April 5, 2013

San Diego Prepares for Electric Vehicles in Multi-Unit Dwelling Communities (Text Version)

This is a text version of the video segment San Diego Prepares for Electric Vehicles in Multi-Unit Dwelling Communities, which aired on April 5, 2013.

DAVE GARDY: Hi, I'm Dave Gardy for Clean Cities TV, the educational Internet TV channel of the U.S. Department of Energy's Clean Cities program. Clean Cities TV features video programming about Clean Cities and its mission to reduce U.S. petroleum consumption through the use of alternative and renewable fuels, including electric vehicle technology.

Electric vehicles, or EVs, play an important role in reducing pollution and increasing America's energy independence, and they do it cost effectively. That's why it's important to help communities adopt best practices to facilitate the proper integration of the infrastructure to support EV charging and operation. This is especially true for multi-unit dwelling communities, or MUDs, such as apartment complexes, condos, and townhomes—the focus of this video.

One of the leading communities in implementing best practices for EV adoption, especially where multi-unit dwellings are concerned, is San Diego, California, a major city in a state where almost 40% of the greenhouse gas emissions are caused by transportation. San Diego Gas and Electric, or SDG&E, along with its regional partners, is working to help create a plug-in ready region.

SDG&E's goals are to help reduce petroleum dependence for transportation; help California achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goal of 13 million tons by the year 2020; ensure SDG&E continues to supply safe, reliable power to a growing number of customers as they adopt electric vehicles; and help customers obtain the lower cost of off-peak electric fuel for charging their EVs.

To understand just how much savings can be realized by off-peak, overnight charging, we talked to Joel Pointon, manager of electric transportation at San Diego Gas & Electric, who also discussed other ways that the utility is helping people transition to electric vehicles.

JOEL POINTON: Our residential electric vehicle time-of-use rates actually enable our residential customers to have cost savings in the range of 70% to 80% compared to the utilization of gasoline for transportation. That's comparing a 25-mile-per-gallon vehicle at $4 gasoline. As part of our support program for the multi-unit dwelling community, SDG&E has been offering workshops for free to the stakeholders in this community for the past two and a half years.

At those workshops, we give an orientation to the types of charging available—the types of vehicle coming to the market, and we give them an overview of the choices that they will need to make in moving their projects forward, looking at scalable projects, looking at the concept of finding the solution that fits their particular community.

DAVE GARDY: The workshops help residents, property managers, and other stakeholders learn about electric vehicles and EV infrastructure in order to make informed decisions about adopting electric vehicles. Joel begins the workshop by pointing out that electric vehicles are not a new idea. They have been around since the early 1900s and were touted as economical, good for the environment, and the only modern way.

Today, California produces electricity using cleaner methods than the average U.S. utility, and because the state is increasing requirements for use of renewable resources to 30% by 2020, electric fuel will continually get cleaner. There are several types of electric vehicles. Plug-in electric vehicles, or PEVs, is a generic term for all plug-ins that charge a battery from grid electricity. A battery electric vehicle, or BEV, is 100% electric drive. It uses only electricity for fuel—no tailpipe, no emissions. Some currently available battery electric vehicles include BMW Active EV, Ford Focus, Honda Fit, and Toyota RAV 4 EVs, Mitsubishi I, Nissan LEAF, Tesla Model S, THINK City, and Wheego Whip Life.

Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, or PHEVs, combine an electric motor using grid-stored electricity with an on-board, gasoline-fueled motor. When the electricity range runs out, the internal combustion engine kicks in to complete the trip. PHEVs now available include the Chevy Volt, the Ford C-Max, the Ford Fusion Energi, Fisker Karma, and the Toyota Plug-in Prius. And for low-speed, low-range travel, there are small neighborhood electric vehicles, or NEVs, for short trips on local streets.

After a consumer chooses the appropriate EV, the next decision is the type of electric vehicle supply equipment, EVSE, or vehicle charger. In general, the faster the equipment charges the vehicle, the higher the equipment cost, so a consumer needs to weigh the cost against the convenience and charging time requirements. AC Level 1 and Level 2 chargers work with alternating current that is delivered by the power company to your home. It will be converted to DC on board the vehicle.

AC Level 1 operates on standard 120-volt AC on 15- to 20-amp circuits (like most home outlets) and charges on a simple cord set provided with the vehicle that plugs into a 3-prong wall outlet. Level 1 can be used anywhere, but charging is slow, adding 4 to 6 miles of range per hour of charging. Level 1 has a mild impact on the electric grid.

AC Level 2 operates at 208 to 240 volts AC usually on a 40-amp circuit, but this could range from 20 to 80 amps depending on the charger. Charging is done from a wall- or pedestal-mounted unit that requires installation by a qualified electrician. AC Level 2 also requires a dedicated 208- to 240-volt circuit. AC Level 2 provides medium-speed charging at 12 miles of range per hour at the low end of 3.3 kW up to 24 miles of range per hour at the higher level of 6.6 kW.

The advantage of AC Level 2 charging is speed of charging. The disadvantage is a higher equipment and installation cost than AC Level 1. It has a moderate impact on the grid. With direct current, or DC charging, the AC current is converted to DC within the charging unit. Equipment for DC fast charge, or DC Level 2, operates at 208 to 440 volt, 3-phase up to 100 kW. This type of charging is usually confined to commercial operations due to the high cost of equipment and installation and its high impact on the electric grid.

Plug-in electric vehicles can span a range of load profiles. Compared to other household appliances, Level 1 charging draws about the same electricity as a microwave oven. Level 2 charging at 3.3 kW uses the same electricity as an electric oven or HVAC system. 6.6. kW doubles that load while AC Level 2 charging at 9.6 kW can exceed the load equivalent of a entire home on a neighborhood transformer in the street.

If users charge their EVs at what SDG&E calls the lowest-priced, off-peak hours of midnight to 5:00 a.m. as shown in this diagram with the green area on the left, it is anticipated that no new power plants will be required for the expected EV load for the foreseeable future. Load increases as the day progresses during summer with the heaviest load on the grid occurring during peak hours from noon to about 6:00 p.m. SDG&E is helping to reduce charging during peak hours by offering favorable off-peak or super off-peak rates. This chart shows current summer rates. Super off-peak rates are approximately 50% of the per-kilowatt-hour cost as compared to peak rates from noon to 6:00 p.m.

The winter schedule shows much flatter rate spreads due to lower seasonal demand for electricity. Consumers can sign up with SDG&E for one of two EV time-of-use rate options, depending on whether they prefer to use a single whole-house meter or install a separate meter for vehicle charging. Potential EV users must consider where they will charge their vehicle, what the charger's capabilities are, and who will be providing the charging.

In addition to EV charging at home, which can be either a single-family residence or a mult-unit dwelling, provisions are increasingly available at some workplaces and at community public charging stations. Across the country, a growing number of communities or private enterprises are installing public charging stations on the street like this one in San Diego's Mission Valley, or in parking garages or parking lots. Such charging stations are usually conveniently located for use by the public and charge a vehicle's battery for a fee.

Multi-unit dwellings, such as apartments, condos, and manufactured home parks, are typically located in higher-density population areas. Currently, 51% of San Diego County's million-plus housing units are in multi-unit dwellings, and that percentage is predicted to increase. That represents a large market for electric vehicles. But providing the residents of such buildings with the opportunity to charge electric vehicles at home is not as simple as it is for single-family residences. Consideration must be given to codes, covenants, and restrictions of the community, agreements between property owners and residents, as well as rental contracts between property owners and renters. It must be determined if the configuration of the facility will allow for the necessary metering and wiring or if alternative locations, such as common areas, will be used for charging stations.

Arrangements must be made for how the cost will be allocated to residents who use the charging systems. Finally, installing the infrastructure and charging equipment in multi-unit dwellings requires the cooperative efforts of many stakeholders, such as residents, property developers, utilities, vendors, and municipal governments.

San Diego, California, is meeting these multi-unit dwelling challenges through the partnership of San Diego Gas and Electric, the cities of San Diego County, and their regional planning agency SANDAG, all members of the San Diego Regional Clean Cities Board. The partnership also includes regional infrastructure projects like the ECOtality EV Project and eVgo, property management associations, and innovative programs like the EV carshare company Car2Go.

There are two basic scenarios for providing charging stations in multi-unit dwellings: community resource installation and individual charging units. We'll see how each of these options has been used in two San Diego case studies. Circa 37 is an apartment complex in San Diego's Mission Valley community where charging stations were included in the initial development plans. Here, the charging stations are installed on the street as a community resource. Mark Radelow, vice president of development for Sudberry Properties in San Diego, which developed and manages Circa 37, talked with Clean Cities TV about the support they receive from their partners in the project.

MARK RADELOW: We looked at several different charging programs and in dealing with Blink and the EV project, we liked their system. We liked actually the physical look of the units because, as you can see, the aesthetic character is very important to us. We had a really good working relationship with them. The idea of putting public chargers in a public right of way was something that had not been done before.

DAVE GARDY: Andy Hoskinson, San Diego area manager of ECOtality's Blink, discussed the advantages of installation in new construction, such as the upscale apartments of Circa 37.

ANDY HOSKINSON: We worked with the developer of the properties, Mark Radelow in particular. They had interests as they were building this project to incorporate electric vehicle chargers into it, so we examined some opportunities both on-site and then for the potential for on-street as they were building these streets new. It presented as a really good opportunity because it's in a very densely populated area of the city of San Diego in Mission Valley. There's also a lot of retail around here as well. And with the fact that they were building the development new, it wasn't a retrofit, which allowed for a lot of flexibility in how we deployed the EV chargers in a very cost-effective manner. We see utilization on these smart chargers here. We see utilization that is very high across the six EV chargers that we've got deployed here in the Circa 37 community.

DAVE GARDY: The Circa 37 project partners also entered into a mutually beneficial relationship with a leading EV carshare company, Car2Go, which helps with maximizing the utilization of the charging installations. We'll discuss these carshare relationships in more detail a little later in this video.

Retrofitting an existing building as in our second case study, CityFront Terrace, a mid-rise luxury condominium community in the Marina District of downtown San Diego, is different. Residents inquired about charging station options for EVs they wanted to purchase in 2011. Property management and residents wanted a billing solution that would allow residents to pay for their usage directly without the property managers having to track usage or collect payments. In assessing this, CityFront Terrace found many technical challenges, including the need to wire the parking spaces with different brands of 208-volt charging stations and the need for individual user billing.

Facilities management suggested the installation of individual meters for each charging unit and to have SDG&E's bill go directly to each resident installing a charger, removing management as a middle man and allowing the resident to install their preferred brand of vehicle charger. By wiring new individual meters directly to the underground garage meter room, the cost of wiring to residential meters on upper floors was eliminated.

Working together on a compromise plan, CityFront Terrace installed 20 individual meters wired directly to the utility side of the building electrical supply. Wiring hubs on each floor of the garage allowed for wiring to individual parking places. Each individual requesting vehicle charging would pay an equal portion of the upfront capital cost for the project and purchase their own charging unit for the installation at their space. Thus each resident receives their monthly bill directly from SDG&E and sees their individual time-of-use behavior and savings with the utility's special low electric vehicle rates. Building manager David Huckaby, who was instrumental in this unique arrangement and its design, comments.

DAVID HUCKABY: So I surveyed the building and spent the rest of the afternoon taking a look at it and came up with a plan where we could basically tap into the power coming into the building, prior to our meter, and that was important because we wanted to make sure we were not taking away or negating all the hard work we've done to reduce energy consumption. Tapping into the bus coming into the building, we were able to put in a bank of 20 meters, which later could be bought into by various residents wishing to charge electric vehicles. And with that in play, they can be billed directly from SDG&E, take full advantage of off-peak rates, and have the convenience of overnight charging at their home. I have to admit to being probably the most reluctant to start this project, and in the end, I'm very proud of it.

DAVE GARDY: One of the lessons from both of these case studies is that installation of EV charging stations in multi-unit dwellings is a community effort, requiring buy-in from the property management, contractors, residents, utilities, and municipalities.

San Diego Gas and Electric recommends several steps leading to plug-in readiness for multi-unit dwellings. First, poll your community to find out the level of interest from both multi-unit dwelling property management and residents who might enter the PEV market and how soon they might do so. As a community of interested parties, organize orientation sessions or workshops to educate people about the options for vehicles, charging technologies, costs, and business models as well as the vocabulary of the EV industry.

Study and list the challenges involved in your particular situation, such as legalities wiring and metering, community codes, covenants, and restrictions, allowed uses, assigned versus unassigned parking, and provisions for persons with disabilities. Discuss policy issues and reach internal group consensus on all aspects of the project including how it will be paid for. Decide on the scope of the project as a starting point for the contractor with estimated number of spaces to be equipped, EVSE preferences and locations, and other information for contractor design. Review the plans with utility project managers. Find and evaluate a licensed contractor with EVSE installation experience, insurance, training, and required certifications.

Together, the multi-unit stakeholders, contractor, and utility project management will design and evaluate the layout, metering options, and infrastructure support. Once this plan has been developed, the contractor will initiate and manage the project including scheduling, coordination of the project implementation, and obtaining permits, inspections, and utility service orders. Once the project is completed, the project partners will have earned a celebration and the right to brag, so SDG&E encourages the sharing of this experience with others through its website.

San Diego residents can take advantage of electric vehicle technology without investing in either EVs or the required infrastructure by using an EV carsharing service, an innovative solution that is growing across the country. Carshare companies like Car2Go, mentioned earlier in the Circa 37 project, can also help increase the feasibility and utilization of community resource public charging installations. To find out more about carsharing, we talked to Mike Cully, location manager for Car2Go in San Diego, who was instrumental in crafting Car2Go's participation in the Circa 37 project.

MIKE CULLY: Car2Go is North America's first all-electric carsharing fleet here in San Diego. So it's really a solution to modern mobility in densely populated areas like San Diego. This really opens up the modern mobility concept of connecting public transportation and the gaps that it leaves there, so you can actually take the trolley, take the train. You'll find one of these vehicles that will help you complete your trip. So it really is a solution to modern mobility problems. So this car service couldn't have happened without a collaborative relationship with many different agencies like San Diego Gas and Electric and especially ECOtality. You have to have the infrastructure to support this kind of model to make it feasible to make it work in the area, and that's exactly what ECOtality has done in establishing its network of EVSE throughout the region. SDG&E helps support that effort as well by locating and working with ECOtality to find those key locations in the area that would support the network.

DAVE GARDY: That pioneering, cooperative effort exhibited by the stakeholder partners in San Diego demonstrates that the comprehensive implementation of clean and sustainable electric vehicle technology for multi-unit dwelling infrastructure is achievable with proper planning and collaboration. Congratulations to San Diego on leading the nation by working together in a community team effort to deploy EV infrastructure solutions that make sense. Thanks for viewing this special video presentation. For Clean Cities TV, I'm Dave Gardy.

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