It can be the source of heated arguments and it’s just one of the challenges facing managers of parking garages as electric vehicles become a growing phenomenon in cities across Canada.

“Charging stations are expensive to install, and as electric cars become more prevalent, there are more people clamouring to be able to plug in while they park. We’re having to set up special zones in garages,” says Bradley Jones, head of retail for real estate giant Oxford Properties Group of Toronto.

Oxford has already installed more than 150 charging stations in garages and lots across its Canadian portfolio of offices, retail, industrial and hotel properties. Most are Level 2 plug-ins that run on 240-volt circuits and require several hours to top up an electric vehicle (EV) battery. They can cost as much as $10,000 each to install. A few are fast-charging Level 3 units whose high-voltage circuits can provide up to 64 kilometres of driving range for every 10 minutes of charging but cost between $50,000 and $70,000 each to install. (Level 1 is a connection to a standard 120-volt household current, which can take up to half a day to fully charge an EV battery.)

Many commercial installations in Canada to date have been financed by government grants, but those programs are winding down and now the challenge is to find ways to make providing chargers cost-effective, Mr. Jones says. There’s been resistance to paying extra to plug in. “The tenants balk at paying for the charging when they are already paying for parking.”

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Photo: Oxford Properties’ RBC WaterPark Place is one of two of its towers in Toronto to test different rate structures for charging electric vehicles.