7 Ways to Own an Electric Car if You Live in an Apartment

electric car live in an apartment

You want to own an electric car but you live in an apartment. You can make it work and this is how. It won’t be as easy, at first, as going to a gas station but it won’t be a change to your lifestyle. 

This is how you can own an electric car if you live in an apartment:

  1. Use neighborhood charging stations
  2. Make charging part of your weekly routine
  3. Charge at work
  4. Find a regular outlet, a home charging station isn’t mandatory
  5. Find an apartment with charging stations
  6. Petition your landlord to install a charging station
  7. Flex cars – electric vehicle sharing

You are clearly a trendsetter for wanting to own an electric car. And trendsetters aren’t overcome by the simple barrier of living in an apartment building. Let’s figure out how to make this work because the world is depending on people like you. 

Here are the 7 ways you can live in an apartment and still own an electric car.

The Apartment Electric Car Charging Dilemma

My family lives on Maui in an apartment. Life is sweet on an island with an electric car but living in an apartment makes it challenging at times. Residents are uncomfortable when I charge my electric car and there are no accessible places to park and charge.

My homeowners’ association has more rules than a federal prison, the retirees are always watching us, and the local charging stations are out of service (being upgraded I’m told). 

Yet, we still decided to buy a 2017 Nissan Leaf (95-mile range). We figured we could make it work and we are making it work. You too can own an electric car and live in an apartment or HOA. 

You are smart to be researching this before you start shopping for an electric car of your own. Every town, apartment, and community is different when it comes to living with an electric car. Some will have it easy while other apartment dwellers will find that it won’t work now, but maybe someday. 

Consider this is your how-to manual for owning an electric car in an apartment.

The two fundamentals for living in an apartment is to (1) have a strategy to charge the car with minimal impact on your life and (2) ensuring your neighbors are open to the concept, or can’t stop you.

Technological changes are intimidating. It is intimidating for the owner as it is for the neighbors. 

Before you bring an electric car home to your apartment or condo complex, have a game plan for how to charge the car. That doesn’t mean you have to charge it at your apartment. If you can, great. But if you can’t, battery-charging technology and communities have progressed to make it easier than ever for the 25% of apartment dwellers in America to charge their electric cars.

Related article: Will the Electric Car Replace the Gas Car? 2040 Here We Come

How to Own an Electric Car if You Live in an Apartment

1. Use Neighborhood Charging Stations

Step one is to determine if you have nearby charging stations. My wife and I were not aware of the charging stations in our town until we had an electric car. They are everywhere once you know what to look for.

You can go to PlugShare.com or Google Maps (search “charging stations”) to find an electric vehicle (EV) charging station near your apartment. You can also check EVmatch, a peer-to-peer private charging station network. 

Hopefully, you have a charging station within walking distance of your apartment. Go inspect it to see if you can charge overnight or a few hours during the day, if the charger is operating, and if there are multiple charging cords. Apps like PlugShare will have user comments on the reliability of the charger. 

These charging stations will charge you $2 to $6 to charge your EV or they will be free. We were surprised by how many city-sponsored free charging stations we had in Hawaii. Maybe your area will be the same. 

Time is of the essence and this is when apartment living is better than a home charge. Public charging stations are usually faster than home charging stations. 

Also, you won’t have to fork over an extra $1,500 to $3,000 to purchase and install a home charging station if you only use public charging stations. 

Public charging stations will either be 240 Volt (Level 2) or DC Fast Chargers (Level 3). Level 2 chargers are more common but it depends where you live.

A Level 2 can charge an EV in 3 to 6 hours. A Level 3 charger can charge from 20% to 80% in 30-minutes. Having a Level 3 in your neighborhood is gold. 

If you are going to get a Tesla, you will have the luxury of using their Supercharger network of 1,971 supercharger stations at 17,467 superchargers. These are DC Fast Chargers and are free for Tesla owners.

The amount of public charging stations and Superchargers continues to grow so if their isn’t one near your apartment or condo now, you may just need to wait.

But don’t give up on owning an electric car if a public charger isn’t on your street corner.

2. Make Charging Part of Your Routine

Make charging your EV part of your weekly routine if you live in an apartment. We charge at our local charging station once a week as we mostly do our charging while we run our weekly errands. 

Errand charging is the most efficient way to charge when you don’t have the option to charge at home. Business owners have been wise to install charging stations at malls, shopping centers, hotels, etc. to entice EV owners. It works. 

Many are free, like at Target, or charge a small amount via an app from the charging station provider (ChargePoint, SemaConnect, etc)

  • Your new favorite coffee shop will have a charging station
  • Going for groceries? Get an hour charge
  • Target run, then get a charge
  • Lunch or dinner with friends also means getting a quick charge
  • Go ahead, relax in the sauna after the gym because your car needs a little more charge

I must say, it feels good to get a charge while working at your favorite coffee shop. Two things done for the day. 

Don’t forget about parking too. Most businesses provide front-row parking or reserved parking spots for electric vehicles. This can be a gamechanger in cities with limited parking, like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or any major metropolis. 

Tesla is all about supporting EV drivers while they are out and about. Tesla’s Destination Charging network is charging stations at business destinations instead of Supercharging Stations. These increase the number of places Tesla’s can charge around the country. These are Level 2 chargers so not as fast as the DC fast charging as the Superchargers but more convenient.

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3. Charge at Work

What is better than charging at your apartment? Charging at work. Many companies have installed EV charging stations in their parking lots as an employee perk and to do their part for the environment. 

Even my last employer, an oil company, had charging stations installed in their employee parking lots. 

Take a look to see if you have one at your company but haven’t noticed it. Or, ask your employer to install one. Work charging stations are typically free of charge. A big bonus.

You can charge everyday, all day while you work. It doesn’t get more convenient than that. Since most people’s daily commute is their longest journey, charging your EV at work will make charging in your neighborhood unnecessary. 

4. Find a Regular Plug: A Home Charging Station Isn’t Mandatory

Don’t overthink the requirements to charge your electric car at your apartment. You don’t need to install a charging station. Electric cars are designed to plug into the wall, your normal 110-volt power outlet. Your kitchen, your bathroom, the outlet in your apartment’s garage, anywhere there is power. Go get that power for your car. 

Electric cars come with a charging cable that is meant for a regular outlet. This is to make home charging or charging on the go possible. 

Charging from a normal 110-volt plug is referred to as Level 1 charging or affectionately as trickle charging. Due to the lower voltage, it can take 24-hours to fully charge your car. While that sounds like a lot of time, most people don’t drain their batteries daily. Plug-in nightly at your apartment building and you’ll rarely need to use a public charging station. 

Every apartment building is different though. If you park in a large garage then finding a plug may be a challenge and if you do, you should seek permission to use the power.

But for some apartment dwellers, it may be as easy as pulling an extension cord from your front door. 

This is when talking to your neighbors and landlord about ways to charge your car is important. Let them know your plan, the safety requirements, and the frequency of charging. It may go a long way to helping you easily charge your car at your apartment. 

For those you live in dodgy areas, the do make locks for charging cables. 

5. Find an Apartment with Chargers

Don’t be surprised if your apartment has a charging station already. You may have not noticed it as landlords are good about tucking them into the dark recesses of the parking garage.  

But if you are looking up this question on owning an electric car while living in an apartment then this simple solution may not exist for you. 

While this sounds asinine, you could always move to another apartment building. Plan your next move around finding an apartment building with Level 2 charging stations installed in the garage or parking lot. 

California requires new apartment buildings to install charging stations. Developers in other cities have figured out a few cheap charging stations can easily pay for themselves with new tenants. 

The best part of living in an apartment and renting is flexibility. Maybe it is time to pack up and find an apartment that better suits your needs and your new electric car. 

If moving isn’t in your stars, then try writing a letter. 

6. Ask Your Landlord for a Charging Station

This is my least favorite option but it is a legit method to have an electric car while living in an apartment building. Ask your landlord to install a charging station.

Where I have lived in the past, this option would get a laugh in my face or they would install a charging station 3-years after I moved out. 

Due to this obstacle for EV owners, California listened and made it a requirement for landlords to install a charging station if their tenant wrote them a letter. The landlord must accept a written request to install an EV charging station at the tenant’s designated parking space. Civil Code § 1947.6(a), (b). If you live in California, read the law’s fine print before you write your letter but this legislature helps the majority of apartment tenants. 

Colorado, Florida, and Oregon have joined California in prohibiting “unreasonably” denying a tenant’s request to install an electric car charger. Check your local laws to find your rights on having an electric car in an apartment building.

If the law isn’t on your side, your landlord may understand the financial benefit of installing a charging station. That is where Tesla, EverCharge, ChargePoint, and other companies can help. 

Your landlord can hire them as a turn-key company to install the charging station for their apartment. These companies will get permission to install, complete the permit, and connect the charger to the electrical grid. 

Propose one of these companies to your landlord or property manager, you may make them look smart to their bosses.

Tesla even provides an email address (HomeCharging@Tesla.com) to help you talk to your landlord and a persuasive letter to send them. 

California also published an Electric Vehicle Charging Station Permitting Guidebook to assist apartment dwellers, landlords, and others who get charging stations installed. Resources are there to help you realize your EV dreams. 

If your dreams aren’t fulfilled by steps one through six, it is time to get creative.

7. Electric Vehicle Sharing

The options above for owning an electric car won’t work for you and your apartment building then there is one last hope. 

Sign up for an electric vehicle sharing service. 100% electric car-sharing has arrived in most major US cities. Don’t bother owning a car when you can have an EV car-sharing service parked in your apartment’s garage. 

Companies like BlueLA and  Envoy provide an all-electric car-sharing fleet. Such a service may get you electrically mobile while you wait for a landlord to install charging stations or more chargers to be installed in your neighborhood. 

My Challenges of Living in an Apartment with an Electric Car

I was surprised by the questions and comments I got from my neighbors when we brought our electric car home, like these questions (no joke): 

  • Can the apartment’s wiring handle charging the car?
  • If it rains while it’s charging, will I get electrocuted?
  • This apartment complex isn’t designed for electric cars
  • That doesn’t look nice (says a self-proclaimed environmentalist)

These questions and comments came from neighbors who have electric golf carts. Everyone has an electric golf cart here but an electric car blows their minds. 

Owning an electric car is not the lifestyle change it may have once been when EVs had a 50-mile or less range. With ranges from 100-miles to over 350-miles, the charging and range anxieties are at record low levels for EV owners. 

But finding a charge while living in an apartment is still the ultimate barrier to entry. I get it. 

25% of Americans who live in an apartment building have a right to an electric car. I also believe this 25% will someday be the biggest percentage of EV owners. 

Owning an electric car doesn’t have to be a right reserved for the single-family homeowner anymore. 

Why Own an Electric Car if You Live in an Apartment

Why even consider owning an electric car if you live in an apartment? The fact that you have to google how to do it means it may not be easy. Sure, buying a conventional car is easy because it is what we know. We are all learning what a life with an electric car will look like. 

Let me tell you, I love owning an electric car.

I must say, the biggest perk for me is driving a car with zero emissions. I feel good knowing my car is the most environmentally friendly car on the road. When I speak about the environment to my toddler, my car is a symbol that I am not a total hypocrite. 

But you are not me. So why do you want to jump through hoops to own an electric car without the luxury of a private garage? 

Perhaps it is getting front-row parking spots at grocery stores, the gym, the coffee shop, or shopping centers. 

Perhaps it is the low operating costs of an electric car. Charging is only pennies a day (see here for how much charging will cost) and maintenance on an electric car is practically non-existent because there are fewer fluids (like oil and transmission fluid).

Perhaps it is the smooth and comfortable ride of an electric car. The zen-like feeling of cruising and the fast acceleration make driving an electric car fun. 

Or like me, you want to reduce your carbon footprint. 

Owning an electric car while living in an apartment is doable. Take the first step by using Google Maps to find local charging stations near your apartment. Walk over to it and imagine using it frequently to charge your new electric car.

Photo by Ed Harvey on Unsplash

Jordan Fromholz

I'm an electric car owner, enthusiast, and founder of the Plugin Report. As a Chemical Engineer with over 14-years in the energy industry, I've made my passions be renewable energy, batteries, and electric cars. My family lives on Maui where we drive our 2017 Nissan Leaf and share everything there is to know about electric cars.

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