Electric vehicle charging is an obstacle for NH renters and landlords
|Published: 06-30-2023 2:22 PM
When Kris Schultz and her husband finally decided to replace their 20-year old car, they opted to go green. In searching for a used vehicle that was both UAW-made and electric, one car fit the bill: a 2017 Ford Fusion.
“I was very excited because the price was right,” Schultz said.
However, Schultz and her husband, like nearly one-third of New Hampshire households, are renters. When she reached out to her landlord to discuss the possibility of installing an electric vehicle charging station, she received an uncertain response.
“They really didn’t know what to do … even though I offered to cover the whole thing,” she said.
After going back and forth with her landlord and the property management company, she settled on a non-hybrid Fusion so as not to lose out on the price she negotiated with her dealership.
Schultz also happens to be a Concord Democrat representing Merrimack District 29, and she decided to sponsor a bill to examine the problem after speaking with other New Hampshire renters with the same issue. Signed by Gov. Chris Sununu last week, House Bill 111 establishes a committee to study electric vehicle charging stations for residential renters.
“It gets ahead of an issue we know is coming, regardless of your view of fossil fuels and electric vehicles,” Schultz said in a public hearing on the bill in January.
A study from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Idaho National Laboratory found that over half of participating electric vehicle owners charge their vehicle at home exclusively. For renters in the Granite State, this is rarely an option.
It is difficult to determine exactly how many total New Hampshire properties include electric vehicle charging, but less than 200 complexes with vacancy in the state currently advertise it as an amenity, according to Apartments.com.
New Hampshire has 196 public charging station locations statewide, which may include one or more charging ports – nearly half as many as Maine and Vermont, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Renters hoping to charge an electric vehicle away from the home may find their options impractical, or even impossible.
Marlborough Democratic Rep. Lucius Parshall, a supporter of the study committee, said he can recall only one instance in which he charged his Nissan Leaf outside the home. His nearest public charging station is 7 miles away, in Keene.
“I could not drop my car there to charge and then walk home, I’ll tell you that,” Parshall said.
For a landlord or tenant who wants to install a charging station, there’s a lot to consider.
“I think landlords just don’t know what their options are,” Schultz said.
According to the American Apartment Owners Association, there are two key charger types: conductive chargers and inductive chargers. Conductive chargers are the classic plugs that send electricity directly to a vehicle via cable. Inductive chargers are wireless, and send power to a vehicle through a special charging pad installed into the ground. Right now, most public and residential charging stations are conductive.
There are also three levels of charging stations, each with their own capabilities and site requirements.
Level one chargers essentially require a cable and a standard wall outlet. These chargers are easier to accommodate, as the only determination required is how the electricity used will be accounted for. However, these chargers may require several days of charging to reach the same capacity as a tank of gas.
Level two chargers require the installation of a specific charging outlet. These are the same style of plug utilized in homes for washer and dryer units, around 200 volts. Most public charging stations are level two stations.
Level three stations, also called DCFC fast chargers, are the most powerful at around 800 volts. These chargers can charge a battery to nearly full capacity in an hour or less. However, they are also more expensive and not compatible with every vehicle.
Some third-party electric service companies have packages specifically aimed for landlords, such as ChargePoint and EVPassport. While potentially more expensive, they will help assess the best charging option for a property and facilitate installation. They also offer to manage tenant use, billing, and station maintenance.
There are also various incentives landlords and tenants can access to reduce installation costs, if they fit certain criteria.
The New Hampshire Electric Co-op, for example, offers residential customers a rebate of $300 to install a level two charging station. The rebate can be applied up to two times.
Schultz hopes the study committee can help to assess all the opportunities that are available and make the information more accessible.
“Maybe … it’s just a matter of getting the word out, which we representatives can easily do if we are engaged in this issue,” she said.
A lack of access to electric vehicle charging stations in general is a growing concern in the Granite State. Senate Bill 52, signed by Sununu earlier this month, created a committee to study electric vehicle charging infrastructure funding, and requires several updates to charging station regulations.
However, HB 111 faced concerns from some House Republicans, who feared efforts to increase charging access might translate into mandates for landlords.
The fear largely stems from a 2018 California law, which requires landlords to approve tenant requests for electric vehicle charging stations, given that the tenant will cover all installation and charging costs.
Others, like Rep. Travis O’Hara, a Belmont Republican, suggested the free market would ultimately resolve this issue without legislation. He argued that as more people drive electric cars, landlords will be more likely to include them as a feature to attract tenants.
Bill supporters said guidance for landlords and tenants could only help, as experiences like Schultz’s increase.
ISO New England’s 2023 Transportation Electrification forecast predicts that by 2025, New Hampshire will have more than three times the number of electric vehicles for personal use than it does right now.
“It’s really well past time we got on board with making charging available and making consistent charging available,” Parshall said.