The journey of a Florida condo owner in building a future-proof EV charging system
“What we wanted to do from a strategic perspective, is to leverage the existing electrical infrastructure and try to get as many EV spaces as possible. SWTCH has the technology to help us expand to 80 or 90 chargers in the garage, which is precisely what we were hoping to do.” – Jim Gardner, Treviso Board Member
The Treviso at The Colony is a condominium with 76 units and each of them has two private parking spots. Jim Gardner has been an EV driver for many years but his FL condo building did not have any spots with chargers. Being the entrepreneurial type, he set out to spearhead a project to bring EV charging to the building.
Just putting a few chargers in a common service area was not an option. “We really need a great owner experience. There’s nothing better than starting off your day with a full charge and not having to worry about it. You come home; it takes two seconds to plug in your car, done!”
The main question was, how could they utilize the existing electrical infrastructure to allow as many EVs in the garage as possible? When he looked into the electrical capacity at the site, he found there was free capacity, which he felt confident they could leverage to install EV chargers. But from there, things quickly got complicated and time consuming.
How to solve load management?
With the main challenge being load management, an intelligent system was needed to distribute electricity on an extremely sophisticated level. Jim has a solid background in software, so he was excited to test out various EV charging solutions. He ran some tests and found SWTCH ControlTM could do exactly what they needed at the property:
“We got two chargers up and running with their latest cloud-based load management software and had some early success with it! So we ordered two more chargers.” After the initial tests, the planning started to develop a strategy for rolling out the chargers. Treviso condos structured the process into 4 phases, with the first one being the test phase. The idea was to test the SWTCH software with its functionalities to gain experience and feedback.
Developing an “EV-Ready” Strategy
In a second step, the condominium plans to install Wifi across the parking garage. Apart from supporting the chargers the Wifi also has the benefit of allowing internet calling, enhancing security within the garage. Providing for 6 access points allows full coverage. Cost of this phase is estimated to cost $14,000.
Phase 3 includes the addition of 14 chargers. The condo has two existing trash compactor circuits that are not in use. Rewiring those to subpanels allows adding 8 chargers with a minimum of 12 Amps each. Converting two dedicated EV charger circuits allows for 6 more chargers, all using SWTCH’s load management technology, SWTCH Control. Cost for this phase is expected to be in the region of $18,000. This is for the wiring set up, and does not include the actual chargers.
Rolling out the Charging Infrastructure
In phase 4, EV readiness will be expanded to accommodate 81 chargers. Jim divided up the 70,000 square foot garage into nine sections. Those sections will all be supported by 100 Amp sub-panels. From there, circuits would go to each charger, with the load sharing happening at the sub-panel level. According to the plan, nine chargers would be hooked up to each of the sub-panels.
The plan to install that many chargers is ambitious and definitely not cheap from a hardware point of view. However, a premium experience for the EV driver is a must for the condo board, so it was decided that private chargers were the best path forward. The employed strategy guarantees a minimum amperage for each charger which will cover the residents’ needs in terms of driving. “These are not commuters; they use their cars predominantly for local drives.” He explains that most people at the condo are just going to the golf course or the grocery store with their car.
Working with SWTCH has been great. I talked to about seven or eight other charging companies, and it’s very difficult to get actual help. SWTCH was super responsive and quick with great advice. I soon realized they had the expertise to work out a customized solution for our condo. That’s why we decided that SWTCH should be our partner here.
The condo board conundrum – who pays?
A frequent stumbling block is how to pay for the charger installation. So far, the condominium board is undecided. There are strong arguments though for distributing the cost for EV readiness across residents as infrastructure expenses. Jim estimates the total cost of the project at around $150,000. Spread over 76 units, that would come out to about $2,000 per unit. An amount that could be spread over a few years to make it easier to digest.
Jim has come up with payment models to take care of the cost of the different project phases. Those and other ideas will continue to be discussed at the next board meetings. With 47% of unit owners considering the purchase of an EV in the coming 4 years, it seems a solution may be near.
There is a clear value for a building to be EV ready. In contrast, for individually retrofitting the same parking spot at a later point in time, the cost would likely almost double. Add the headache of organizing it. From a resale perspective, the perceived value of having charging in place will likely be even higher.
“I am glad to have SWTCH walking beside us on this project. I am confident that they can solve any issues we run into along the way.”