[CASE STUDY] EV Charging at Mid-Sized Properties

Nicholas Johnson
August 1, 2022

Over the past decade, the majority of electric vehicle (EV) charging focused on public charging leveraging national incentive programs. This pushed Level 2, 240-volt 40-amps chargers into shopping centers, airports, and business parks. While these incentives were created before EVs were truly pushed into mainstream markets, they often misunderstood charging as akin to gas stations. Something where an EV owner would wait until their vehicle is near empty to “fill up” and then find the nearest public station. In reality, charging an EV is more like charging a cell phone, where owners “fill up” at the end of each day at home, waking up to a full battery the next morning.

While EV adoptions hit an inflection point with Tesla’s Model 3 and Model Y in 2019, overtaking internal combustion vehicles in new vehicle sales within some markets, more action is seemingly required. With climate change and more environmental attention put on our aging transportation system, consumers and governments are pushing the use of incentives to help accelerate the transition to a sustainable future. When it comes to EVs that means fewer public chargers and more charging stations where drivers need them, in their homes. 

With this in mind, Orange worked closely with Peninsula Clean Energy (PCE) to create a program to help accelerate the installation of charging in multi-unit properties like apartments and condos. Unlike single-family home charging, it’s not clear who should pay for what and how energy costs should be managed. 

This makes sense as EVs traditionally cost more upfront; making them slightly higher-end purchases, yet it’s now shown that the lifetime savings add up for an overall reduction in car ownership. However, over the next few years, EVs are expected to dramatically drop in price and begin to dominate the market with some estimates showing over 50% market share in California by 2029. To meet this growing demand, charging installs need to scale at homes, especially apartments and condos, to make these new vehicles convenient. 

The Orange Solution

To address many of the limitations of installing charging at multi-family properties, Peninsula Clean Energy partnered with Orange to create an incentive program that simplifies adding charging within multi-unit properties. 

After looking at many panel capacity limitations, especially in smaller, older multi-unit properties; encountering connectivity issues within underground garages; and assigned/deeded parking spaces, it was clear traditional charging solutions failed to solve any of these issues for multi-family properties. 

These learnings resulted in the creation of Orange Outlet, a smart outlet that monitors energy usage while providing access control and automating the payment between tenants and owners. With the majority of people spending more than 8 hours at home each night, it allows Orange to utilize a larger charge time window to achieve the equivalent experience of charging your cell phone overnight. This approach reduces the power levels to more realistically meet driving behaviors of less than 30-45 miles per day.  The lower power level also means Orange can utilize more panel capacity, reducing installation costs, and the need for service upgrades. 

Orange also simplified the design of a typical charging station. By removing the charging cable Orange Outlet allows residents to use the mobile chargers that ship with most electric vehicles. This eliminates the most common failure of charging stations, damage to the charging cable, and removes the need for an electrician to come out to replace the entire unit in the event the cable breaks or is damaged. Replacing a $200 mobile charging adapter is far less expensive than having to replace a charging station, which will typically cost more than $200 just for the electrician's time. Further shipping to a new station and booking time with an electrician can take weeks in some cases, whereas getting a new mobile adapter is fairly simple. 

To overcome connectivity we added cellular, WiFi, and Bluetooth mesh to allow the Orange Outlets to establish intelligent gateways and ensure the highest level of connectivity even in underground parking garages. 

All these design choices were to enable a seamless charging experience for both the property and resident. Orange Outlet enables more parking spots access to charge while reducing panel requirements and installation costs. Below is a real-world example that explains in more detail the entire process of how these choices affect an install.

Ansel - Burlingame, CA 

The Ansel building, located in Burlingame, CA, has 14 apartments with 26 parking spaces located in a garage underneath the building. This building had 60 amps of available spare capacity broken out to a single NEMA 14-50, 240-volt plug for a single EV driver. The charger was used two to three times a week to simply top off, leaving it unused roughly 80% of the time.  

Orange took the initial 60 amps plus found some additional spare capacity in the house meter and split it across six Level 1 NEMA 520 Orange Outlets. These outlets were spread throughout the garage allowing more people access to charging without having to share a single charging station or park in a different location than they already do. 

By doing this, Orange only had to add a new subpanel to the property to split off the six Orange Outlets into six different areas of the parking garage. This allowed the property to avoid a service or panel upgrade, saving the property ~$6,000 in the process. 

Level 1 Charging vs Level 2 Options 

Comparing Orange Outlet to installing a standard level 2 charger provider, Orange saved the property $18,506.  

Orange utilized the panel capacity already available and as such didn’t have to go through the process and permitting of a service upgrade. In addition, as Orange Outlets only draw 120-volts they can use 12-gauge wire significantly cutting down on the installation costs, as running the wire is usually the largest cost in any installation. 

Orange was designed to fit into any 2-gang outlet box allowing installation by an electrician using standard off-the-shelf parts. All this reduces installation costs and allows Orange Outlets to go almost anywhere. 

Orange Brought More Charging 

Orange Outlet was able to provide more people accesses to charging at the convenience of their home while reducing the burden on the property and making the installation affordable. The PCE incentives covered 100% of this project's cost, making it painless for the property to switch over, and increasing the value of their investment.  

EV Drivers Win 

By working with PCE, Orange enables the pass-through of real-time energy rates, so when electricity costs less at night, EV drivers save when charging up. On average, a driver could expect to save over $1,000 each year on fuel costs alone by using an Orange Outlet.

This business model allows properties that don’t want to lose money when people move in and out with charging by having the drivers pay the fee. Right now only one person at this property owns a Model 3, and they went from charging every few days on the NEMA 14-50 outlet we replaced to plugging in when the came home and getting the same experience of having the range they needed each day. 

Charge Data from the one EV Driver at Ansel 

You can see that they charged a lot more on the NEMA 520 Orange Outlet because it does charge slower. However, the driver is now getting to charge at a reduced cost, and unlike a gas car doesn't care how fast it takes to get the miles back each night as the vehicle will be topped up and ready each morning.   

As the property turns over residents we hope to see an increase in EV ownership, both because of local incentives to buy an EV and seeing that others have easy access to charging will give potential buyers peace of mind knowing they will always have a place to charge.

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