parking-lot repaving, parking expansions, or building redesigns. 

The equipment needed to trench new conduit parking spaces, for instance, will likely already be there are part of a remodel or repaving. 

For instance, the report’s authors found that an EV parking space for a small office or retail setting cost as little as $1,370, but an estimated $9,247 as a standalone retrofit, that would involve ripping out the pavement. 

Although the paper is California-specific, according to Axios, both ChargePoint and Tesla are pushing for these changes on a city level around the country, as it's a matter of upgrading permit requirements. 

The moral of the story, hopefully, is that builders and those who own and invest in commercial and large-residential real estate will take note—and understand that if they wait to upgrade only to the minimum that future policies might require, it’s going to cost more.