Residents demand EV charging, body corporate fights it. Photo courtesy of Glenn Hazeldine.

A Tale Of Two Towers — Charging (Or Not) In Apartment Buildings

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The demographics of those who live in high-rise apartment blocks is changing. Electric vehicle ownership is on the rise and pressure is being brought to bear on body corporates who manage these buildings to install chargers for the convenience of tenants and owners and as a means of future proofing the owners’ investments. “It’s good value adding,” one manager said. This is a tale of two towers.

I recently met with Arran Blomfield, owner of RegenEV. He told me of one instance where a tenant was renting an apartment and approached the manager for permission to install a charger for his Tesla at his own expense. Permission was denied, no reason was given, but the tenant moved out. There will be more of this and hopefully we will see a change in the actions of obstinate luddite body corporates.

Every now and then, there is a story in the mainstream media of strata title dwellers finding their way around the naysayers — extension cords hanging out of windows, etc. One apartment dweller went as far as to lease the long, narrow corridor that his electrical charging access required. Lots of lawyer fees were involved in that one.

RegenEV installed the charger at The Manor, and I was able to hear some of the backstory.

Arran and I worked with the body corporate of Vantage Towers back in April 2022. We presented to about 50 interested residents in an evening meeting. I wanted to know how the work progressed. Apparently, it hasn’t. The small group of FUDsters who attended that night have maintained the status quo, much to the frustration of the EV owners who live there.

So, here is a tower with an enthusiastic group of EV owners who can’t get their body corporate to move on the issue — despite numerous meetings and proposals with detailed costings. Residents must depend on unreliable and expensive public charging. Capital gain will also be affected, as, soon, buying an apartment without access to EV charging will be like buying an apartment without WiFi access, or air conditioning.

Of the 10 Tritium chargers installed by the Gold Coast City Council (managed by ChargeFox), many are frequently broken down or charging at lower kW due to software or hardware issues. Residents report that at least 4 to 5 of the 10 Tritium chargers are faulty at any given time, making it harder to find an available charger. This issue is multiplied by the increase in uptake of more and more EVs on the Gold Coast.

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“Oil Sux” at the Vantage Dawn. Photo courtesy of Glenn Hazeldine.

In contrast, Arran told me of another tower block — the Bayview — and their approach. No one in this second block actually owns an EV yet. However, the tenants are keen for EV charging infrastructure to be installed. Twenty-four months ago, Arran was approached to submit a proposal to install the infrastructure to support 100 charging bays in the basement car park, the plan being that the body corporate pays for the infrastructure and each tenant then pays for their individual EVSE (Electric Vehicle Service Equipment, or EV charging station). A competitive quote was submitted.

Fast forward 12 months. Arran was contacted again and asked if the quote was still firm. COVID had a habit of putting prices up.

The Bayview took 8 months to finish, due to supply chain issues and other more urgent work intruding. By the end of 2021, 100 units were finalised, with all underlying infrastructure in place. The manager had his EVSE installed, even though he is still deciding which EV to buy. He says he had to because so many representatives of body corporates in the Gold Coast area were visiting the Bayview to see what the project looked like in real life. Arran is waiting on the call to install the other 99.

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The first charger installed of 100 at the Bayview. Photo courtesy of Regenex.

I said to Arran that there was an explosion of demand coming. He tells me it is already here. He has 70 inquiries a day and does up to 20 quotes from those inquiries. He has had to employ another team of installers and allocate extra hours in his own day to handle the demand. His main work is house installs, and the local competition on the Gold Coast is referring customers to him, as they concentrate on residential towers.

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Infrastructure to support the EVSE at Bayview. Photo courtesy of Regenex.

Recently, Arran installed a bank of 8 public chargers at Hope Island. As he and his team worked, “At least 50 Teslas a day drove past, as we worked. Hope Island must be the EV hub of the Gold Coast,” he told me. He advised the business owner to initially set the prices at a lower rate than what people pay at home, then gradually increase them. Customers will be able to pay by credit card. It looks like EV charging might finally be a money-making concern. This business will operate out of a shopping centre car park, where the space is being given gratis.

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Regenex on the job. Photo courtesy of Regenex.

Unfortunately, Arran’s business number is on the charger and he occasionally gets an angry phone call. One irate customer rang. He complained that the charger was broken because it would not release the charging plug when the vehicle was charged and ready to go. When the tirade ran out of steam, Arran asked: “Did you use the Tesla app?” After a moment’s silence, the reply came: “There’s an app? Didn’t know I had one.” Maybe that has to be added to the instructions on the charger? “Check your app.”

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Chargers in use on the Gold Coast. Photo courtesy of Regenex.

It made me think: Perhaps there is a market for full service EV charging? When you pull up, several attendants appear out of nowhere. One plugs you in, another checks your tyres, one more cleans the windscreen and fills up the washer bottle. You can either stay in your car and enjoy your choice of infotainment — music, video, arcade game, surfing the net — or relax with a coffee and cake. Lastly, someone arrives with a “tappy tap” for your credit card. Ah, takes me back to the ’50s. Perhaps they can be on roller skates?

What a world of contrasts we see in the story of the two towers. One has no residents with electric vehicles and yet has built in the capacity to install 100 chargers. The other has a significant vocal minority who own electric vehicles and are clamoring for chargers, and yet despite their best efforts, they cannot get the body corporate to make a positive decision on the issue.

Let me know if you have a story to tell about strata title installs — especially if it is a positive one.

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 738 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth