Getting gated communities charged up for the future

Builders in Chennai ensure their new projects have an Electric Vehicle charging station built into the primary design, but the older projects require more effort

Updated - October 20, 2023 04:28 pm IST

Published - October 20, 2023 02:06 pm IST

Bollineni Hillside in Chennai is firming up plans for establishing an Electric Vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure. Realisation that this facility cannot wait anymore dawned on Bollineni Hillside Residential Township Owners Association (BHRTOA) in a dramatic fashion. A 1,300-unit gated community in Perumbakkam, Bollineni Hillside has apartment blocks and independent villas with the former dominating the landscape.

Across the apartment blocks, only three households own EVs. But reportedly, they were making a splash with their charging routines until BHRTOA stepped in and called time on it.

Commander Satish Chandrasekaran (retd.), president, BHRTOA, reveals these EV owners ran cables down their towers to their cars on the driveway and charged them with their kit chargers plugged in at home. This practice obviously did not do much for aesthetics, nor for safety. Being untethered home kit EV chargers, they would put in more hours doing their job, leaving those cables dangling down the towers all the while.

EV station at Radiance Mandarin, Chennai.

EV station at Radiance Mandarin, Chennai. | Photo Credit: special arrangement

Recently, Radiance Mandarin Owners Welfare Association (RMAOWA) unwrapped an EV charging station for its 360-unit community in Thoraipakkam, despite having an EV-owning population that can be counted on one hand. The compass was being set more to the future than the present.

Overall consent

With EVs just trickling into parking spaces at gated communities, demand from residents for an EV charging station is often feebly-voiced, if not unvoiced.

However, the slowly-growing need for this facility in gated communities, particularly those with a vertical configuration, is apparent, and a majority of resident associations are alive to it. How quickly a community responds to this need depends on its general agility towards embracing change and ability to arrive at consensus by managing buy-ins from Association members and flat owners.

It is not so much the cost as the will that determines whether an Association inks in plans for a charging station. Generally, residents’ associations play the waiting game, as the EV revolution is still only progressing at a leisurely trot.

Vinod Gopinathan, joint secretary, RMAOWA, notes the charging station arrived at his community after a year spent waiting and thumbing through options.

The sense of urgency is stronger among builders of gated communities. In fact, in their ongoing and new projects, they do not think twice before offering an EV charging station as an amenity. “Out of 100 inquiries about a new project, 10 prospective buyers would ask about this feature. Not all of the 10 would have an EV, but they are nevertheless interested in EV infrastructure. Given this, we need to give buyers this facility. Down the line, there could be a government mandate around having an EV charging station in a project, one that might go as far as specifying that the builder maintain a particular houses-to-charging units ratio,” says Manu Jacob Sabu, Head of Marketing, Baashyaam Constructions.

Choice of numbers

“Inheriting” an EV charging station from the builder will spare the Association the hassle of planning one from the ground up.

Even where a builder has bequeathed an EV charging station to a residents’ association, the latter would have to roll up their sleeves at some point and build upon the existing infrastructure. Each Association has to work out its choices in terms of how many charging units would serve its needs best, and their power capabilities. Gopinathan says that RMAOWA went in for the fast-charging 22 kw option so that any car can be charged quickly.

But if the EV population in the community increases, and it surely will sooner or later, they might have to bring in reinforcements, which would be dictated by everyday requirements and budgets.

Cost analysis
The investment cost varies on the basis of the power and speed of the chargers installed at the station. Radiance Mandarin Owners Welfare Association, which governs the 360-unit housing complex in Thoraipakkam, went in for four charging units for electric bikes, and two, high-end, fast-charging 22 kw units for electric cars, for a little over ₹1 lakh. In all the charging stations, the charging and resultant billing to the user is controlled by the app provided by the service provider. Above the electricity bill charges (based on a commercial connection), a small charge is usually added to recover investment cost and later meet running costs. Vinod Gopinathan, Association joint secretary, says, “The additional cost component can be changed any time. As residents’ associations run the EV charging stations as part of a bouquet of services, this added charge is very nominal, aimed only at covering costs.”

The charging and billing for a resident (and in some communities, even guests of residents) is done via an app provided by the service provider, the company that installed the EV charging units. The system running largely on the cloud, there is no need for anyone to man the station.

However, following the expiry of the charging units’ warranty period, the Association would have to sign up for AMC (annual maintenance contract) deals with the service provider.

Sriram J., Lead – Charging Infrastructure, Bolt Earth, a charging station and allied software service provider, says that as of now, apart from the sale and installation of the charging units, revenue for service providers is generated through AMCs after the warranty period has expired. As this whole system is in its initial stages, now service providers may not charge towards the use of the software that runs the chargers and the stations, he continues.

“Later on, when the system has evolved, charges under Charger Management System (CMS) would be levied for those who sign up for it. The rate per unit would be decided upon case by case.”

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