The Apartment Dilemma for Electric Cars

BoltI just finished reading a fascinating article on Wired about the new Chevy Bolt, a car they laud as an electric car for the masses. It’s no Tesla, but that’s kind of the point: At $30k, it’s affordable, and it gets 200 miles on a single charge. Pretty cool.

Every now and then I read an article about an electric car, and I get a little excited about potentially buying one when my 2003 Camry decides it doesn’t want to be a car anymore. But then I remember: I live in a condo in an apartment building. I can’t charge the dang thing!

To me, this seems like the biggest oversight in the race to have an electric car. I get the appeal of plugging a car into a socket and never buying gas again. Not only is it convenient, but it’s extremely cost effective. The cost to fill up a tank for 200 miles is about $5 total. That’s incredible.

But that’s for people who live in houses. Everyone else needs a consistent, reliable way to recharge their car, and condo owners like me and apartment renters don’t have that luxury.

How many people is that, really? It’s my perception that a lot of people live in apartments and condos, but that’s just because a lot of my friends do. So I hunted down some numbers from 2014 for the US (I know, there are other countries too, but I couldn’t find those numbers), and here’s what they say:

  • There are about 117 million households in the US.
  • Nearly 99 million of them are houses.
  • The other 18 million are apartments.

Those numbers are surprising to me, and they mean that us apartment-dwellers are a lot less relevant to the electric car market than I thought. In fact, according to these numbers, about 8 million cars are sold to customers in the US each year. Proportionally, that amounts to about 1 million cars sold to people who live in apartments (I’m rounding down because I think most apartments are in metropolitan areas, where people are more likely to use public transportation or bikes). That’s still a lot of cars, but enough for electric-vehicle producers to care? Probably not.

So while the Chevy Bolt may not work for people like me, it still has a pretty large potential audience. I guess I’ll keep waiting for cold fusion technology.

7 thoughts on “The Apartment Dilemma for Electric Cars”

  1. I wouldn’t be surprised if lawmakers require new apartment/condo buildings to include charging stations to accommodate electric cars. Here in the Seattle area, I see them popping up all over. The downside is that the more popular electric cars become, the more creative our local and state governments become in finding new ways to collect road and gas taxes.

  2. That’s an interesting side effect of the growing number of electric cars. The government must make a lot of money from gas taxes, and they’re also paying significant subsidies on electric cars.


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