Sydney launches push to spur apartment blocks to install EV chargers

The plan comes amid efforts to try to promote the electric car market in Australia. PHOTO: PEXELS

SYDNEY – Australia’s most populous city has launched a push to encourage the rollout of charging stations for electric vehicles (EVs) in apartment buildings in a move that could help lift the country’s low uptake of electric vehicles.

The plan by the City of Sydney will require new buildings to have shared spaces for charging and to allow all parking spots to easily install chargers if needed.

The plan also calls for existing buildings to explore ways to install charging facilities in their parking areas and to look at requiring new shopping developments to include chargers in customer parking spots.

The plan says that these moves are crucial because the “best place for people to charge is where they currently refuel or where they park”.

“Combining parking and vehicle charging makes sense,” the plan says. “It makes sense to use the planning system so that building parking is ‘EV ready’ from day one.”

The plan comes amid efforts to try to promote the electric car market in Australia. Just 3.8 per cent of new cars sold in the country in 2022 were electric, compared with a global average of about 10 per cent.

One of the challenges is lack of charging infrastructure, especially in buildings, whose owners can potentially block efforts by residents to install chargers.

A Melbourne resident, Mr Sam Wright, recently described his ordeal in arranging a charger in the parking area of his apartment building after other owners knocked back his proposals.

He eventually had to spend A$5,000 (S$4,570) on an elaborate setup that involved running a cable from his unit to his car spot and taking out a 99-year lease on the space covered by the cable.

“There were a few times when I thought I should just throw in the towel and give up,” he told ABC News. “If you have got to go through that whole process... (it) is pretty onerous.”

The City of Sydney’s plan seeks to address such hurdles as part of a push to ensure that 100 per cent of cars in the area are electric by 2035.

The City, which includes the central business district and about 30 surrounding suburbs, plans to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2035.

Sydney Mayor Clover Moore, acknowledged that arranging charging stations in apartment buildings can be difficult due to issues such as the need to manage overall demand and “questions over who pays and how”.

“In the city context, where over 75 per cent of people live in apartments, strata (apartment) charging presents a real opportunity to make a significant dent in our charging needs, but it’s complicated,” she said in a statement.

Professor John Rose from the University of Sydney, an expert on sustainable transport, said policymakers in Australia should consider subsidising the installation of charging stations in apartment buildings.

Currently, subsidies for the electric vehicle market have mostly involved efforts to make the vehicles themselves more affordable.

“If people can’t charge them (EVs) at home, there will be a big barrier in five to 10 years (to making the switch to electric vehicles),” he told The Sydney Morning Herald.

In 2022, the New South Wales State government announced an A$10 million plan to support 125 apartment buildings in the installation of charging stations. To qualify, the buildings must have more than 100 parking spaces.

Meanwhile, council areas across Australia have also been installing free or subsidised charging stations.

The City of Sydney, for instance, has about 120 such stations and hopes to have as many as 350 by 2035.

Other councils and private operators are also rolling out charging stations, including a proposed new 20-stall station funded by Tesla in Benalla, a town in rural Victoria.

The local council said they will be built in a shopping district and will deliver a boost to local businesses.

“While cars are charging, it allows owners and families time to enjoy some of what Benalla has to offer, including some of the local shops and cafes,” says the council’s plan.

Despite the City of Sydney’s proposal to encourage electric vehicles, its new plan notes: “The biggest impact we can have to reduce transport emissions is to facilitate a shift to walking, cycling and public transport.”

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