Electric Vehicles (EV) sales, particularly in Ontario, are poised for a big jump in the next couple of years. Up until now fully electric cars fell into two categories: lower range and lower priced cars such as the Nissan Leaf appealed to early adopters and die-hard EV fans but if you wanted an all-electric EV with a 300 km+ range, you needed to purchase a Tesla Model S or X with a starting price north of $100,000.

The market needed moderately priced cars with a longer range and the manufacturers as well as the Ontario Government have responded to make this a realilty very soon. Tesla has taken nearly 400,000 pre-orders with a $1,000 deposit for the Model 3. Elon Musk, Tesla’s President, promised that the Model 3 will start to roll off the line in 2017 but if that’s too long a wait, GM will be rolling out their all electric Chevy Bolt at the end of this year.

Both the Bolt and Model S are more moderately priced and will be eligible for a $14,000 rebate. This was recently announced by Premier Kathleen Wynne to help Ontarians shift to low or zero-emission vehicles. The Wynne government is convinced that the adoption of electric vehicles is a critical component towards achieving Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution reduction targets.

While this is great news for those of us that want to drive a fun and pollution-free vehicle, it may pose a bit of a challenge if you live in a condominium. Since 81% of EV charging is done at home, the best arrangement is to have a level 2 (220 volt) charging station located where you park overnight. In a condominium setting, this would require some level of cooperation from the management and Board of Directors.

Board members tend to ask certain key questions:

  • Who will pay for the installation?
  • How will we measure and recover the cost of electricity used to charge the resident’s EV?
  • What if 10 (or more) people want to install EV charge stations (EVSE)?

The first two are pretty easy to answer. The basic approach over the last four years has been to connect the residents EVSE to an existing house panel and install a meter to capture the amount of electricity consumed. The manager might read the meter once a year and settle up with the resident. The whole cost of this install was paid for by the resident, just as they would in a single family home.

This approach worked fine for one or maybe even two cars, but at some point the panels were simply not designed for all this added load. In addition, there’s limited space for the meters and the reading of these meters could become a cumbersome and time-consuming job for the Manager.

What was needed is a scaleable and compact electric vehicle metering and control panel with a wireless cloud-based interface. This solution has now been installed in several condominiums throughout the Greater Toronto Area.

The dedicated electric vehicle breaker panel is equipped with a custom metering system. This system will be able to read the current consumption of the main feed to the panel as well as each of up to 12 separate 32 amp 208 volt EV chargers.

The cloud based interface is accessible through a dashboard system. This dashboard can be accessed (with a password) through any computer or mobile device.

As an example, the Property Manager could view the following items:

  • The overall current draw of the panel, displayed in KWH (kilowatt hours) and an associated dollar figure based on an average cost per KWH.
  • The condition (on or off) of any individual EV charger.
  • The current draw of and individual charger, displayed in KWH (kilowatt hours) and an associated dollar figure based on an average cost per KWH.

The manager can reset the dollar counter when a resident makes a payment and could, if needed, turn on or off any individual feed to an EV charger. An EV owner (with a specific password) could view and control his own charger’s consumption as well as turn it on and off.  EV owners tend to be very interested in the power consumption of their vehicles.

The system is also designed to better share the electricity and try to avoid having to add multiple dedicated panels.

A 200 ampere three phase dedicated EV panel would allow us to operate six chargers at one time. A 7th charger operating simultaneously could cause the main fuses for the panel to blow. However, since a typical EV will fully charge in three to four hours and not all EV’s may be plugged in at the same time, we have an opportunity to “stretch” the feed to this panel.

The system will monitor the current draw of the panel. When a pre-set current threshold is reached, say 80%, the program will automatically determine which charger has been on the longest and turn it off. This will allow the new charger to start.

As other vehicles become fully charged and the overall current drops, the program will reconnect the original charger and allow it to complete its charge.

Most vehicles can fully charge in three to four hours and since this scenario is most likely to occur overnight, EV owners will be unaffected and possibly unaware of this sharing system. This system may allow a panel that was originally able to serve only six vehicles to handle as many as twelve. This is a huge savings in space and cost.

The other less tangible benefit of the system is the idea of being an EV ready building. As EV’s become more popular, buyers will be asking if buildings can accommodate EV charging. If the answer is yes this could in fact be another value added amenity, increasing the saleability of units for all the owners.

Signature Electric is very pleased to provide solutions that address the need for condominiums to have a simple scalable means of connecting electric vehicles.