Staff Car Report: Can You Drive An Electric Car And Rent? We Find Out…

When it comes to life goals that are commonly shared by a large proportion of the population, owning your own home is right up there alongside having a successful career, getting married and having a family. But while many of us cling to the idea that owning our own home is one of the pinnacles of success, the economic climate today means that many — Millennials especially — may never own their own home, opting to rent instead.

In 2014 for example, the number of people renting — as opposed to buying — their home in the UK rose to its highest level since 1987, with under 1.5 million owner-occupiers aged between 16-34. The same transition has been seen in the U.S., with 37% of households reporting that they lived in rental accommodation in 2015. With rental prices increasing faster than inflation and making it increasingly difficult for occupiers save for the purchase of their own homes, it seems that this trend is one we’re likely to be looking at for a while.

Our editor has been lucky in finding a rental with EV charging. We’re struggling.

Of course, renting can sometimes have its advantages, especially if you’re single. Repair bills are usually taken care of by your landlord, it’s far easier to move, and if you’re lucky you may end up having a little more disposable cash at the end of the month than your home-owning counterparts — especially if you rent. But while renting may seem like a sensible option for some, renting a home with an electric car can be a little difficult, as we recently discovered looking for a temporary place to live that would allow us the luxury of charging our 2002 Toyota RAV4 EV Staff Car.

At first glance, that may not seem to be such an issue. After all, while a dedicated electric vehicle charging station is a nice thing to have, all you really need in the majority of situations is a place to plug in. And so long as you have electricity, everything’s just dandy, right?

If you don't have charging at home, this could be the reality of your EV charging experience.

If you don’t have charging at home, this could be the reality of your EV charging experience.

Nope.

Regardless of your country of residence, it is, to go with British understatement, less than ideal to charge regularly from a normal household socket. Whilst most electric cars can charge from an ordinary power point using an appropriate adaptor – the amount of time that they take to charge, and the amount of current they’ll continuously draw, makes this an option that should be rarely used. And that’s before we discuss the potentially dangerous fire hazard of plugging a portable charging station into any old 120-volt power outlet and hoping that the aged house electrical wiring is up to the task (it often isn’t). Indeed the issue is such a concern that Tesla’s charging system monitors the power supply it’s attached to for fluctuations — and may limit or stop charging depending on those results.

While those household limitations may simply lead to a failure to charge, the implications of underrated circuits or poorly installed chargers can be much more severe. And after fires from owner installed chargers early in mainstream EV history, there’s a residual wariness regarding EV charging.

That’s something we discovered when it came time to move.

As fairly newly US residents, and having not really rented for a long time anyway, we sat down with property listings. Whilst it’s much more common here than in Europe for rental properties to have not merely off-street parking, but their own garage or car-port, of course there is no checkbox on any of the common sites for ‘property equipped with EV charging capabilities’ — or even ‘property has a 40A, 220V circuit installed’ which is what we really need for the old Magne Charge Small Paddle Inductive Charger that our 2002 RAV4 EV uses.

There are of course exceptions. Live in a major U.S. city known for being reasonably progressive towards things like electric cars and you’ll find one or two apartment complexes with some electric vehicle charging policy. Our editor Nikki Gordon-Bloomfield was lucky enough to find just a development in Hillsboro, Oregon when her family moved to the U.S. last August.

We’ve been less lucky.

There's no checkbox to select only homes with charging

As you might expect, there are no search options for ‘electric car charging’.

Having rapidly discovered that nowhere was going to be pre-equipped with an appropriate power socket we resorted to the time honoured process – viewing places and asking if we could, at our own expense, and with their choice of electrician, install an appropriate circuit.

This, of course, requires having enough space in the circuit breaker panel to install extra trip switches, and somewhere (ideally not too far from the panel and near where we park) to put a socket that we can reach with our charger (in our case, our near house-sized J1773 charger – mounted on wheels for ease of relocation. It also requires that the property’s owner is happy with such changes.

Many owners aren’t willing to make such modifications.

Many landlords are reluctant to consider the modifications required to enable renters to charge EVs

Many landlords are reluctant to consider the modifications required to enable renters to charge EVs

Having been looked at askance several times for even suggesting that we might ask for something so impossibly difficult, and having pulled up at one place in our RAV4 EV to the owner greeting us with “there’s nowhere for you to charge that”, the difficulties facing electric car owners became painfully apparent.

As things stand we’ve found someone who (finally) saw it as an enormous bonus – adding to the value of his property – and making our continued EV use possible. But as yet we’re still waiting on clearing those pesky pre-rental checks that always extra fun for new immigrants. But for those who don’t manage to find such an accommodating landlord? There’s the difficult (and expensive) option of attempting to survive with just public charging, or the more common option of simply not using an EV.

Some states like California for example, have recently implemented new rules now make it mandatory for new apartment complexes and developments to include provision for electric vehicle charging. But it’s worth remembering that not everyone who owns an electric car can afford (or wants to) live in a  brand-new development with small rooms, high rental costs and no yard or garden.

Those picking an older home or privately-rented property, even if they are in an electric car friendly area, may find themselves with a tougher search for an appropriate charging station for their car. Even a drier outlet may be too much to ask for.

Some people try and survive the rental home and EV conundrum with public charging

Some people try and survive the rental home and EV conundrum with public charging

As it becomes increasingly apparent that many people won’t ever be able to purchase homes, the lack of EV charging in the rental market’s housing stock is going to remain a significant barrier to ownership for all but those with utter conviction in their desire to own an electric car. And that makes us sad.

What have your experiences been like? Have you struggled to find suitable rental properties with EV charging? Let us know in the Comments below.

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