How electric cars will change our homes

Q1 2018

Car ownership has shaped urban design and development over the last eighty years. We look at how the design of our homes is changing to accommodate electric vehicles and what the future holds for electric cars.

The growth of the motor vehicle industry and the development of suburbs in the 20th century went hand in hand. As urban sprawl increased, car ownership went from being an aspiration to a necessity for modern day life.

But while the 20th century was the time of the motor car, in the 21st century a new beast is rising to solve our transportation problems: the electric car.

The rise of electric vehicles

Electric cars are nothing new. Their history dates back to the 19th century when they were popular as city cars and taxis until the internal combustion engine came along and the world fell in love with motor vehicles.

Fast forward to the 2000s and electric cars were back in business. Environmental concerns over air pollution and climate change, along with the rising price of oil, meant governments and car manufacturers began to look again at the technology behind electric vehicles. The launch of the Tesla Roadster in 2008 was the catalyst for manufacturers to develop their own electric cars. Cars that were up to the challenge of modern life.

Housing developers are also accepting that the electric car will shape the requirements of our future homes, as Sharon Thatcher, Senior Negotiator at Strutt & Parker’s Morpeth office, explains. “Developers are acknowledging the Government’s push toward electric cars. Buyers are becoming increasingly environmentally aware and the electric charging points available at Greystoke apartments have been received positively by buyers.”

By 2025, it’s estimated that one in six of all new cars worldwide will be electric. And while new homes may have the infrastructure for this transition built in, what will this change mean for our existing housing stock?

Is it time for a garage revival?

A garage was a symbol of suburban life. But over time, as cars got larger and less expensive, they were relegated to driveways, and our garages became storage rooms. Then, as families grew, and house prices rose, we decluttered and converted our garages into additional living space.

But does the rise of the electric car now mean we need to convert our home gyms and offices back into garages? Not necessarily.

There are two issues most homeowners face when it comes to electric cars: charging and security. If you own a Tesla Model S, then you may well be concerned about other people seeing your car as an object of desire. But as electric vehicles become more mainstream, their appeal to burglars is likely to diminish. Besides, no one wants to steal a car that may run out of juice at the next set of traffic lights.

Charging can be more problematic. A garage is ideal as you have the option of charging your car using a standard 3-pin plug socket. But dedicated charging points are much faster and not too costly to install. And these can be installed on the outside of your house if your car is parked on a driveway.

If you don’t have off-road parking, electric car ownership poses more of a challenge. Many modern apartment blocks, such as The Point, Kent, have electric charging spaces. And even if you have to rely on on-street parking, there are government grants for local authorities to provide on-street charging points in residential areas.

How your electric car may one day power your home

For those in charge of our electricity supply, the excitement over the electric car revolution is tempered by the worry of how we’re going to power them. Or more specifically, the peaks and troughs of demand.

But the solution to this problem could lie in electric vehicles themselves. Because inside your shiny, sleek transporter is one big battery. And what is a battery but a store of energy?

Nissan and energy supplier, Ovo, are joining forces to trial a scheme in which owners of Nissan Leaf cars can hand over battery management to the energy supplier. By charging the battery when electricity is cheap and selling electricity back to the grid to help balance high demand (when electricity is expensive), there’s the potential for car users to save enough money to cover the annual cost of charging their car.

Taken one step further, in the future we may see houses built with a balanced system of energy use. Electricity is generated by solar energy during the day, stored in a battery and used to power the house at night. Our cars may help power our homes. And if that’s the future, perhaps the heyday of the garage isn’t over yet.