Residents of a freshly built mid-rise in the Annex neighbourhood of Toronto have a fleet of electric vehicles waiting for them to use, whether that’s for a trip around town, a weekend getaway to the cottage or visiting family outside the province.
The amenity, which rolled out this year at the nine-storey Bianca condos on Dupont Street, arrives on the heels of more ambitious green standards and net zero targets to drive down community-wide emissions in the city.
Developer Tridel partnered with Canadian-based cleantech company Kite Mobility, which is first-to-market with the sustainable transportation model that allows residents to book EVs through a mobile app. The company provided two Tesla model 3’s, one Nissan Leaf, and eight e-bikes for designated parking spaces. If the condo becomes more occupied and demand ramps up, there’s a system in place to add extra vehicles.
“What we’re after is tackling two of the largest problems with respect to carbon in the city: the buildings themselves and personal transportation,” says Kite’s Founder Scott Macwilliam.
As he explains, it’s a twofold solution. Users have a convenient and less expensive way to access transportation options. They’re not paying for maintenance, insurance or gas, but rather a pay-as-you-go model or through a monthly subscription of around $400, which figures lower than the estimated $1000 that car owners spend on average.
On the developer side, the amenity bodes well with Toronto recently abolishing the minimum requirement for standard parking spaces in new developments. Those spaces are getting pricer to build. According to AltusGroup’s 2021 Canadian Construction Cost Guide, the estimated cost of constructing a parking space in Toronto is $48,000 to $160,000. Meanwhile, the expensive housing market is making car ownership unattainable for incoming buyers.
Macwilliam says his company can eliminate about 10 cars in a building for every one of its car shares. “Sometimes, developers can remove an entire level of parking, along with the associated carbon creation,” he says. As a result, those construction costs, which have been escalating over the past two years, are obliterated and the building ultimately comes to market at greater speed.
In Vancouver, where electric mobility uptake is higher, developer Canderal is currently removing a whole parking level of 450 spots in a new building through a Kite partnership.
“The biggest concern is why would people purchase or rent in a building without a parking spot,” Macwilliam acknowledges. “This is a bit of a step change.” So much so that the developer is offering those residents access to the mobility sharing model at no cost for 24 months.
That hasn’t yet happened in Ontario, but overall, Macwilliam finds sustainability is becoming a top priority among developers across the country, with many more approaching him and new installations starting in Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Montreal.
Tridel is first to kickstart the model in a Toronto condo. Graeme Armster, director of innovation and sustainability at Tridel, sees it as a helpful way to curb emissions as the city aims for new carbon targets, while giving owners access to green mobility options amid the higher cost of living.
“A lot of people want to drive electric vehicles but there are supply chain issues where they want to buy them but they can’t get their hands on one,” he says during a recent launch event at Bianca. “People also spend a lot of money to own a vehicle that maybe just sits there half the time.”
With the expectation to build more parking than what the market demands now removed, Armster foresees more developers latching onto solutions like Kite, especially against the backdrop of a low-carbon economy shift.
“I don’t think we’re at a point where we’d completely eliminate parking, but we’re probably not going to increase parking either,” he says. “You come out to a building like this, where maybe 40 to 50 per cent of the building has access to parking spots. The other 50 per cent are looking for ways to get around, and if they can do so in a convenient manner that’s also good for the environment, then why not.”
Sustainability isn’t a new thing for Tridel. “We’ve been doing it since 2003 when the company realized it could align development interests with environmental concerns,” he adds. “As we continue along, we don’t just stop; we think of how we can continue to build this momentum around sustainability, especially as the world is fixing on addressing issues around climate change.”
“We like to try a solution out first; touch, feel and get feedback from our customers,” he adds. “If the feedback is all good, which it has been so far, then we really start looking at how we’re going to roll it out strategically to other developments and that’s the next step.”
Users book their chosen electric vehicles and then hold their phone up to the car to gain access. In that respect, it’s also a tech-based solution that aligns with smart technologies throughout the building— something Armster sees all demographics getting excited about.
The technology, and the idea of making it simple, is what Kite is seeking to perfect as it evolves the product, which launched at two towers in Laval, Montreal, last year.
“We’ve made many iterations and tweaks based on user feedback,” says Macwilliam. “We’ve all rented a car before or taken an Uber or Lyft and there’s a lot of room to enhance the user experience there. If our users have an issue, they’ll actually connect to a live person who will help them right away versus completely digital. There are little cues we’ve taken from the industry that we’re trying to elevate that digital experience.”