Elara Designs Infrastructure to support Electric Vehicle Charging Stations in Existing Buildings

As the number of electric cars increases, owners and managers of existing residential and commercial buildings continue to rely on Elara Engineering to provide electrical designs to support the addition of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations to accommodate the needs of their occupants and visitors.

Unlike new construction where EV charging stations can be incorporated into a building’s original design, adding charging stations to an existing building presents unique considerations and challenges.  Because of this, Elara recommends an initial planning phase to assist stakeholders in identifying a cost-effective, practical, and potentially phased approach to add EV charging stations to their existing buildings.

Electricity Cost Allocation
An early determination for any EV charging station project is the identification of who will pay for the provided electricity.  For condominiums, charging stations would likely be installed by individual owners with the building providing the needed infrastructure and each owner paying for their electricity through either individual metering or predetermined dues/reimbursements.

Determining if Sufficient Power is Available
There are typically two main sources of power for new EV charging stations in multi-family or multi-tenant commercial buildings. The first source  is from a common area electrical service that provides power for common area lighting, plug loads, and HVAC. This service usually has a single meter and existing utility bills will indicate current peak power usage over the course of the year. From this we can determine how much additional power is available for future charging stations.

If there is minimal or insufficient common area power available for the desired number of charging stations, we then look at the  second source of power, residential/tenant electrical service(s).  Residential/Tenant electrical service typically employs numerous individual meters which are paid for by the individual unit owners/tenants. Because of this, determining available capacity requires a 30 day load study which entails connecting a temporary meter or meters to the residential/tenant service(s). Working with an electrical contractor Elara can help identify the number and appropriate locations for these temporary meters and will evaluate the data to determine how much power is available. This phased and transparent approach provides the most value for buildings and minimizes costs.

Garage Ownership
Buildings may own their garage or have another owner managing the garage’s functions.  Some may even be partially public garages.  Ownership and the allocation of the cost to design, install, and manage new EV charging stations needs to be determined prior to the project moving forward.

Adding Charging Stations Singly versus A Phased Approach
Adding EV charging stations one at a time may eventually exceed the capacity of the building’s electrical infrastructure; thereby eliminating available power for those that later desire charging stations.  It is recommended that a phased approach be developed to capitalize on cost efficiencies and to allow building owners the opportunity to budget and move at a planned pace.

Equipment Selection
There are many types of EV charging stations offered at various voltages and charging rates that have different direct impacts on a building’s infrastructure.  Therefore, Elara typically develops equipment specifications acceptable to owners that can be used on an ongoing, planned basis.

With numerous studies, designs, and installations completed within the City of Chicago, Elara’s dedicated team has the proven experience to help building owners/managers navigate the path to add electrical vehicle charging stations.  For more information or assistance, please contact info@elaraeng.com.