Monday 19th June 2017
A simple conversion could turn our 7.5m lamps into electric car chargers – and they’re already being used in London.

Electric cars are becoming more and more popular in the UK, and for good reason! By buying an electric car, you’re showing you’re environmentally conscious, as they do not emit toxic gases and run on a clean energy source. So surely your efforts should be rewarded, instead of being met with few and far between charging facilities?

Rob Hull, ThisMoney.Co.Uk, reports:

Undoubtedly, the biggest hurdle for the uptake of electric cars in the UK is the poor charging infrastructure in the country.

Even the most populated cities like London, Birmingham and Glasgow don't have enough public charge points to cater for the electric vehicle market to expand, and issues with reliability, multiple socket types and difficulty to find one unoccupied is leaving many early adopters scratching their heads.

But a new smart cable could be the shining light that's needed to scale the problem, quite literally.

That's because it plugs directly into existing street lamps to charge your EV.

It's from German tech firm Ubitricity and is being used in a number of London boroughs, including Richmond upon Thames, as of this week.

Sockets have already been installed in lamp posts for residents across Twickenham and Barnes, each at the cost of £1,000.

That's significantly cheaper than the rumoured £6,000-a-piece charge points already in use in the capital and new conversions can be funded through the £2.5million 'On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme' local councils can apply to dip into through the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles.

With 7.5 million street lamps in the UK, according to Highways Agency figures, it could be the most affordable answer to the nation's need for an improved EV infrastructure to make plug-in vehicles more practical for the wider market and to reduce the exceedingly high pollution levels in urban areas.

EV owners simply purchase the specialist smart charging cable, which holds all metering and billing information that is then relayed to the user's mobile electricity contract.

Some users may have concerns for security though, as there seems to be no way of preventing someone removing your cable and charging their own car at your cost.

Once the council has okayed the use of the new system, the panel on existing street lamp posts is removed, and a socket is installed with a new cover attached.

That means the structure of the lamp post remains the same at all times, negating the need for a standalone unit or ongoing installation costs and hold-ups for road users.

In fact, a spokesperson for the brand told This is Money that each socket can be fitted in under 30 minutes and can be removed within three minutes, if necessary.

The age of the lamp post also appears to be of little issue - Ubitricity has already installed sockets to heritage-listed lamp posts in Kensington and Chelsea under approval of the council.

It would mean no additional street furniture cluttering the roadside and avoids the need for dedicated EV parking bays that strip conventional car owners of limited spaces in the country's major cities.

London boroughs already signed up to the initiative have been converting groups of lamp posts in busy areas, with Richmond Council hoping to provide 'lamp column chargers in residential roads across the borough for both businesses and residents'.

Richmond Council Cabinet Member for Highways, Peter Buckwell said: 'Poor air quality is one of the biggest issues facing London. We need to do everything we can to cut vehicle emissions.

'Supporting the take up of electric cars is a key priority for this Council.

'These zero or low-emission vehicles have the potential to reduce local air pollution but we have to provide the charging infrastructure if that is going to happen.

'I hope that as we continue to roll out more charging points, even more residents will start buying electric cars.

'They aren't just good for the environment, they are also good for the pocket.'

Greg Edwards, Transport Planner at the London Borough of Hounslow added: 'The Council has faced a number of challenges installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in residential areas because of concerns around the addition of street clutter and the associated costs with installation.

'There have also been challenges with implementing dedicating parking for electric vehicles, which we've found can cause friction between residents at a time when electric vehicles make up a small share of the overall market.

'We turned to Ubitricity for its solution because it addresses many of these issues.

'Because the technology can be retrofitted into existing streetlights, we can avoid adding unnecessary street furniture to residential streets and since we can connect to an existing electrical supply we also avoid any associated civils work, which subsequently reduces installation time and overall cost.

'As part of our offer to residents, we have installed 36 charge points with 12 Hounslow residents participating in a dedicated trial and we will be installing 75 charge points by Summer 2019.'

According to vehicle-charging website, there are 4,476 UK locations with a public charging point with a total of 6,910 devices across the country.

The total number of connectors (some have more than one) is 12,839 and 373 new connectors have been added to the network in the last 30 days.

Adding convenience to an environmentally solution to driving seems to be the logical next step in encouraging drivers to make the switch to eco-friendly vehicles.

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