Etc, the startup and digital incubation arm at BT Group, has powered up its first electric vehicle (EV) charging unit built from a street cabinet traditionally used to store broadband and phone cabling.
It marks the first step in a rollout of new technical trials designed to explore the potential to upgrade up to 60,000 green cabinets to help meet UK sustainability targets and decarbonise the country’s transport system.
By repurposing existing street furniture, the pilots will explore how the solution could be scaled to help support EV charging infrastructure needs on UK roads.
The first installation location is in East Lothian, Scotland, where a 7.4kW charger with two connectors will initially be used by BT Group and Openreach EV drivers, before being made accessible to the wider public.
As many as 600 pilots will then be rolled out over the next 18 months by Etc.
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.”
Through the trials, Etc will scope a range of different technical, commercial and operational considerations with bringing the EV chargepoint network online.
These include cabinet locations, power availability, customer accessibility and experience, alongside engineering and planning considerations in terms of local council engagement, permissions and physical accessibility.
How the network’s rollout could be funded is also being examined, with public funding options, private investment and wider financial modelling considered to establish a viable business, whether that be a dedicated BT Group venture or in partnership with others.
The charging solution itself works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device that enables renewable energy to be shared to a chargepoint alongside existing copper broadband services without requiring a new power connection.
According to Etc, EV charging can also be deployed to cabinets due for retirement.
Once a cabinet is no longer needed for broadband, as nationwide full fibre rollout progresses, the broadband equipment is recycled, and additional EV chargepoints can be added.
It is estimated that approximately 40% of UK households do not have access to off-street parking or are in rental accommodation so are unable to charge their EV at home.
With the potential to upgrade up to 60,000 of BT Group’s 90,000 cabinets, the pilot could also help boost the country’s existing network of 53,000 EV chargepoints.
Achievements and innovations in EV charging will be celebrated at the third annual CiTTi Awards, which will be held on 26 November 2024 at the De Vere Grand Connaught Rooms in London. Nominations officially open in March 2024. Please visit www.cittiawards.co.uk to learn more about this unmissable event for the UK’s transportation sector.