BT is converting kerbside green boxes to electric car chargers

BT could potentially power up to 60,000 EV chargers by repurposing its near end-of-life green street cabinets.

BT, the telecom giant, has emerged as the unlikely source of populating British roads with more electric car chargers with the innovative pilot project of repurposing its kerbside green boxes into public chargers.

The British company’s startup arm is named Etc. (you decide what is weirder — that BT has a startup arm or its nomenclature choices) has taken on this enviable task much to the relief of many EV drivers. Yesterday, it kicked the project off by powering up the first charging unit in East Lothian, Scotland, with further pilots to roll out across the UK in the coming months.

Despite the rapid growth of EV uptake among drivers in the UK, we have reported that the charging infrastructure is often cited as one of the biggest barriers. This is even after the continuing progress made by many charging companies over the last year, such as Osprey which more than doubled its rapid EV chargers in the country in 2023.

> Council hoping to convert lamp posts to electric car charging points

Latest research undertaken by BT itself has shown that 60 per cent of people think the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, with almost 80 per cent of petrol and diesel drivers saying not being able to conveniently charge an EV is a barrier to getting one. More than a third of the drivers surveyed said that they would already be steering an EV if charging were less of an issue.

There are currently almost 54,000 public EV chargers in the UK. Etc., meanwhile, aims to convert 60,000 of the green street cabinets owned by BT into charging outlets for drivers, tackling a massive shortfall in the number of charging points.

BT said that cabinets that are still providing broadband to households as well as those which have been decommissioned would be able to be used as the new EV chargers. These boxes currently are housed with old technology which will soon be defunct because of the nationwide rollout of full-fibre broadband connections.

The ones which are set to be decommissioned will have one charge point per cabinet, providing two charging sockets. They will also have a battery backup so existing broadband services should not be disrupted during installation.

> UK fails to meet target of at least six rapid EV chargers on motorways by 2023

Last week, reported that a finding from RAC revealed that despite the many inroads made into boosting Britain’s electric car charging infrastructure last year, it wasn’t enough.

The Department for Transport, which according to its pledge made in 2022, was supposed to have six or more rapid or ultra-rapid electric vehicle chargers at every motorway service area in England by the end of 2023, fell “well short” of its target. In fact, according to RAC, only 40 per cent of England’s roads currently meet the required criteria.

Additionally, while the government’s ambition to increase the number of charging points to 300,000 by 2030, Zapmap figures show nearly a third of all UK charging points are currently in London.

> Big auto lobby allegedly influenced UK Government to undermine electric car rules

Tom Guy, Managing Director, Etc. at BT Group said: “Our new charging solution is a huge step in bringing EV charging kerbside and exploring how we can address key barriers customers are currently facing. Working closely with local councils in Scotland and more widely across the UK, we are at a critical stage of our journey in tackling a very real customer problem that sits at the heart of our wider purpose to connect for good.”

“This is a key step in our mission to build products and services right now that work for the future, with positive transformation at the heart.”

BT also added that the project is in its early development stage right now, however, it is already being celebrated on the global stage at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), having been awarded an Innovation Honoree for 2024 for outstanding design and engineering.

To somehow tackle this mammoth challenge of the EV charging infrastructure, we’ve also seen councils come up with interesting and quite innovative solutions, such as converting lamp posts to electric car charge points, or even collaborating with Uber to find a way forward. We’ll wait to see if BT’s initiative pays off dividends in the near future.

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