View of Toronto condo buildings
Clean Air Partnership, with support from The Atmospheric Fund, released a study on April 4 for municipalities, developers, electrical designers, utilities and other stakeholders in Ontario to educate them on the costs of making parking in new construction EV ready and on the most cost-efficient design strategies.

As more municipalities plan bylaws to ensure new single and multi-unit residential buildings are wired for EV charging, a Clean Air Partnership report analyzes costs and design strategies and finds making new buildings EV ready is far cheaper than retrofits

In anticipation of electric vehicle adoption over the next decade the building industry is one of several sectors facing a major change with industry stakeholders pushing to see regulations that require all new construction in Canada to be electric vehicle ready.

Clean Air Partnership (CAP), with support from The Atmospheric Fund, released a study on April 4 for municipalities, developers, electrical designers, utilities and other stakeholders in Ontario to educate them on the costs of making parking in new construction EV ready and on the most cost-efficient design strategies. While focused specifically on the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, the report’s findings are relevant for municipalities elsewhere that are contemplating the development of EV-ready bylaws for residential buildings.

The Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure Costing Study, conducted by Vancouver-based AES Engineering on behalf of CAP, details the issue: “Electric vehicle (EV) adoption is growing rapidly, and near total replacement of passenger vehicles with EVs will be required to achieve local and Federal government climate targets. Providing access to ‘at home’ EV charging is a critical factor to ensure that households will choose EVs.”

The report finds that EVs provide significant savings for drivers. At-home EV charging equates to roughly $0.20 cents per litre of gasoline but has a wide range of adjustments depending on location and time of charging. Maintenance costs of an EV are half that of an internal combustion (ICE) vehicle. On a life cycle cost, EVs are already competitive with ICE cars and with up-front purchase costs declining that competitiveness is only growing.

Within this context, the study approaches the issue of charging in new builds including MURBs, townhouses and single unit dwellings as something that should be prepared for on a “100% EV ready” level because of the benefits to owners and the new federal mandate for 100 per cent EV sales by 2035 (a separate analysis also considers a 20 per cent EV-ready scenario in line with Toronto’s Green Standard version 3). To EV-ready new residential buildings, the report estimates, will cost $1,500-$1,800 per parking space in a high rise building and for $2,000 or less in a townhouse or single unit home.

The report is unequivocal in its findings about requirements for new construction: “It is recommended that local governments implement 100% EV Ready requirements for residential parking in new developments.”

Costly retrofits

Part of the reason behind such a forceful conclusion is that while the data reflects the cost to make EV-ready new residential buildings is more affordable, they are manageable; cost to retrofit an existing building can quickly balloon.

“[R]etrofitting EV charging into multifamily buildings is much more complicated and costly,” reads the report.

“Broadly, multifamily buildings that are not constructed with EV Ready infrastructure can pursue one of two strategies to implement EV charging: Comprehensive EV Ready retrofits…[or] Incremental additions of EV chargers.”

The former option is estimated by the report to be less costly than the latter, but could still be as much as four times the cost per parking stall compared to future-proofing a new build for EV charging.

“The costing analysis documents that retrofits to provide EV charging infrastructure in buildings that are not future-proofed with 100% EV Ready parking will be much more costly and complicated than implementing 100% EV Ready parking in new construction,” concludes the report.

Municipalities leading the way

According to the most recent census data from 2016, 33.5 per cent of Canadians reside in MURBs, with Quebec City, Montreal and Vancouver coming out with the highest concentration per census metropolitan area. In Toronto, nearly one in three dwellings is in a high rise over five storeys.

No Canadian province has yet passed legislation to EV-ready new multi unit residential buildings. Quebec is the only Canadian province to pass legislation that requires EV-readiness in single family dwellings. Ontario would have been the first with the Liberal government’s 2017 amendment to the Buildings Act, but that was revoked in 2019 by the Conservative government.

As such, it’s falling to municipalities to write their own rules about EV charging infrastructure in MURBs, townhouses and single unit dwellings.

Overwhelmingly, the province with the most municipalities passing their own rules is British Columbia. So far there are 15 cities in B.C. that have made changes to their building codes to mandate EV-readiness, with all requiring either 100 per cent EV-readiness or one unit per dwelling unit. Laval in Quebec (50 per cent in multi-family buildings) and Toronto (25 to 100 per cent depending on building type) are the only other municipalities outside of B.C. with similar regulations.

“EV adoption is growing exponentially worldwide and is widely forecast to continue to accelerate rapidly over the coming decade and beyond,” reads the report.

“[L]ocal governments can confidently expect rapidly growing demand for EVs, and EV charging, in the future. The preponderance of evidence suggests that within 15-20 years, most households will drive an EV, if they have a vehicle… [I]mproving access to home charging is particularly important to enabling EV adoption.”

Clean Air Partnership is running a webinar looking at Toronto’s MURB EV charging infrastructure as a case study on May 11, 2022.