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Renters, condo owners struggle to secure EV chargers


For as long as he’s owned his Chevy Bolt, Des Plaines resident John Pontikes has been charging the electric vehicle wherever he can: his daughter’s house, the Des Plaines Metra station, and more recently, at four newly installed charging units behind the city police station.

That’s because for more than a year, Pontikes has been struggling to get his own charger installed at his home at Park Laurel Condominiums. Roadblocks include securing a contractor, going through a previously nonexistent municipal permitting process, and now, getting approval from his homeowners association.

Despite receiving initial approval last summer, Pontikes awaits additional approval from the association to get home charging for the car he ordered in September 2022.

“I am totally frustrated,” the Des Plaines retiree said.

Pontikes’s experience is emblematic of the additional barriers residents of multifamily buildings face in installing EV chargers — barriers that a recent state law seeks to break down.

To support Illinois electric vehicle owners and encourage more drivers to go electric, state legislators passed the Electric Vehicle Charging Act one year ago. Effective this January, the law sets readiness standards for certain newly constructed single- and multifamily residences.

It also states a landlord or HOA can’t “unreasonably restrict” or “unreasonably delay the approval or denial” of an electric vehicle charger installation.

“Electric vehicles are a critical piece of reducing carbon in the transportation sector, and in order to increase electric car purchases and use, we need to make sure that they can charge,” said state Rep. Robyn Gabel, the House Majority leader and one of the legislation’s sponsors. “We know that there’s a problem with already established multifamily units, where some of the condo units will just say, ‘No, we’re not doing it.’ The purpose of this legislation was to put some parameters around how a multifamily dwelling can put in charging stations.”

Gabel, an Evanston Democrat, added that she heard from several constituents and advocates facing challenges similar to Pontikes’ while she drafted the law.

One of them is Neda Deylami, a Chicago resident and EV owner advocate who helped pen the legislation. As an early EV adopter and a renter, Deylami turned to electric vehicle policy after experiencing the uncertainty and confusion of relying on public charging.

The law school graduate rented a parking space to charge at a nearby outlet. In speaking with the building manager, who had never heard of the idea, Deylami walked him through how much power her EV would use and how much it would cost — about $20 a month.

“If it’s that inaccessible, that means that EV adoption is going to stay inaccessible for the vast majority of people, including the people who have the resources and means to both purchase one and charge one,” Deylami said. “That’s a really bad omen for the future of transportation electrification, for reducing our emissions, for air quality, for equity, all of these things. I wanted to do something about it.”

Now the vehicle electrification manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, Deylami went on to help shape Illinois’ new law by incorporating “the right to charge.” The provision states that a landlord or homeowners association cannot unreasonably restrict a driver’s access to charging in a parking space they have legal right to, whether they own it or they’re renting it.

 
John Pontikes of Des Plaines shows where a receptacle would go so he can charge his electric vehicle at the parking spot of his Des Plaines condominium. For more than a year he has been struggling to get the necessary approvals to install the charger.
Joe Lewnard/jlewnard@dailyherald.com

With the new law in place, Pontikes is considering how to best proceed without the approval of his HOA. As the first and only Park Laurel resident pursuing an EV charger installation, Pontikes has gone through three different contractors, met countless times with Des Plaines’ chief building official, and even knocked on his neighbors’ doors to get information for permit-related calculations.

Des Plaines Chief Building Official Allen Yanong said he hopes to propose amendments to the municipality’s electrical code to clarify requirements for EV charger installation.

“Because the requests for EV chargers at multifamily buildings are just going to increase,” Yanong added.

Following the latest delay from the homeowners association, Pontikes is concerned he’s missing out on substantial rebate opportunities.

“I really don’t know where to go from here other than to take them to court on this, and I really don’t want to do that,” he said.

The complex process has dissuaded one of his neighbors from pursuing a charger, according to Pontikes.

“They need to plan for this,” he said. “This is something that will be a problem for existing buildings.”

Park Laurel management, Rosen Management Services, did not respond to requests for comment.

· Jenny Whidden, jwhidden@dailyherald.com, is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see dailyherald.com/rfa.

California-based ChargePoint is working with Charge Across Town and the state of California to deploy hundreds of EV chargers at multifamily properties like apartment buildings and condo complexes across the state.
AP



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