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Owners Corporation Law

09 Oct 2018

Electric vehicle charging and the rise of the machines

Australia lags behind the rest of the world in the uptake of new electric vehicles.

We even lag behind our southern cousins in New Zealand, who now boast more electric vehicles per capita than Australia, despite having only a fifth of the population base. Despite this statistic, by 2030 it is reported that 50 per cent of new car sales in Australia will be for an electric vehicle.

With the massive surge in demand for electric vehicles corresponding with high petrol prices and road tax user charges, there shall be a corresponding surge in demand for apartment complexes to retrofit its basement car parks to provide the necessary charging stations.

This brings a myriad of issues and challenges for owners’ corporations (OCs) to overcome in managing the costs of installation. The most obvious challenge is this: not all owners have carpark spaces, and not all owners even own cars or will own cars in 10 years time.

This might mean that simply raising levies on a lot entitlement basis to install basement charging stations will be inequitable and unreasonable.

Conversely, common property infrastructure in the form of meters and supply boards shall need to be upgraded in order to meet the surge in capacity for electricity supply. So at least on some level, even if all owners don’t have a car parking space (or a car) the OC itself will need to bear some of the upgrade costs for its electricity infrastructure.

A user-pays system has merit. Under this model, owners who wish to keep an electric car shall pay the costs of installing the charging station within their basement parking space, and should pay a fee to the OC (to be held in escrow as a form of differential levy) to fund the costs of the upgrades of the common property power supply boards (when these are required).

There are also the issues about where the meters are located. Some apartment buildings have their meters installed on the floor of where their apartment is located. Now, if an owner resides on the 27th floor of a building, it is going to cost a fortune to run cabling and conduit from the basement to connect to their meter.

Again, technology is going to have to intervene to resolve this “barrier to entry” issue. Separate meters are going to have to be installed in the basement (perhaps on common property, if space permits) in order to allow for charging stations and meters to flourish.

Alternatively, OCs could partner with renewable energy companies to install charging stations which can effectively be plugged into a separate meter, but are activated by way of an account login.

This way, the electricity costs are charged directly to the owner (perhaps by way of direct debit each month).

OC committees should start planning now for these upgrades. The simple message is that the technology has arrived and the technology is cheap, so long as it is rolled out in large scale and is able to penetrate the mass market.

The times, they are a changin’ …

 

Tom Bacon - Principal Lawyer

Strata Title Lawyers

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