Is A Free Electric Car Really A Good Idea for Condo Dwellers in Toronto? We’re Not So Sure

There was a time not so long ago when electric cars were only for people with traditional single-occupant homes or duplexes with off-street parking, a garage, or perhaps a handy electrical outlet next to their car’s parking space.

The mighty Minto BSide complex is impressive -- and is offering a free electric car to 20 lucky customers.

The mighty Minto BSide complex is impressive — and is offering a free electric car to 20 lucky customers.

Chance are you’d also have to be the homeowner. Rent your home or live in a condo or apartment complex, and the chances are you’d be out of luck. Even if a charging outlet was available, those unfortunate to try and plug-in to their condo or apartment power circuit may have even found themselves pursued by the homeowners association and sent unrealistically large electricity bills for the few dollars of electricity they’d consumed.

In the past year or so however, we’ve started to notice a change. More and more developers are building homes with electric car owners in mind. Some rentals — such as the one we’re currently based at in Portland, Oregon — even list complementary electric car charging for residents as a feature on their brochures. Others offer the capability for residents to buy or rent their own garage complete with charging station.

But in Toronto, Ontario, one property development company is going one step further, offering the first twenty condo purchasers at its brand-new Minto BSide development the chance to get a brand-new Nissan LEAF free with their home.

“Installing electric vehicle chargers at Bside gives residents who want a vehicle in the city the ability to make an affirmative environmental decision,” said Wells Baker, Director of Conservation and Sustainable Design at property developer Minto. “That alone is a huge step forward, but we wanted to take that next step and actually incentivize a decision towards the more sustainable option.”

So far, so good, but there’s a small catch to the sounds-too-good-to-be-true deal: in order to be given the free LEAF, residents will have to be one of the first twenty people to reserve an electric car parking space in the parking garage of the new development. At around $43,000 CAD for a parking space complete with charging station, that’s not exactly cheap. Consider the first 20 customers to reserve a space with charging will be getting a brand-new LEAF forth around $35,000 CAD however, and the economics could still work out if you happen to be on the lookout for a new car as well as a new home or happen to be someone who absolutely must keep their car.

Should condos and apartment complexes incentivise you to own an EV if you wouldn't own a car ordinarily?

Should condos and apartment complexes incentivise you to own an EV if you wouldn’t own a car ordinarily?

Of the high cost to reserve a parking space, Baker says the $40,000 CAD price tag for a non electric car parking space might seem high but is the going rate for a trendy downtown development on Toronto’s trendy westside. Those costs, he explained to CTV News Toronto, cover the engineering costs associated with digging down and building the necessary foundations needed for a multi-level parking garage under the development. Adding $3,000 CAD for the charging station seems like a pretty good deal, especially since the parking space and condo will both be owned, not leased, by the customer.

Minto’s BSide complex is still being constructed, but says Baker, customers can reserve their unit with Condos starting from the low $200,000 CAN price mark.

When it comes to inner-city car ownership, there’s no better car to own than an electric car, especially if you happen to have your own private charging station to refuel at. But while we’re pleased to see this condo developer offer essentially what translates to a free car with a parking space (or perhaps a massively discounted $43,000 CAD parking space with charging station for an effective price of just $7,000 CAD once you factor in the price of the LEAF) it’s worth examining the falling importance of cars to many young first-time buyers in busy cities.

As CTV News Toronto reports, more condo dwellers than ever before are forgoing car ownership altogether, especially in new, trendy developments close to the centre of town. Often young, affluent first-time buyers with no children, the money saved by not owning a car decreases monthly outgoings and increases the amount of money then cans spend on accommodation. Meanwhile, access to Toronto’s extensive network of bicycle lanes, multi-use trails and paths and comprehensive metro rail, streetcar and bus services mean getting across town isn’t too much of a chore.

Toronto's public transportation system is comprehensive and easy to use.

Toronto’s public transportation system is comprehensive and easy to use.

Add in not one but three different car sharing schemes (AutoShare, Car2Go and ZipCar) and any condo dweller already not put off owning a car could easily give themselves permission to forgo car ownership together. And that’s before we’ve even talked about the trials and tribulations of driving in the cold Ontario winter compared to simply walking through PATH — Toronto’s massive downtown underground pedestrian walkway which keeps you out of the cold and links many of Toronto’s busiest districts and mass transit stations together.

Here at Transport Evolved, we love the idea of encouraging apartment and condo dwellers to switch from a gasoline car to an electric one with the lure of a free car with every charging station or parking space. But if that same scheme encourages those who would ordinarily not own a car to get back behind the wheel when there are more congestion-friendly (and environmentally friendly) alternatives, we’re less enthusiastic.

Do you agree? Should schemes like this be restricted to those who already own a car? Should they offer a free transportation pass instead? Or pehraps you think the promotion is the best way to get people behind the wheel of an electric car?

Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.


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