Apartment residents in Wollongong are navigating strata committees, electricity infrastructure and electric vehicle charging requirements to install their own chargers in multi-storey complexes across the city.
Unlike home-owners in detached houses, apartment residents have a few extra hurdles to leap if they want to install electric vehicle chargers next to their parking spot.
While new builds have to be constructed ready for vehicle chargers from October 1, installing chargers in older buildings can be a headache.
After moving into the Parq on Flinders development in Wollongong, apartment owner Colin Lenton joined the building management committee and, in seeing the uptake of electric vehicles, pushed for fast chargers to be installed in the visitor parking area.
For early adopters in other apartment buildings, the cost of installing electric vehicle chargers can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and has been a significant impost to installing chargers.
Luckily, for Mr Lenton and his neighbours, there was additional capacity built into the connection between the complex and the grid.
"We got the company that installed the electricity in the property and they did a test over about two months, monitoring the high and lows, the peak and they found we could run 140 [vehicles] without any major infrastructure."
For many buildings, this isn't the case, as Paul Anthony, Unanderra electrical engineer and consultant points out.
"A lot of these buildings haven't really been set up [for EV charging]," he said.
Mr Anthony said that if each resident in a unit block had an electric vehicle, and charged them all at once, the electricity load would be equivalent to the load of the whole building without EV charging.
To avoid over-building electricity infrastructure at significant cost, on projects he has worked on, Mr Anthony has sought to balance the laid across different times of the day through the use of smart chargers and educating residents.
"As everyone comes from work at 5pm, and turns everything on at the same time in their unit, the load of that building is going to increase and there's not a lot of spare capacity, so what will happen is the EV chargers will get told to throttle back."
In Thirroul, residents at The Pavillions on McCauley street began installing solar panels on the roof in 2011.
Each resident was allocated a portion of roof space to install solar panels if they wished, with the power then fed back into each unit's meter.
Resident Steve Brine purchased an electric vehicle in 2021 and uses the solar generated on the roof to charge his car via the standard plug in the garage.
Now that visitors are parking their electric vehicles in the visitor parking bays, Mr Brine said the strata committee is considering applying for the NSW government's grant for retrofitting apartment buildings with EV charging stations.
"If we don't get free money from the government to install chargers, then one day in the future, three years, five years or 10 years, someone is going to say, we need to install chargers, and they're going to have to pay for it."
Strata buildings can access up to $80,000 to cover 80 per cent of the cost of the building upgrade.
"More than 90 per cent of EV drivers charge their vehicle at home, and we don't want people living in apartments to miss out," NSW energy minister Penny Sharpe said.
With each existing apartment block to determine its own solution for charging, combining solar and grid power, is the first step, Mr Anthony said as vehicle to grid technology is adopted in Australia, electric vehicle owners will be able to use their car as a mobile battery, drawing excess stored electricity from their car battery to power their home during peak periods.
"Domestic buildings are like a perfect storm, because all the load happens at night as well as there is no sun at night," he said.
"During the day, you charge your vehicle to 100 per cent at work, and then at five o'clock you drive back home. If you plug your car in, and then go inside, have dinner and go to sleep, during the hours of five and 8pm your car is going to discharge into your house to help power your house, to alleviate the peak load on the grid."
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