Japan’s Orix, Ubiden strike deal for EV chargers at older condos

TOKYO: Japan’s Orix Group and electric vehicle charging provider Ubiden Inc. have agreed to install chargers at existing apartment complexes around the country as the government seeks to have EVs account for 100% of all new passenger car sales by 2035.

Orix, a conglomerate whose businesses span car rentals, real estate, life insurance and banking, manages the largest number of condominiums in Japan - about 540,000 units or 10% of the total stock - via subsidiaries Daikyo Astage Inc. and Anabuki Community Inc.

With an increasing number of residents asking about EV charging spots, Orix decided to team up with Ubiden and decrease tenants’ reliance on public charging stations.

"There are many people who want to buy an EV but get discouraged due to the lack of charging facilities,”  said Ubiden chief operating officer Tatsuro Shiraishi.

Installing EV chargers with the help of government subsidies should accelerate the uptake of EVs in Japan, he added.

Japan lags behind other countries when it comes to electrified passenger transport, with EV sales currently less than 2% of the total.

Japanese automakers have been slow to offer new EV models and while EV chargers are relatively easy to install at stand-alone houses, it’s more difficult in existing high-rise apartment complexes in big cities.

Japan’s central government has earmarked around ¥8 billion (US$50 million) in subsidies for installing chargers at condominiums, while Tokyo’s government has allocated ¥3.6 billion.

Japan has set a target of installing 300,000 EV charging points by 2030, of which up to 200,000 will be for apartments.

Ubiden, for its part, has so far installed 2,000 EV chargers around the country and is targeting 150,000, mainly at condominiums, by 2027.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has requested developers of new housing complexes to actively install EV charging facilities and it’s often easier to reach a consensus among residents because the installation costs at greenfield sites are lower.

That isn’t the case with older apartments.

"We consult with housing owner associations on a regular basis and are urging them to install connectors before the government subsidies end,” said Kenji Yamamoto, the manager in charge of the project at Daikyo Astage. Subsidies, which end in March next year, can cover up to 95% of a charger’s installation costs.

"But with few EV users in Japan, getting approval from a majority of residents remains a challenge,” he said.

Ubiden’s charging service enables users to track the amount of electricity consumed and pay accordingly.

That’s different from services that charge consumers based on the number of charging hours.

Calculating the amount of electricity is fairer than having all residents of a condominium pay a fixed amount irrespective of EV ownership, Yamamoto said.

"Building charging facilities will increase the value of a property, like having an elevator does,” he said.

Ubiden provides a subscription-based service that ranges from 30kWh for ¥1,780 (RM52) to 210kWh for ¥8,000 (RM234).

Ubiden and Orix also have plans to introduce renewable energy options such as solar panels to apartments, which should help to reduce electricity bills.
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