Living In An Apartment Block? You Can Finally Charge Your Electric Car

If you live in an apartment and have a car spot, there's one huge hurdle to buying an electric car. Charging it at home, in your car park, means talking to your building's strata committee and getting permission to hook up a charger — and then actually paying for the power that you use. One of Australia's leading EV charging station installers, JET Charge, has the perfect solution already up and running.

JET Charge has just completed Australia's first remotely monitored Tesla High Power Wall Connector installation, hooking the home Tesla charger into an apartment complex's central power and adding its own usage monitoring hardware into the mix. It's that monitoring that allows JET Charge to automatically reimburse the apartment's body corporate for the power used, making the installation entirely seamless and making the negotiation process — where an apartment owner has to bargain with his or her owner's corporation to actually allow the install — much easier.

We spoke to Tim Washington from JET Charge about the installation, and what it could mean for potential Tesla buyers in Australia, as well as the wider burgeoning plug-in electric vehicle market. JET Charge is Tesla's preferred installer in Victoria, and the team actually already owns a Model S, so they're intricately tied into the Aussie Tesla owners' community.

"A prospective Tesla owner reached out to us and asked whether we could assist in an apartment installation. We got in contact with the facility manager of the building and proposed our solution, which he endorsed. The solution was then handed through to the body corporate for a vote, and it was passed.

"Body corporates are generally OK when there's no admin or expense for them — what they hate is fuss and hassle. Some other owners have tried to set up programs where they will monitor the usage themselves and reimburse body corporate. The problem is, what happens when 5 other owners want to do the same thing? The body corporate won't have the time or patience to administer that.

"The feedback that I got from our client and also the body corporate was that because we could offer the remote monitoring, and the automatic reimbursement to body corporate, it was a much easier sell for them, and they were happy to pass it. Our client pays for the installation."

The installation was relatively straightforward for JET Charge, but designing the monitoring solution to track the energy usage of the High Power Wall Connector was the real challenge, because the HPWC itself is un-networked and is a relatively dumb charger especially by Tesla's standards. Some kind of monitoring system was needed to track power consumption because the charger was necessarily connected to the apartment complex's main power distribution board, rather than the power supply of the Tesla owner's apartment.

"Our client wanted the Tesla charger installed in his car spot, which involved around a 50 metre cable run up a floor from the ground level distribution board to the second level car park. It was a challenging install, but because we've done so many Tesla installations it wasn't too bad."

"Because we've done internal testing on our solution, we pretty much knew exactly what we needed to do and the challenges we would face, so we had all the solutions down pat ahead of time. It ended up being an extremely smooth process, which is a bit different to some of the other stories I've heard regarding apartment installs.

"The energy usage is reported to the owner every single month. We pass the electricity cost straight through with no margin. We also report on energy usage back to the body corporate on a quarterly basis.

That monitoring comes from a network-connected, JET Charge-developed system that tracks the electricity used by the HPWC as it charges the owner's Tesla Model S, then reports that energy usage to the owner every month. The Model S has a rudimentary usage reporting system, but it's in-car rather than being delivered via email or in the detail of the JET Charge solution.

"The monitoring is where it gets really interesting. Overseas, where EV markets are more mature, there are similar programs to what we're offering. The catch is though that you have to buy a networked charger from that particular company so they can monitor your energy usage. You have to create an account, and swipe your RFID card, and so on.

"But in Australia, when you buy an EV, whether it be a Tesla, BMW, Porsche, Audi whatever, you get given a wall unit — but generally one with no network capability. So why would an owner want to go out and buy another one?

"We had to come up with a solution for monitoring of 'dumb chargers', which we have developed in-house, and will be deploying for all prospective Australian EV customers who receive a non-networked charger with the purchase of their car. We can do it with any charger from any brand, there are no technical limitations."

JET Charge even has the money side of things down pat; they'll quote you an install and talk to your body corporate to smooth the process over.

"We provide support for body corporate approval and all the pre-approval work, for free. We provide either the body corporate and/or the prospective owner an installation quote at the same time, so they know the costs. If they don't get approval, we don't charge a thing.

"If they get approval, then obviously we ask that the prospective client uses us for the installation and monitoring. We do the installation ourselves (there's no subcontracting), so we are generally very competitive."

There's a huge potential for in-home electric vehicle charging in Australia, and JET Charge thinks it has the market cornered at this early stage. It has a solid piece of monitoring hardware to install to allow dumb chargers to report their usage, it has the skills in negotiating with apartment owning committees, and it has the tried and tested experience in installing Tesla chargers and other EV charging stations across the country.

"Our key focus is to provide easy charging solutions no matter what the scenario, and I think apartment owners were a big barrier to cross for us - how do we design a sustainable solution for them that will help them get approvals through body corporate. I think we have done that and a lot of people are excited about it.

"As you know, electric cars are going to become cost competitive with petrol cars in the near future due to falling battery prices. By making sure we have the solutions in place for the early adopters, we can ensure that we'll be ready for when the larger wave hits.

"That means when you buy a Tesla Model 3, there will already be a precedent established for how people in apartments charge their car."

That said, Tesla is already seeing plenty of Model S owners installing chargers in apartment blocks. Heath Walker, Tesla's Australian spokesperson said the company is excited by products that allow for charging at home — as this is where the majority of charging occurs — however also pointed out that Tesla hasn't faced any issues to date with owners wanting to install home wall units within apartment block car parking.

[JET Charge]

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