Most major automakers have followed Tesla’s footsteps into the electric vehicle world, and there are likely more to come. California will ban internal combustion engines by 2035. Assuming these trends continue, it will affect how developers build commercial real estate projects and how owners manage and operate them if they want to remain competitive.
Anthony S. Wexler, professor of engineering and air quality at the University of California, Davis, is at the forefront of electric vehicle development and use. He has put a lot of thought into how they fit into the changing built environment over time.
Wechsler said apartment and condominium owners, as we’re already starting to see, will feel increasingly pressured to offer in-garage charging services, not just centralized pay-as-you-go pricing. said it would. Instead, apartment dwellers, especially in the upscale market, will soon be demanding the ability to charge their cars directly in the parking lots they normally occupy. This avoids the hassle, complexity and headaches of multiple trips to the garage. Instead, any owner can easily charge their car overnight without any extra effort.
By omitting outdoor commercial charging stations, electric vehicle owners can save more than 50 percent on the same electricity bill, Wechsler said. As the cost of charging equipment continues to drop, it will become more and more feasible to distribute it widely throughout the garage, he said. Expect to see that in the next few years.
Homeowners who buy electric vehicles have much the same goal, and will also benefit from lower charging station costs and savings over buying electricity at commercial charging stations. In some parts of the country, homeowners can also install solar panels to draw power from the sun and feed it directly into their electric vehicles. Depending on state law, surplus electricity may be sold back to the power company. It’s already happening now.
Looking ahead, Wexler predicts that electric vehicle batteries could play a new role in the power grid. Today, a typical Tesla can store 75 kilowatt-hours of power. This is enough for him to power a typical middle-class home for just over three days. Homeowners can use electric vehicles to replace backup generators and battery walls that sometimes appear in homes with solar cells. Wechsler also notes that electric vehicles have resale value, but battery walls do not.
Wechsler predicted that as electric cars become more popular and their batteries get more capacity, those same electric cars will themselves become part of the grid, feeding power back into the grid as needed. They can replace traditional “peaker” power plants, inefficient but powerful generators that produce power quickly when needed during peak hours. As electric vehicles become more widely used as part of the grid, the need for viable battery installations may also decrease.
As a variation, an electric vehicle parked in or near the building can be used as a backup power source for the building itself. Vehicle owners can easily sign up to offer that service. From a building owner’s perspective, expensive amenities can be turned into valuable building systems. Today’s software systems have no problem doing bookkeeping.
The growing use of electric vehicles is not without challenges. Initially, it was thought that electric vehicle owners could charge their vehicles at night when electricity prices and overall consumption were low. The proliferation of electric vehicles is starting to change that calculation. Instead, electric vehicle charging software is starting to monitor electricity prices for fluctuations during the day, and will supply power whenever the price is low, no longer necessarily in the middle of the night. said Wexler. Electric vehicle owners may find that the best time to charge is during the day when solar power is at its peak. This trend will motivate office and retail building owners to install charging stations for their employees who work in their buildings during the day.
Wechsler warned that as electric vehicles continue to develop, the market could move in a completely different direction from having chargers for everyone as suggested above. Instead, we may eventually see a big, fundamental shift away from private cars of all kinds in favor of shared electric vehicles, such as the bike-sharing program that has become so popular in many cities. No, he said.
Wexler then said that companies that offer shared electric vehicles would centrally handle charging. And large parking lots for private cars may be a thing of the past. Parking lot owners may need to consider reusing their buildings. Sloping floors can make this particularly difficult or impossible. So anyone building parking lots today might want to be ahead of the time when parking lots need to become something else: one where sloping floors are eliminated.
Either way, the proliferation of electric vehicles could have a significant impact on how real estate is developed and used.