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Because public charging stations aren’t nearly as prominent or easy to use as gas stations and many electric vehicles (EVs) still suffer from a lack of range, the optimal way to use an EV right now is with a home charger. Yet, I, like many other 28-year-olds, am a renter. How the heck are you supposed to find an apartment complex that’ll let you charge an electric car?

In this hypothetical situation, let’s pretend that my Hyundai Kona EV presser is my lone vehicle. For this mini-adventure, I took the Kona EV apartment shopping, where I pretended (sort of) to look for a place to live that accommodated my electric car. 

Click here to find more stories from our EV Explorer series about electric cars.

To level the playing field, I honed my search with a few parameters. According to the US Census, the median income in Columbus, Ohio, is $53,745. I’ve worked as an apartment leasing agent before, and these companies typically want a rent-to-income ratio no greater than 30-33 percent of your monthly income. So, based on the median income, I limited the search to about $1,300 per month for rent.

First Property: The View At Polaris

Columbus’ housing prices are odd; per square footage, many of the “nice” apartments in the suburbs are nearly identically priced to slightly smaller units downtown. The first apartment I visited is located right by Chase bank McCoy Center, the largest Chase Bank office in the world. It’s also right next to a mall, but in typical midwest fashion, it’s not very walkable. The mall is surrounded by very wide, very fast roads.

The charging map shows a few Level 2 public charging stations nearby, but zero DC fast-charging stations. Coupled with the lack of walkability, whatever apartment community I’d choose in this area would need to have on-location charging.

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This apartment community’s management company, Oakwood Management, advertised the ability for new residents to win a free Tesla. “They better have EV charging,” I said out loud, as I pulled into the complex.  I had driven the Kona EV earlier that week, and after the first charge cycles, I completely understood why home charging was necessary.

The smallest one-bedroom started at $1,262 per month, not including utilities or any other fees. The apartment itself was fine; I’ve leased apartments in the area before. Many of these new builds use very similar floorplans and finishes, even if they’re made and marketed by different builders and management companies. It came with the works, including central air-conditioning and in-unit washer and dryer. I know some of y’all coastal readers are salivating, but these are the bare minimum of amenities for a new-build apartment community in the suburbs. In short, the apartment would be fine for any generic 20-something looking for a clean and safe place. Thankfully, the abatement leasing agency did supply EV charging, with two spots for dedicated charging. Not every apartment community in the area offers EV charging, and most in the Polaris area didn’t. The $1,282 monthly rent isn’t exceptionally cheap for the area and finishes, but if you’re an EV driver, you’re limited to here, or a few small handful of other complexes. The apartment manager said that charging was free, but I wonder how future-proof two lone charging ports are for a community of more than 120 units. At the minimum, that should be doubled.

Second Apartment: The Luxe

Content with finding charging at The View, I drove across town to a different area with similar trendy suburban apartments: Dublin, Ohio. 

Dublin’s a higher dollar suburb, located in the northwest quadrant of the Columbus area about a 45-minute drive from Honda North America in Marysville, Ohio, or about a 25-minute drive to downtown Columbus. Dublin’s downtown has literally doubled in size in the past 18 months, as several mid-rise apartment buildings and hotels now make up a new riverside district. Luxury shopping and bars make it the place to be for the young person who wants a somewhat downtown feel, but maybe not the downtown hustle.

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Similar to Polaris, the apartment is located next to a lot of shopping and eating options, but nothing’s really walkable. The charging map is even slimmer; no DC fast charging, and only one slow Level 2 charging option. The newly built downtown Dublin has more than a few Level 2 charging options, but it’s nearly two miles away from this property. A short drive, but not a short walk. Also, the charging options are time-limited in pay-to-park parking lots or parking decks.

Luxe is one part of a three-part apartment complex. For a “deluxe” one-bedroom, the leasing agent wanted about $1,505. It is significantly nicer than Polaris apartment, but out of the 30 percent rent-to-income ratio.

The Luxe didn’t offer any EV charging, and there were none nearby. The leasing agent did say they had powered garages for rent, with 110v plugs in them. However, the Hyundai Kona EV would take more than 50 hours to charge completely on a household 110V outlet, and the extra cost of renting the garage only worsens the rent-to-income ratio. Because it’s a mid-rise with no surrounding parking lot, running an extension cord with 110v out the window isn’t possible. Also, that’s tacky as hell. Don’t do that. 

I tried to look at one more option in another Columbus suburb, but the leasing office closed unexpectedly. From what I could glean online, it was the same as most other suburban Columbus apartments. All of them tend to be in the $1,000-1,300 range, with hit-or-miss charging opportunities. Downtown apartments generally insisted tenants paying a third party for a dedicated parking space either in a lot or a deck, where I’m at the whim of public charging options. South Columbus suburbs (Grove City, Renoyldsburg), where apartments are generally cheaper and bigger, have no on-site charging and very few public charging options. If you have an EV with no home charging, you’re limited to the north half of the city.

Finding A Place That Even Has EV Charging On-site Is A Chore

There’s no easy way to find out if any apartment complex offers EV charging on common housing apps and websites. Typing in “EV Charging” yields mixed results. Some listings have EV charging, some don’t. Some do have charging but they don’t come up when queried. Curiously, Craigslist does have an EV charging search option, but Zillow, Apartments.com, or ForRent don’t.

A Zillow representative confirmed that there’s no box to check, that landlords and developers can’t concretely inform apartment searchers that their unit includes EV charging. 

We Need More Chargers, Period.

Whatever the case, we need more home charging infrastructure for renters. Brenden Kelley, a leader and director at Drive Electric Ohio who is responsible for informing and advocating for EV-friendly legislation, is pushing for exactly that.

“When we work on large-scale EV charging programs, one of the categories of charging that we strongly advocate for, is incentives for multi-family dwellings,” Kelley said via a Zoom call. “Particularly because, as you’re seeing, it’s really hard to get into the EV market if you’re a renter if you don’t control your own parking and your landlord doesn’t provide parking.”

“The best thing apartment dwellers can do is contact their landlords about installing EV charging and contact their utility about incentives for apartment EV charging,” Kelley said in a separate e-mail. 

Kevin Williams

One local organization, the now-defunct SMART Columbus installed a plethora of chargers in “multi-family dwellings”, but that wasn’t enough to satiate all future EV demand, and the infrastructure is notoriously piecemeal on the city’s less affluent edges.

But people like Kelley are working to fix that. At least in Columbus, Kelley is working on a concept called “Decentralized Mobility Hubs,” a partnership that combines Columbus’ Yellow Cab EV taxi fleet, allowing any licensed driver and EV owner to have access to EV charging infrastructure. Four of the five neighborhoods targeted in this program are considered low-income. In all, it seems like an even further expansion of SMART Columbus’ “Smart Mobility Hubs”. AEP Ohio, the main electric utility provider in Columbus, built more than 300 Level 2 chargers, and 75 DC fast chargers over a four-year period between late 2017 to early 2022, through the use of incentives and grants. 

“We’re proud of the program and the success we have had over the last four years, and we’re working with our customers and communities just to make sure that they understand that electric vehicle driving is attractive and they have easy access to charging stations,” Julie Volpe Walker, AEP Ohio energy efficiency program manager, said. 

“… we’re so excited about the infrastructure bill that has $7.5 billion for EV charging, $140 million of which will go to Ohio,” Kelley said over Zoom. “And so there’s been a lot of work done and there’s still a lot more work that needs to be done.”

He’s right, there’s a long way to go. It’s not easy right now, but if Zillow’s lack of a response is anything to go by, it looks like big corporations are about to scramble to support the onslaught of personal EVs coming our way.

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