26 October 2023

Canberra strata buildings getting ready for EV influx

| Morgan Kenyon
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apartment building exterior

A new study in the ACT is giving strata buildings a chance to get ahead, as the number of local EVs continues to rise. Photo: Vantage Strata.

Canberra still leads the nation in electric vehicle (EV) uptake. This likely comes as no surprise for road users, but the numbers behind it just might.

According to NRMA, new car sales have jumped to about 20 per cent electric this year – four times higher than in 2021.

To service the influx, local strata buildings are getting ready to further transition from fossil fuels to green energy – and the ACT Government is backing their efforts.

READ ALSO EV inquiry recommends ways to cure ‘charging anxiety’

Vantage Strata has helped prepare the Park Avenue building (Canberra City) to apply for a Government-run pilot study aimed at strata managers and owners’ corporations.

“The Residential Strata EV Ready Pilot Study will help identify what a strata building needs to become EV ready and explore how best to meet those needs,” says Edzel Dy, senior facilities manager at Vantage Strata.

“$300,000 has been allocated to carry out feasibility studies on 10 buildings and complete EV-ready upgrades for two that meet select criteria.

“It’s worth noting that being EV ready doesn’t mean running out and installing chargers right away. It’s about doing the legwork for later installation, including electrical and infrastructure upgrades.”

Park Avenue building exterior in Canberra City.

As well as supporting the transition from fossil fuels, onsite chargers for buildings such as Park Avenue provide a boost to property value and convenience for EV owner residents. Photo: Google Street View.

Edzel believes the pilot will help involved stratas respond to the significant challenges they face when considering infrastructure for EVs.

“Each property is different. Some are relatively easy to instal stations in, while others are more complex,” he says.

“The biggest challenge facing these buildings is electrical infrastructure. Most don’t have the spare power capacity to properly supply charging stations, and upgrades are costly and time consuming.

“They also need to think about where chargers will go. Is there a budget to have chargers allocated to specific parking spaces, or does the building have visitor parks that allow for a dedicated charging area?”

READ MORE Rupert Cullen makes the leap to Vantage as strata industry booms in Canberra

Applications for this study have closed. But Edzel says there are a number of ways stratas can get involved in green energy, and other incentives for electrical infrastructure may follow.

“We are encouraging all owners’ corporations to start investing in green energy. For now, this might mean installing solar panels to cater for property utilities like lifts and common lighting.

“Park Avenue has already started to instal solar panels, so for them the next phase is EV chargers.

“The study isn’t just about solving challenges. It’s also a chance to show off what being EV ready looks like to other stratas and a resource to inform future policies that support residents, as they too move away from fossil fuel use.”

More information on the Residential Strata EV Ready Pilot Study can be found here.

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About that $900,000 apartment you just bought, unknowingly finding out about the carpark being full of EVs

GrumpyGrandpa11:36 pm 27 Oct 23

Every commenator has raised the same concern that I have; EV fires!

Sure, EV fires aren’t as common as those in Hybrids or ICE cars, but the consequences are significantly higher.

These things generate their own oxygen and the fires can’t be put out until the stored fuel source has been completely exhausted. These fires can last for days and could engulf everything in the carpark.

And as if just the fires were only the concern, they produce toxic gas emmissions which could be potentially fatal and will contamination any waste water used to try and “control” these fires. Control only. Water will not put out these fires, because they generate their own oxygen.

We have seen what some batteries can do to the Hume recycling plant. If anyone still has doubts, Google “Freemantle Highway” to see the consequences of EV fires in a confined environment.

Imagine the consequences of a residential apartment block carpark and an EV fire, with people living directly above. Imagine the Body Corporate insurance costs in any building with underground (basement) EV charging capacity.

So while the article might quote
“The biggest challenge facing these buildings is electrical infrastructure……” I think there are a lot of us who are more concerned about the life and death issues!

Terrence O\'Brien7:13 pm 27 Oct 23

Some practical questions for the pilot study: What will all these EVs use for electricity? How will it be generated? How will it be distributed when the infrastructure isn’t there? What will be the fire control measures in apartments be? What will be the impact on insurance and body corporate fees? Will only the minority of richer unit owners wanting their own EV recharging stations pay, or will the costs be smeared over all unit holders? How much difference will it make to the world’s climate?

Insurance is the big mystery.
I am told that insurance premiums will rise (even more) because of the fire risk and the nature of the fire, that almost cannot be put out.
(Maybe someone can get a comment from the ACT Fire brigade)
I have been told that it is a matter of when, not if.
The large establishment that i work at, across a number of buildings, has a blanket ban on any electric type vehicle coming into the buildings containing office space.
When i say electric type vehicle, they mean, bikes, scooters, skateboards, segway type things.
So it will be interesting to how the body corp handle this as well.

Malcolm Roxburgh4:49 pm 27 Oct 23

What happens when every tenant wants an overnight charging station? Will the body corporate foot the bill for the electricity charge?

no – most will either install paid faster charging facilities or something akin to lockable plugs for each space linked to the owners meter

Waiting for the but ICE fires happen too comments:

EV cars burn much hotter for far longer than ICE cars.
That in a building is much more like September 11 attacks than a small petrol fire.

ICE car fires are most likely to occur while the car is running and hot surfaces, EV fires are most likely to occur when charging or overcharging.

What stops the EV from overcharging? the software, how many of the EV cars have internet connectivity?

Please park your EV outside the building where people sleep

PC__LoadLetter9:21 pm 27 Oct 23

EV fires have little or nothing to do with whether they’re charging at the time. The key factor is whether there’s been a crash in the few days prior. Just park elsewhere, away from buildings, infrastructure and other vehicles, for 3 days after a crash. Chances are you’re doing that anyway, at your insurance company’s assessor’s lot.

Further, the duration of an EV fire is proportional to the amount of energy stored in its battery. Since moving into a new unit with my own 32 amp charger in my own allocated park, I’m quite content setting the charge goal to 60%, to preserve battery life, except in advance of long trips. I’ll dial up the car’s charge limit on my phone to 80% the night before a possible long trip, and 95% an hour before departure. 80% in my antique short range Tesla is enough to reach the glorious new charging setup at Pheasants Nest, assuming good weather. And charging there gives me ample charge to do heaps in Sydney and get back to Pheasants Nest to charge before returning here on very low %.

Having a low state of charge is obviously the best thing to do. EVs are inevitable. Seems mid rise condo buildings are too. Deal with it – smartly.

devils_advocate1:16 pm 30 Oct 23

All very well for you to assume that risk, given you are the one benefitting from it.

However tenants in apartment complexes are imposing a negative externality (risk) on everyone else in the building , especially considering they may not share the same risk appetite

PC__LoadLetter8:01 pm 02 Nov 23

If you don’t want to deal with the risks of these new-fangled EVs, don’t live in Canberra. It’s by far the most likely place you’ll find EVs in Australia.

That said, it’s a non-issue for a few reasons:

* Australia isnt the first place to switch to EVs. It’s kinda the last. If there was going to be serious trouble here with entire towers burning down or becoming uninhabitable, if would have happened overseas already. There’d be specific Grenfell Towers or Opal Towers you could point to, whose surviving occupants have to go stay with friends until the place is tidied up. Risks can be measured by expanding your view. If what you fear just isn’t happening anywhere ever, then it isn’t much of a risk here and now.

* The EVs most known to burn either aren’t popular in Australia, or aren’t sold in Australia. The main problem EVs are the Chevy Bolt (which weren’t sold here) and the Nissan Leaf (which were sold here, but in small numbers, even counting the 5 year old grey-market imports where you have to read Japanese to use the stereo system).

BYD are sold here, and one of the highest with issues in China.
This is going to be a problem with the cheaper brands that end up with cheaper batteries. Just remember that all the car packs are made up of smaller cells.
The dendrites build up as these are over charged and completely empitied more and more as they get older . worse in old cheap batteries.

Felicity Ace, Sydney airport, 7 cars a day in china our of 6 million.
There was that case where flood waters caused fires 2 -3 weeks later. Many cars parked at home waiting for insurance.

There also should be a fire plan for EV’s in these buildings.
What happens if you park 10 EV’s together & one catches fire & lights up the other 9 ?

devils_advocate9:42 am 27 Oct 23

Basically, the ACT fire brigade has accepted that it is cost-prohibitive to retrofit required fire separation, mechanical ventilation and passive fire safety features to existing buildings to accommodate the increased fire risk associated

PC__LoadLetter9:25 pm 27 Oct 23

The important thing is to move the heat energy being rapidly released from the battery pack somewhere else. Anywhere else. Fire sprinklers do that. Water absorbs and moves heat energy far better than air, away from the car & down the drain. Fortunately we aren’t talking about an electrical fire, so water is good.

devils_advocate11:50 pm 27 Oct 23

So basically new buildings have to go meet much higher fire separation and fire resistance requirements as well as mechanical ventilation, while old buildings will be retrofitted to the limited extent possible… so there will effectively be very different active and passive fire safety measures in buildings depending on when the were certified

GrumpyGrandpa4:47 pm 28 Oct 23

Sprinker systems aren’t going to cut it. An EV fire is going to take 25,000 to 50,000 litres of water to control it and if course, that’s on the car on fire. Imagine the volume of water dumped onto each car park!

And no, it’s not as simple as just letting that water go down the drain, because that water is now chemically contaminated!

EV fires are best dealt with submersing the vehicle in what is effectively an open top shipping container full of water; contain the fire, absorb the heat and capture the contaminated water.

Getting a container into a basement or getting a car out isn’t going to happen.

Have a read of the following article. It talks about the issues with EV fires. An EV fire in an underground carpark is a pretty serious issue with potentially life threatening consequences.


Rolling out EV chargers in apartment buildings should happen in consultation with the local fire department as EVs pose specific risks when it comes to fire safety. They are very different to existing fleet of cars and may need additional fire suppression systems and processes in place. Think long term safety!

devils_advocate11:52 pm 27 Oct 23

The ACT Fire Brigade does have to sign off on an EV special hazards assessment but there is not really much that can be done to retrofit a building when it’s already built.

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