An apartment carpark
Credit: Scottie Scheid

A new study of apartment block residents sponsored by the City of Sydney has shown an overwhelming 78 per cent of respondents would be happy to have EV charging facilities installed in their blocks in the near future.

And 48 per cent of those surveyed are also seriously considering owning an electric car within the next 5 years, research company Wattblock concluded in the report.

Funded by the City of Sydney using a $20,000 innovation grant awarded by Telstra’s startup acceleration program muru-D, the survey is significant because of the high rate of response from participating apartment block residents.

The resident survey gauged 20 blocks, totaling 3,317 apartments, and looked at factors such as where residents would like charging infrastructure to be installed, as well as how the extra power used from charging EVs would be paid for.

In answering the survey, the over half of respondents (61%) requested charging infrastructure individual car spaces, with over three quarters asking for user pays systems (79%).

Source: Wattblock

Speaking with RE, Wattblock’s chief data officer Ross McIntyre said he believes the high rate of response was because of the potentially divisive nature of the introduction of EV charging facilities.

While there were many positive responses, there were also many that were negative.

“Electric cars should be BANNED from the building and those who contravene this by-law forcibly evicted,” one respondent wrote.

However, others indicated the installation of EV chargers would influence their buying decision.
“I am looking to buy a new car but holding of to get a small – medium electric car when charging stations are more available,” said another respondent.

One interesting trend that became apparent in the survey has also been seen elsewhere, a phenomenon known as ‘EV clustering’.

The phenomenon happens in the centre of major cities, correlating with socio-demographic factors such as higher incomes.

EV clustering has been commonly noted in centres with a high EV uptake – like Norway – having been recognised in other research such as by McKinsey.

Wattblock have also noted it occurring in apartment complexes.

McIntyre explained to The Driven what this means for apartment block dwellers making the change to EVs.

“McKinsey’s report is broadly in alignment with our own findings. The conclusion are on the overall impact of the energy grid – there’s not likely to a material impact.”

But they stop short of looking at apartment blocks.”

This is where it gets interesting, he says.

“Their studies are around Germany, a euro-centric study. In Australia, in the big cities and in pretty much all of Asia we’ve got much higher density living environments, we’ve got large apartment blocks.”

Where you’ve got very high rise, premium buildings, you’re more likely to have an initial higher uptake of EV within those buildings,” he continues.

And then it snowballs from there.”

Large apartments require large infrastructure investments if all residents are to be able to have an EV in their car space – which is what people want, says McIntyre.

While there are instances of developers now selling apartments in new blocks as “EV ready”, there is also strong interest in converting existing buildings.

It’s not an easy thing to do though, McIntyre explains.

“You have to put in place strata by-laws on how people can install an EV charger on their car sce, and addition you have to take into account the existing infrastructure.”

Having an EV carspace is like adding another apartment.”

“The problem is with EV clustering phenomenon, [is that] you’ve got high uptake,” he elaborates.

Then they make the decision to invest in infrastructure…to make it EV ready, and the billing systems and so forth. That then attracts more people to get EVs.”

Unmanaged, people come home at the same time after work, and they’re plugging in their EVs at the same time, causing power degradation and outages.”

McIntyre explains that there is an opportunity for utility companies to have more control over energy demand, but that the real challenge is reaching strata management.

While Wattblock says they are able to provide data showing how the energy demand can be managed, strata management can tend to be reactive rather than proactive when approached regarding investment in infrastructure.

For now, McIntyre says that one of the recommendations is simply to extend the survey, and with an extension of sponsorship from the City of Sydney, this is likely to happen.

The survey continues to be open and available nationally, and Wattblock will continue to collect the data to assist in council awareness or policies that they may be looking into.

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