Want an Electric Vehicle but Live in an Apartment?

Two companies have teamed up to provide solar-powered, electric vehicle charging with battery storage in 68 apartment buildings in San Francisco. They will rent spaces for charging by tenants. Roofs will also be rented and covered with solar panels.
December 31, 2014, 8am PST | Irvin Dawid
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San Francisco, one of the greenest cities in the country, is not coincidentally also one of the densest, which poses difficulties should an apartment dweller want to lease or purchase an electric vehicle (EV). "More than 60 percent of San Franciscans rent, usually in multiunit buildings that may or may not have a shared garage," writes David R. BakerThe San Francisco Chronicle's clean tech and energy reporter.

Powertree Services, a San Francisco start-up, has a solution. It "is partnering with Japanese electronics giant Panasonic to install chargers in 68 San Francisco apartment buildings, using an approach that borrows heavily from the no-money-down leases that have revolutionized the solar industry," writes Baker.

In each building, Powertree will rent several parking spaces in the garage and supply level-two charging stations for each space. Powertree will also rent the building's roof and install solar panels. The panels will feed a lithium-ion battery pack, which in turn will feed the charger

The landlord pays nothing and gets a new stream of rent in return. Tenants can sign up with Powertree to charge their cars or use electricity from the panels, paying a flat monthly fee for each service. (The company has not yet announced the size of those fees.)

Julia Pyper of GreenTech Media writes that "(t)he combination of solar and storage will help to smooth the spike in demand from high-power EV charging and provide ancillary services to support the grid."

Bringing together three solutions -- vehicle charging with solar and battery backup -- “has multiple benefits for every stakeholder, be it EV customers, the building owner, or the utility,” said Jon Ethington, project manager for Panasonic.

"Owners of multi-tenant apartment and mixed-use buildings face a rising demand from tenants, drivers and new regulations that combine to require them to install, manage, upgrade electric charging facilities and support electric vehicles,” said Stacey Reineccius, founder and CEO of Powertree.

As we noted in September, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-Calif.) signed AB 2565, which allows "renters to work with their landlords to install charging stations for electric vehicles.

It "require(s) a lessor of a dwelling to approve a written request of a lessee to install an electric vehicle charging station at a parking space allotted for the lessee." See the bill language for exceptions.

The bill takes effect in July—Powertree stands to gain if apartment renters want to purchase or lease EVs and inform their landlords that they want to charge them in their buildings. 

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Published on Monday, October 20, 2014 in San Francisco Chronicle
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