British Columbia

Check with strata council before buying electric car, Vancouver couple warns

A Vancouver couple is warning potential electric vehicle buyers to check with their strata council about setting up a charging station before making the purchase.

Couple owns Tesla but doesn't have charging station at condo

John Crummy and Chantal Seguin warn potential electric vehicle buyers to check with their strata council about setting up a charging station before making the purchase. (CBC News)

John Crummy and Chantal Seguin are proud owners of a new Tesla electric car, but there's one problem. 

They don't have a place to recharge it at the Kitsilano condo where they live. Instead, they have to use a public charging station, which is a 10-minute walk from their home.

"After work, instead of going home, I come down to the public charger, plug it in, then walk home," said Crummy. "We have dinner, then before going to bed, we walk down the hill, unplug it and drive it home."

Barriers to charging access

Their strata council has told the couple it's open to the idea of installing electric charging stations in the building's underground garage in the future, but Crummy and Seguin live in a 40-year-old building whose electrical grid is already at capacity.

Plus, there is no money allocated in the strata council's budget this year for the expense.

The couple's predicament highlights one of the barriers facing condo owners and apartment dwellers who wish to own electric cars. 

While many newer buildings have charge stations, older condos and apartment buildings do not.

Other barriers for owners include the cost of setting up a new electrical meter and installing individual charging stations, which requires a strata bylaw change that 75 per cent of the owners would have to agree to.

And not every strata council is as open to the idea as Crummy's.

"I have friends who have said that their council is not interested at all," said Crummy. "So it really varies and it's probably good to talk to your council before you buy a car."

A 'right-to-charge'?

Charlotte Argue, a program manager with Plug In BC, a group that works to promote electric vehicle use, says the convenience and affordability of being able to charge at home is one of the most important factors that goes into the calculation of whether to buy an electric car.

She says it's unfair for that decision to be at the mercy of a strata council or building manager.

"We do hear of people requesting charging at their building and being denied by their strata corporation or their building manager," said Argue.

"Sometimes they're misinformed ... other times it's because they don't like the perceived perception of one or two people in that building getting that perk or a subsidized benefit compared to everyone else."

Crummy and Seguin charge their Tesla at a public charging station a short distance from their home. (CBC News)

Argue says the province should introduce a so-called "right-to-charge" policy, which exists in Ontario.

These regulations prevent strata councils or owners from denying a resident's request to install charging without a legitimate reason.

As for Crummy, he says owning an electric car is a pleasure, as long as you work out a means of recharging it.

"That's probably the number one issue with buying an electric car," he said.

"So the more that can be smoothed out for people it's going to be the better for everybody."

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story provided incorrect information about the steps a strata must take prior to installing a charging station in a building.
    Mar 24, 2019 7:38 PM PT

with files from Joel Ballard

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