Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Consumers' Potential Shift to Electric Cars May Impact Commercial and Multifamily Properties

Magazine article Journal of Property Management

Consumers' Potential Shift to Electric Cars May Impact Commercial and Multifamily Properties

Article excerpt

Real estate managers are "plugging in" to the developing electric vehicle (EV) marketplace, trying to determine how their businesses might be impacted by mass production of electric cars and eventual public demand for EV plug-in charging stations.

"Commercial real estate is going to be affected by electric vehicles; it's just a question of when," said Bob Best, executive vice president and product lead for Jones Lang LaSalle's Energy and Sustainability Services division.

Considering the newness of the technology, though, and the fact that electric car sales have yet to surge, real estate managers have many questions regarding the investment and logistics involved with installing EV charging stations--devices that connect to electric cars through a power cord and connector plug, charging cars with electricity from a power grid.

Even though concerns exist, this potential emerging trend should not be ignored, said Angela Phillips, CPM, and owner, broker and CAM manager at Dependable Property Management, in Satellite Beach, Fla.

"At some point we are going to have to move to greener technology" Phillips said. "I think we would be wrong to put off investigating [EV charging stations], even if we never use them."

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DRIVING CHANGE

In 2009, the Department of Energy (DOE) increased consumer awareness of electric vehicles by awarding $2.4 billion to organizations developing electric vehicles and EV infrastructure.

More specifically, the DOE awarded a $99.8 million grant to ECOtality--a company focused on clean, electric transportation and storage technologies--to undertake the largest deployment of electric cars and charging infrastructure in the United States through the Blink charging station network.

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Major automobile manufacturers are also planning to roll out approximately 20 electric car models into the marketplace by 2012, according to information from the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA), a Washington, D.C.-based organization focused on advancing electric drive technology.

Currently, the price of electricity is about a quarter of the cost of gas, peaking consumers' interest in these cars that run solely on electricity, said Brian Wynne, president of the EDTA.

"Our transportation system is in flux, and I think it's going to stay in flux because it's unlikely the price of gas is going to go down substantially," Wynne said. "We're going to start using our transportation system differently and electric cars are a part of that."

More companies are already responding to the presumed demand for EV charging stations. In June, Vulcan Real Estate had 24 charging stations installed under the federally funded EV Project at South Lake Union, a sustainable planned neighborhood in Seattle.

The charging stations are spread out among eight buildings, including retail, office and mixed-use properties, with a significant residential component. Hamilton Hazlehurst, a development manager for Vulcan, said the company ultimately decided the trend toward electric cars will be a reality, and Vulcan wanted to be ahead of the curve.

"This is the tip of the iceberg," Hazlehurst said. "We'll have to see how it all plays out, but I personally believe there is going to be very significant demand for electric cars, and they're going to need an infrastructure to plug into."

LEVELING WITH THE TECHNOLOGY

Determining whether to invest in the necessary EV infrastructure first necessitates understanding the fairly simple EV charging station technology.

Electric Charging Station Locations

Most commercial property owners and managers are investing in level-two chargers--stand-alone units that can fully charge an electric car in four to eight hours once the car is connected to a charging station. …

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