Street Cabinets Given New Life as EV Charging Station in UK Pilot

An electric vehicle charging by a street cabinet as BT Group pilot powers up first EV charger repurposed from street cabinet

(Credit: BT Group)

by | Jan 9, 2024

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A new pilot is exploring how to extend the usefulness of street cabinets traditionally used to store broadband and phone cabling by transforming them into charging stations for electric vehicles.

The pilot, conducted by the digital incubation arm of BT Group — Etc. — is the first step in a rollout of new technical trials that have the potential to upgrade up to 60,000 cabinets in the United Kingdom.

The plan also aims to improve EV charging infrastructure by repurposing existing street furniture, and will specifically look at the potential to scale. Lack of infrastructure is holding back the EV market, according to BT Group research, which found more than a third (38%) would already have an EV if charging weren’t such a challenge. Another 60% of people think the U.K.’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, while 78% of petrol and diesel drivers said a lack of charging stations and convenience is a barrier to getting an EV.

There are currently only 54,000 EV chargers on the road in the U.K., and the government’s ambition is to increase that number to 300,000 by 2030. There is a similar problem in the United States when it comes to the EV market and infrastructure barriers. The U.S. has only 160,000 public EV chargers currently installed to serve over 2.4 million electric vehicles.

“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,” Tom Guy, managing director of Etc. at BT Group, said in a statement. “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.”

Technical Trials

The pilot works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device where renewable energy can be shared to a charge point alongside the existing broadband service. The design does not need a new power connection. The charging station can be deployed to street cabinets that are in use for current copper broadband services or in those due for retirement, depending on space and power available. 

If the cabinet is no longer needed for broadband, the equipment is recycled and additional EV charge points can be added.

Etc. will conduct a technical trial and has considered cabinet location, power availability, customer accessibility, digital customer experience, and engineering measures as part of the technical aspects. In addition, the pilot scope included commercial and operational considerations, including civil planning — such as local council engagement and permissions — as well as public funding options, private investments, and wider financial modeling.

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