Charging up an electric vehicle is a necessity for tenants who drive them. The idea seems simple. Just plug them in. However, what many rental property owners and investors don’t know about EV charging is that the existing 115 V outlet on your property may not be equipped to handle the load an EV puts on that circuit. Installing a new 240 V outlet or charging station may work in some cases, but they can be expensive and may add to a property owner’s long list of hassles.
In addition to owning and operating a rental property business, I’m also an automotive expert and member of the New England Motor Press Association. I test electric vehicles, along with all types of vehicles. Each week, I evaluate and report on a new vehicle. My experience living electric has come with many real-world lessons. Here are seven important things that property owners and beginner investors need to know about EV charging and rental properties.
1) Electric Vehicles Need To Be Charged On a Special Dedicated Circuit
Every electric vehicle manufacturer sends a new owner home with what is called a “Mobile Charger.” This is a charger that is external to the vehicle and plugs into a receptacle (aka outlet). These chargers are not designed to be the vehicle’s primary charging solution. Mobile chargers work on 115 V circuits. However, not every circuit is appropriate for EV use.
We looked at the owner’s manual for every popular electric vehicle on sale today. Included in the search were models made by Tesla, Ford, Nissan, and General Motors. Every one of them prohibits the charging of their vehicle using the mobile charger on a shared circuit. Rather, the manufacturers say that EVs require a dedicated circuit. In other words, a circuit that goes directly from the panel to the receptacle. GM further states that the circuit should be rated for continuous high-amperage duty.
Most receptacles on a property are on a shared circuit. If the load on this shared circuit is too high, the breakers may trip, or if the breakers fail, a hazardous condition is created. Also, outside circuits must be ground-fault protected by code. Allowing a tenant to charge on an improper circuit can create liability risks.
2) Extension Cords Are Prohibited By Every EV Automaker
When an EV owner has no handy outlet, the obvious solution is an extension cord. We won’t drag out this section. Suffice it to say that every EV manual we read explicitly prohibits charging using an extension cord. The reason is that the added length of the circuit may overload the wiring inside the home.
3) Adding In a 240 V EV Charging Circuit Comes With Cost Surprises
EV chargers that operate on 240 V circuits are called “Level 2 Chargers.” An EV can charge at a much greater rate using such a setup. However, adding them is expensive for many reasons. Property Manager Insider says that the average level 2 charger installation costs $6,000. Aside from the cost of the circuit installation, your panel may require an expensive upgrade to accommodate the new high-amperage circuit. We priced an upgrade of an older low-capacity panel to 200 amps and the price was just under $5K. Adding a simple outlet in a parking lot can easily top $10K. Municipalities also require building permits and electrical inspections by the town’s experts for new circuits.
4) Shared EV Charging Stations Come With Hassles For Property Owners
In larger rental units or condo unit complexes, a shared Level 2 EV charger may be proposed as a solution. These setups are installed by companies that may profit from the charger. The EV charging company (ChargePoint, for example) may even help with the cost of installation.
However, if you are a condo homeowner’s association manager or the owner/manager of a multi-unit rental property, beware. You will become the police of the charger. Some EV owners will park a vehicle in such a spot even after it is finished charging. When another EV owner sees that their special spot is taken they will call you to solve this issue. Owners of conventional vehicles will also park in these spots at times and, again, you become the EV charger police.
We have seen social media posts from EV owners in multifamily housing that say people from outside the community come in to charge off of the complex’s shared EV charger. Unless you want calls to resolve problems you have not created, don’t be part of any shared EV charger setup.
5) There Have Been Recent Fires Related To EVs
The most popular and top-selling affordable battery-electric vehicle is the Chevrolet Bolt. The Bolt is a great vehicle. However, General Motors has been struggling to resolve a long-running problem with Bolts catching fire and burning up. In some cases, they burned up inside residence garages. This lead GM to instruct vehicle owners not to park Bolts affected by the recall inside of garages.
Recalls and fire risks can happen with any type of vehicle. In the case of EVs, the problem can be directly related to charging. The Bolt fires were not the result of improper charging. These were vehicles with internal battery-related defects.
6) Each EV Uses Hundreds of Dollars In Electricity Each Year
Although electric vehicles are much more energy-efficient than conventional vehicles, they are not inexpensive to fuel (energize). The EPA’s site FuelEconomy.Gov publishes the average estimated cost to charge an electric vehicle per year. Both Tesla and Ford have EV models that cost $750 per year on average to charge. Unless your tenant is paying for the electricity, a wise rental property owner would steer clear of offering a charging location for an EV.
7) EV Owners Feel Entitled To Charging – Beware “Discrimination”
Unless your lease or rental agreement specifically prohibits it, a tenant may use any receptacle they can find to charge their EV. As we explained above, many outlets are not designed for this duty. If one tenant creates an improper charging solution, others will feel entitled to do so also. One owner went so far as to accuse his landlord of discrimination. As you renew your leases and rental agreements, be sure to include language related to EV charging.
EV Warnings From Manufacturers
Every automaker includes warnings related to improper charging of the EVs it sells. The manuals are easily available online. GM’s manual says “Improper use of portable electric vehicle charge cords may cause a fire, electrical shock, or burns, and may result in damage to property, serious injury, or death.” If your tenant asks to charge and you are not certain that the outlet can accommodate charging, your electrician can inspect it to see if it is a dedicated circuit rated for a continuous high amperage load. If it is not, you can refer the tenant to their manual and explain that a proper charging outlet is not a feature of the property they have rented.
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