Environment - Climate Change

March 20, 2018 Published by Toronto and Area Chapter - By Bob Hornick

Condominiums Must Embrace Electric Car Technology

From the Spring 2018 issue of the CCI Toronto Condovoice Magazine.

Despite the 1960's efforts in the western world to limit population, human population growth is continuing to explode. At the same time, increasing world-wide energy demands and increased standards of living have stressed the environment, leading to climate change. In an effort to prevent global catastrophe, the world has united into changing our fundamental energy technologies.

Accord De Paris

The Paris Climate Accord (Accord De Paris) estimates that if mankind puts 1 trillion tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the world temperatures will increase by 2°C. We have already put half that amount up there. It is estimated, that without the Paris Climate Accord, the second half will be put up by 2030. At that point, permafrost in northern Canada, Europe, and Russia will melt, releasing methane gas which is an even more powerful greenhouse gas. Permafrost is already starting to melt causing havoc with roadways and building structures in the north. After that, we could be faced with runaway global warming that will see the ice caps melt and sea levels rise faster and much higher than they are now. Already, islands and coastlines are being lost at an increasing rate around the world.

The Chemistry of Climate Change

Environmentally, there is no such thing as "clean coal". Coal burns and produces carbon dioxide. Liquid fossil fuels produce both carbon dioxide and water in equal amounts. Natural gas produces a third less carbon dioxide than the liquid fuels. Hydrogen produces no carbon dioxide at all.

Fuel Combustion Products
Coal Pure CO2
CO2 + H2O
Natural Gas CO2 + H2O + H2O
Hydrogen Pure H2O


It should come as no surprise that coal is the first fossil fuel source to be targeted for elimination. Ontario was the first jurisdiction to do so in North America in 2014. Liquid fuels are the next target and require incredible changes in worldwide transportation technology. It is happening. Electric car sales are increasing at an exponential rate year by year, with major car companies announcing even more research and product development. Hydrogen fueled trucks and trains are coming. NASA, Boeing, and Airbus are researching and developing electric airplane technology. Eventually, burning natural gas will become a thing of the past too.

Worldwide Adoption of EVs (Electric Vehicles)

It is estimated that by 2040, 35% of new car sales worldwide will be for electric vehicles and countries like Norway have already hit that mark. India has decided to allow only electric cars to be sold starting in 2030 and France by 2040. Mexico City, Athens, London, and many other C40 cities around the world will outright ban gasoline and diesel vehicles starting in 2025. If plans hold, most vehicles by 2050 will be electric.

Electric Vehicles will become the Consumer's Choice

Now, somewhat surprisingly, it looks like electric vehicles have definite consumer benefits. Electric cars do not have to be refueled (think rain and cold, windy snow storms), are less expensive to operate, last longer, and it is expected that by 2020 to 2022 or so, will cost less to manufacture than gasoline vehicles. New battery technologies are on the horizon that will increase electrical storage capacity, driving range, and decrease charging times. Even if people are not climate aware, we will start wanting them. This will happen soon, overnight, and as fast as the cell phone revolution that put a smart phone in nearly everyone's pocket or purse in the last ten years.

Impact on Condominium Property Values

With people wanting to purchase electric cars, they will need at-home charging stations, and that means charging in their own parking stalls. If a condominium does not have an electrified parking garage, new buyers will not be interested in purchasing. Worse, existing owners and renters especially, may decide to move to buildings where electric car charging is supported. Buildings that do electric cars well, will increase in value, whereas buildings that do not, will see a loss in property value.

Developing a 30 Year Plan

Condo boards have three years to develop a 30 year plan to deal with 2050. Boards must educate themselves on what the Paris Climate Accord is all about, follow electric vehicle technology trends, then communicate and educate their owners on the future. Building Declarations, Bylaws, and Rules may have to change. And then there is the investment in technology.

Envisioning the Parking Garage of the Future

Imagine your parking stalls, with nearly each one with an electric vehicle charging station, a conduit back to a distribution panel somewhere nearby with high power wire, a breaker, sub-meter, and likely an Internet connection. Each panel is fed by a transformer. Each transformer is fed by high voltage lines from a central supply area with even higher current breakers. If you can do that, you are more forward thinking than your contemporaries. But wait, there is more.

Electric power rates are cheapest starting at midnight. Electric vehicles can be programmed by their owners to start charging at any time, say at midnight when rates are reduced. Imagine 500 cars all starting to charge at once drawing a maximum amount of charging current at midnight, then tapering off until morning when most of them will be fully charged again.

500 cars, even with only 3.3kW chargers (many will use 7.4kW or more), will draw over 1.5 megawatts of peak power when charging first starts. That is a lot of infrastructure, especially when it is only needed for a few hours per day.

Another approach is to install a smart grid where a central building computer retrieves the charging requirements of each vehicle each night, then schedules when each will be charged so that power is drawn from the grid more evenly, at slower rates, but still ensure that all vehicles are charged by morning.

This could reduce a 1.5 MW peak power draw to a constant say 0.5 MW power draw throughout the night, but requires that only smart grid compatible chargers are installed by vehicle owners.

Solar, Power Storage and Parking Membranes

It is probably unlikely that you will be drawing all your charging power from the electrical grid only though. New solar cell technologies are pushing solar cell efficiencies into the 40% and higher range in the lab. Solar cell building cladding can provide power to power storage rooms during the day, reducing dependencies on grid power and saving money. The power storage rooms could be filled with lithium batteries using today's technology, but will likely be filled with super capacitors being developed that, unlike battery technology, can be cycled millions of times without wear.

By the time 20% to 30% of the car fleet is electric, solar and power storage will likely be contemplated. Smart boards will coordinate expected electrical storage room installations with parking lot membrane maintenance to reduce costs.

Who Pays?

The investments needed to provide electrical power to parking stalls is nontrivial. It can be argued that EV owners themselves should not only have to pay for their own electricity consumption, but also for all the building modifications. After all, they don't have to buy an electric vehicle do they?

On the other hand, EV owners know that their efforts in equipping their building and making EV ownership possible for anyone will have improved the value of all units in the building. Why should others benefit from their efforts and personal investments?

The phrase I like to use is for the building to "invest at a level consistent with preserving property value". Certainly, this would include engineering reports and planning. It should probably include the costs of bringing high voltage conduit into the parking areas.

At the other end, EV owners would likely agree that they must pay for their own chargers and could be persuaded that it is fair for them to pay for the average cost of bringing conduit to their own parking stalls.

What's left for debate is the cost of the distribution panels and their contents and whether this should be paid lump sum or charged back monthly.

Disrupting a Disruptive Technology

There is a caveat: New theoretical battery and super capacitor technologies may allow charging in seconds meaning the gas station of today could be replaced with high power charging stations that might even recharge a car in less time than it takes to gas up a car today – but this could easily take a decade or more to develop and roll out – if it is even actually possible. Even if it happens, overnight charging in our own condos offers definite benefits and is still a building plus.

Getting Started: Pilot Projects and Electric Car Clubs

Few boards will be prepared, or will have the support, to go all out and install a 30 year infrastructure today. Especially if you have gone through an LED lighting refit, there is good chance you have surplus electrical capacity in your building for at least a few EVs. Extending this power into your parking stalls for a small initial EV fleet in a pilot project will give everyone a first pass experience for what is to come, and allow your board to lay the groundwork for complete policies and procedures and perhaps bylaw amendments.

Supporting an Electric Car Club or committee in your own building, or jointly with other buildings, could satisfy those interested in EV ownership. They can become familiar with your technical and cost issues, and help with the research and the education of others during the course of your pilot project. That early experience and earned knowledge will go directly into developing the plans and support for a future, larger scale EV deployment.

With the commitments by governments world-wide, heavy investments by industry, and an increasingly aware public, demand for electric vehicles will only increase as EV technology advances. Inevitably, we must all adapt, evolve, and accept, that electrified parking in condos will become ubiquitous.

Bob Hornick is a Director of a Condo in Mississauga. He conducted his own research in an effort to educate the Board on the benefits of electric cars. He is hopeful that they will take the first step as soon as this year.


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