Thought Leadership

Multifamily Housing EV Charging: What Is and Isn’t a Barrier to EV Adoption

November 14, 2023
Author: K.C. Boyce

In our discussions with electric vehicle (EV) stakeholders, including automakers, utilities and policymakers, we often hear concerns about how people who live in multifamily housing (i.e., apartments and condominiums) can charge their EVs and whether that presents a barrier to adoption.

Our recent EVs for EVeryone study found that, nationally, approximately 25% of car buyers live in multifamily housing. However, that national figure disguises areas where multifamily housing is much more prevalent. For example, 39% of respondents in Cook County, Illinois (i.e., Chicago area), and 52% of respondents in New York City live in multifamily housing.

Parity in EV Charging Infrastructure Availability?

Our EVForward™ study of the next generation of EV buyers has shown how important home charging is to the EV experience—existing EV owners charge at home more than 80% of the time, while EV Intenders anticipate doing 75% of their charging at home. Single-family homeowners’ parking characteristics are well-suited for charging at home—82% park in their garage or driveway and 48% have access to a standard electrical outlet near where they park.

Multifamily housing residents’ parking characteristics are markedly different, with parking lot/garage and on-street parking much more the norm:

In addition to not having driveway or garage parking, more than half of apartment dwellers and one-third of condo dwellers do not have a dedicated parking spot for themselves. Compounding this, only 30% of condo dwellers and 15% of apartment dwellers have access to a standard electrical outlet near where they park.

Access to standard household outlets is problematic for multifamily housing charging, as these outlets only provide roughly three miles of range per hour of charging, which inadequately covers many drivers’ daily driving habits. However, the picture looks better for people who live in multifamily housing when considering access to Level 2 (L2) charging (which provides around 30 miles of range per hour of charging). Approximately 15% of all car buyers report access to L2 charging regardless of where they live. Additionally, apartment and condo dwellers are twice as likely as single-family housing dwellers to have a DC fast charger (which can add upward of 400 miles of range in an hour) available where they park.

As another charging option, 15% of multifamily housing residents say they could walk to and from a location with a household outlet to charge their vehicle and 13% have a Level 2 charger within walking distance. These residents indicate a strong willingness to do this, with a majority (65%) saying they would likely charge someplace within walking distance to their home. However, 43% of multifamily housing residents report they don’t have any electricity charging source within walking distance.

The Impact of EV Charging Infrastructure on EV Ownership and Intent

While many EV stakeholders believe that multifamily housing residents aren’t currently buying EVs, and thus solving multifamily housing charging is a future issue, we found that people who live in single-family homes, apartments and condos are equally likely to own an EV or plug-in hybrid. Clearly, any challenges multifamily housing residents have with charging an EV are not insurmountable barriers.

There is a strong correlation between noticing charging infrastructure day-to-day and the perceived practicality of owning an EV. Multifamily housing dwellers are more likely than their counterparts in single-family homes to notice charging infrastructure and/or signage.

Image of a circle graph depicting the Impact on Noticing EV Charging/Signageon Perceived EV Practicality on data from Escalent's EV for EVeryone study

This is reflected in perceived EV practicality: overall, apartment and condo dwellers rate EV practicality at 44 on a 0-to-100 scale, while single-family housing dwellers score EV practicality at 42. The likelihood of considering an EV is similarly higher among multifamily housing dwellers than it is among dwellers of single-family homes.

A Disconnect Between Landlords and Tenants on EV Charging?

We found that more than half of multifamily housing landlords will likely install EV charging at their properties in the next three years. However, there’s no clear alignment around how they anticipate providing charging—landlords are as likely to install standard household outlets for EV charging as they are to install dedicated full-power L2 chargers.

One-third of multifamily housing residents say the availability of EV charging will be important in choosing where to live when they next move. However, EV charging availability becomes vastly more important for car buyers who say their next vehicle will be an EV, with 77% saying it will be important in their housing choice. These residents say that a dedicated L2 charger for every EV is most appealing to them, followed by having a dedicated household outlet for EV charging.

While there is broad consensus between multifamily housing landlords and tenants on household outlets and L2 chargers, many landlords say they’re likely to install L2 charging with power sharing (i.e., if multiple EVs are plugged in, then the charge rate is dynamically lowered). Tenants, however, find this charging style the least appealing. This may present a problem if tenants find power sharing untenable when owning an EV.

Two Important Lessons on EV Charging Infrastructure for Multifamily Housing EV Owners

Based on these findings, solving charging for multifamily housing EV owners is not the barrier that many stakeholders believe it is.

However, it’s also not a fully solved problem and will require further attention from automakers, utilities and policymakers to ensure that multifamily housing residents can participate in and benefit from the e-mobility transition. In this vein, we can learn two main lessons from these findings:

Lesson 1: Continuing to invest in public infrastructure is essential. But it’s not enough to have the infrastructure in place if it’s not visible. Anyone installing charging infrastructure needs to ensure that it’s placed in a visible location and that it has eye-catching branding—avoid the “beige box!” Public infrastructure gives car buyers, regardless of where they live, confidence that they can get a charge when they need it and may play a crucial role in how multifamily housing residents charge.

Lesson 2: Landlords face a balancing act in installing infrastructure for their residents. Tenants who own an EV want a dedicated place to plug in their vehicle, but provisioning dedicated plugs in large parking lots or garages is expensive and risks incurring significant demand charges from the electric utility. Landlords will need to develop phasing plans that allow them to build infrastructure as EV ownership among their tenants grows organically and these plans should include discussion with their utility about ensuring sufficient electric charging capability.

For more details on how multifamily housing residents and their landlords are thinking about EV charging, click below to discover more about our EVs for EVeryone report.



About the EVs for EVeryone Study

Escalent interviewed a national sample of 15,553 consumers age 18 to 99 between June 23 and August 24, 2023. Respondents were recruited from multiple opt-in online panels of US adults and were interviewed online. The data were weighted by age, gender, race and household income to match the demographics of the US adult population. Any reported margins of error or significance tests are estimated and rely on the same statistical assumptions as data collected from a random probability sample. Escalent will supply the exact wording of any survey question upon request.

K.C. Boyce
K.C. Boyce
Vice President, Automotive & Mobility and Energy

K.C. Boyce is a vice president in Escalent’s Automotive & Mobility and Energy practices. He works with energy providers and automakers to craft compelling products and programs that accelerate the energy transition. Throughout his career, K.C. has worked across industries and sectors to develop innovative solutions to complex problems and translate subject matter expertise into actionable insight. He is the co-host of the weekly Energy Matters radio show and a nationally known speaker on topics such as electric vehicles and solar. Before joining Escalent, K.C. was senior vice president at Chartwell, where he led industry and consumer research, conference production and marketing. He also served as the Smart Energy Consumer Collaborative’s assistant director, leading its consumer research program. K.C. holds an MBA from Georgia State’s Robinson College of Business and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Colorado College.