As the automotive industry expands its offering of electrified models, more renters and homeowners are adopting electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids for daily commutes. While there are many benefits to choosing an EV, transitioning from gas-powered cars is often easier for homeowners who can install chargers or easily access electrical outlets. Renters — and owners in apartment buildings or attached townhomes — have other factors to consider, such as their charging routine.
Here are the top 10 things renters should know about owning an electric car so you can decide how to best move forward with an EV if you don’t own your home.
Some states are adopting “right-to-charge” laws that require new homes and multifamily buildings to have wiring for electric vehicle charging stations. These mandates do not cover the costs of charging an EV at a rental property, but they give residents the authorization to install a charger if needed.
Right-to-charge laws exist in 10 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Virginia, and Washington. The laws in California, Colorado, Connecticut and Virginia help ensure access to electric car charging for owners and renters. Policies in the remaining states protect owners.
In Colorado, multifamily buildings must “comply with the electric vehicle power transfer infrastructure requirements” starting March 2024. In New Jersey, developers must “offer to install, or to provide for the installation of an electric vehicle charging station into a dwelling unit when a prospective owner enters into purchase negotiations.”
Charging time regulations
While new legislation is rolling out to give renters better access to charging stations where they live, many ordinances already exist to regulate the time of day electric cars can recharge. Municipal authorities typically enforce these regulations intending to manage the electrical load on the local power grid.
Landlords or property managers may also limit charging sessions during peak hours to help balance energy resources.
It’s common for a homeowner to attach the charging cable to their EV in the evening and schedule the car to start charging in the middle of the night. The strategy avoids straining the grid while taking advantage of cheaper off-hour electricity rates. This tactic won’t be an option if you rent and share charging stations with others.
Even if there aren’t any restrictions on charging times, widely accepted charging etiquette requires drivers to connect to public chargers only while their car is charging. The best practice is to be respectful of other EV owners who may need access to chargers during the day or late at night.
Limited charging spaces
There are many reasons why apartment buildings may not have charging infrastructure in place. For older developments, logistical challenges can delay retrofitting the existing framework, and it takes time to work out appropriate details with local utility providers. Cost considerations also play a significant role.
If charging stations exist in your apartment building, you’ll share these spaces with other tenants. You must try to schedule your charging sessions when the chargers are available to avoid waiting. It’s not unlike scrambling for an open washing machine in a building’s laundry facility. Additionally, it’s common courtesy to disconnect your EV from the charger once the battery is full — like promptly removing your clothes from the dryer.
As a renter, be mindful of compatibility issues with your connection point. Different electric cars have different charging terminals. For example, the Nissan Leaf uses a CHAdeMO connector which is being phased out across the industry, while CCS (combined charging system) is the current standard. You may need an adapter to use your property’s charging station.
Adapting without a home charger
If you can’t regularly use the available charging stations on your property, or if none are installed, your best option is to use public stations in your area. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center maintains a searchable map of nearly 60,000 charging stations nationwide. Use that tool and PlugShare, a user-generated map, to research the nearby charging opportunities and decide how best to incorporate recharging into your routine.
Alternatively, drivers renting a home with a personal driveway or garage can purchase a portable charging cable with a longer cord compatible with both Level 1 and Level 2 stations. This workaround can let you adapt without installing a dedicated charger.
Portable charging options
If you don’t have access to a charging station installed on your rental property, and the closest public chargers are still an inconvenient commute, consider a portable charging cable. If you’re buying a used EV from a dealership or a private seller, ask if the car comes with a cable.
Charging cables offer a functional and adaptable charging solution for various lifestyles and living arrangements. They also come in handy when visiting out-of-town friends and family. You’ll need access to an outlet because the device doesn’t recharge your car but serves as an adapter to plug into a wall and then into your car’s charging port.
Pros of portable EV chargers
- Cost: Portable charging cables are more affordable than the expenses associated with installing a dedicated home charging station.
- Convenience: Portable chargers offer flexibility. You’re not limited to charging in a dedicated spot. This can be helpful if you travel often or have an unpredictable work schedule.
Cons of portable EV chargers
- Speed: Portable charging cables usually have slower charging speeds. A Level 1 portable cable will do very little to boost your battery unless you’re continuously connected overnight. Level 2 cables are available but require 240-volt outlets and are less common than typical 110-volt receptacles.
- Outlet considerations: Although you aren’t limited to using a standalone charging station, you must be able to park close to an electrical outlet. Some chargers might have shorter connection cables, so keep this in mind when making a decision. Never attempt to use a household extension cord to charge an electric car.
Lease terms and policies
Review your lease agreement thoroughly if you own an electric vehicle. There may be specific terms or policies that outline when you can charge and where you’re allowed to park. If any restrictions exist, get the details upfront to avoid conflict later.
Hot weather considerations
Heat can take a toll on electric vehicles, reducing battery lifespan. While EVs have thermal management systems to regulate the battery’s temperature, it’s still possible for them to get too hot while parked idle in direct sunlight for extended periods. If the charging station on your property is uncovered with no shaded area, be mindful of how long you stay connected – especially at midday in the hot summer months.
Cold weather considerations
Extreme cold can also negatively impact your experience as a renter owning an EV. Electric cars don’t have as much driving range in freezing temperatures. The battery works harder to generate heat, and it may also take notably longer to charge. This means you’ll be spending more time at your community charging stations and must budget the extra time in your schedule.
This story originally ran on Autotrader.com.