How can I charge an EV when I live in the inner city? | The Driven
Source: Ubitricity
Source: Ubitricity

I live in an inner-city suburb of Melbourne and like most such residents have to park on the street – permit parking means I can park right outside my house.  I am super keen to buy an electric car (I hate fossil fuels) but I’m worried about the charging.

I live in the City of Yarra where there are almost no public charging stations and definitely none near me (I have spoken to council officers and councillors about providing a few public charging stations and they’re really not interested). 

I had planned to charge at my holiday house (plenty of off-street parking) or occasionally use an extension cord onto the street/ or a friend’s face but have been scared off by the article about charging from power points. I am not an electrician and have pretty much zero knowledge of such things. 

I have solar panels and so the Nissan LEAF had initially seemed attractive except for its long charging times. I am now thinking of the updated Hyundai ioniq EV.

I’m finding it really hard to find any information about how people without off-street parking cope.

I look forward to your assistance

Many thanks,

Hi Viv – a good question! Just like the uptake of solar PV, the simplest solutions were installed first (fully North facing, easy access, single plane roofs at a safe angle, no shading etc, etc).

However, just as the solar industry adapted to the real-world of odd angled roofs, not full sun all day etc, so is the EV car industry adapting to a world where not all cars are kept in garages next to a switchboard with ample capacity to install an EVSE charging facility. (EVSE = Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment).

For a home charger, EVSE is a fancy name for what is nothing more than an automatic power point).

EVSEs are now available that are full weather rated for those who charge outside (like me), and smart EVSEs are being rolled out with timer, app and network control abilities to take advantage of time of use tariffs and manage network demand management issues.

The next issues now being addressed are:

  • where there is no direct access to the householder’s switchboard (units and high-rise apartment dwellers) and
  • Those with no off-street parking at all.

I’ll leave (a) alone today – but in your case, options are becoming available (though there are not a lot yet).

Your current options (for a longer range EV like the Kona electric, Tesla Models S, X and 3) are to:

  • Use a DC fast-charger (plus for Teslas, the Tesla-only Supercharger network) for charging the EV once every week or two. (By the way, most of the DC fast-charge systems being rolled out by the main networks are 100% renewable supplied);
  • Use the growing network of (generally free of cost) AC chargers at shopping centres and the like to top it up between times: at a 7kW EVSE, you get around 50km charged/hr. Note that depending on your trip needs, a shorter range EV like the Zoe, Nissan Leaf or Ioniq could also do the job – but remember, the current Zoe does not do DC charging.
  • Use workplace charging (even at 3.6kW on a 15A outlet, 8 hrs would give you 200km charged. At 7kW, a Kona would almost fully charge in that time). If you don’t have workplace EV charging – get that EV and start working on them to install something by showing the EV flag!

The longer term answer: councils overseas are well developed in offering on-street parking solutions, such as the Ubertricity light-pole mounted EVSE shown above.

Here in Australia, councils are working towards developing on-street solutions in normal local streets (including parking restriction signs limiting the spot to permit holders, plus time restrictions at the charging spot so as not to hog it for the rest of the street dwellers).

However the policy wheels of local government move slowly, especially when there is no appetite for coordinated national approaches ….

In the meantime – it is well worth lobbying your local council with examples of how it can join the EV revolution and in the process clean up the air in your inner city suburb.

Joining organisations such as the Australian Electric Vehicle Association can help a lot there. (That was a shameless plug by me: I am secretary of the Victorian AEVA branch, and chair of their EV Charging Support sub-committee).

As for your current predicament, given there are no DC fast-chargers near you and public AC charging options are still a bit thin on the ground – it may be worth looking at a PHEV with a decent EV-only range rather than a BEV.

As an example, the Hyundai Ioniq PHEV gives a ‘real-world’ range of just under 50km. This means it would meet the ‘average’ daily commute of 30km, easily charge in just under an hour during a shopping trip where a 7kW EVSE was available, or get a full charge even on a normal 10A (2.4kW) power point at work.

Such a PHEV would also easily get your longer trips done without having to hold off buying a full BEV until the DC charger networks roll out further (although that is happening fast).

By the way – I would not be quite so scared of using a power point for an EV, just be wary if it is an old house with old wiring. I would not plug into one of those. (Nor leave leads across a footpath. Too many safety issues).

Kind regards


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