The electric vehicle (EV) is finding real traction both in the UK and across the globe. However, a serious issue remains – the limited number of EV charging points. Is it possible that the humble street lamp could hold the answer?

The UK’s charging infrastructure is often citied as one of the biggest bottlenecks to mass electric vehicle adoption – it simply isn’t expansive or convenient enough for most EV drivers. Factor in differing socket types, reliability and availability and you have an issue that is in urgent need of addressing.

Figures show that electric cars past the two-million mark globally, with sales increasing by a massive 60% in 2016 alone thanks to new models and lower prices in showrooms. In the UK, plug-in car sales recently hit 100,000.

UK EVs are supported by a network of public charge points in more than 4,000 locations, according to vehicle-charging website zap-map.com. However, that’s not enough to keep up with expected demand over the coming years. Enter German company Ubitricity, which has come up with an ingenious solution to the problem – installing a socket that EV drivers can plug a bespoke charging cable into on the 7.5 million street lamps across the UK .

Put a socket on it

The process is simple enough – the local council pays the company to swap out a street lamp’s existing panel and retrofit it with a socket and cover. The process takes a mere 30 minutes before the street lamp is ready to be used. EV drivers then purchase the smart charging cable that connects their vehicle to the lamp post. The cable features technology that monitors and uploads all pertinent metering and billing information.

The cable costs £50 and can also be used on standard sockets, bypassing Ubitricity altogether if necessary. Subscribers should expect to pay roughly 15 pence per kilowatt hour and a 9 pence plug-in charge, plus a monthly fee for the service. The only concerns are the potential security issues, where someone could steal the cable when in use or simply remove it from the EV being charged and plug it into their own.

Despite such concerns, the technology has genuine appeal to councils. Installing a traditional public charging point is believed to cost around £6,000, while the lamp-based tech costs a mere £1,000. Better still, the council can get help covering installation costs by taking advantage of the £2.5 million on offer through the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles’ On-street Residential Chargepoint Scheme.

Dealing with pollution head-on

Perhaps most importantly, the street lamp technology is seen as a valid way to drive down pollution in cities. Peter Buckwell, Richmond Council Cabinet member for highways, commented in an interview with the International Business Times,

“Poor air quality is one of the biggest issues facing London. We need to do everything we can to cut vehicle emissions… 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.”

Richmond isn’t alone; several London boroughs are already adopting the unique charging system. For instance, Hounslow Council has already installed 26 charge points in a trial and expects to have 75 charge points rolled out by the middle of 2019. Only time will tell how far the scheme eventually spreads across the UK, but with such a simple and cost effective solution, don’t be surprised to see the technology appear in a street lamp near you before too long.

Would you take the plunge and plug your EV into a street lamp? Or do you have concerns about the technology? Let us know your thoughts below.

Photo Credit: Photo on Pixabay

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