Etc., the startup and digital incubation arm of BT Group, has announced powering up its first EV charging unit built from a street cabinet traditionally used to store broadband and phone cabling. The announcement marks the first step in the rollout of new technical trials, exploring the potential to upgrade up to 60,000 cabinets, helping to meet the UK Government’s sustainability targets by decarbonising the transport system.
Developed to help solve EV charging infrastructure needs by repurposing existing street furniture, the pilots explore how this solution could be scaled to address the lack of chargers on UK roads. New BT Group research shows 38% would have an EV already if charging were less of an issue, and with only 53,000 public EV charge points currently on UK roads, the pilot marks an important step in the journey to net zero.
Etc. has announced its first installation location in East Lothian, Scotland, with further pilots to roll out across the UK in the coming months.
Whilst the UK Government’s ambitions are to increase the number of charge points from 53,000 to 300,000 by 2030, access to charging is creating a significant barrier to EV purchases for many. BT Group’s recent research found that 60% of people think the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, with 78% of petrol and diesel drivers unable to conveniently charge an EV.
The charging solution works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device enabling renewable energy to be shared to a charge point, alongside the existing broadband service with no need to create a new power connection. EV charging can be deployed to cabinets that are in use for current copper broadband services, or those due for retirement, depending on the space and power available to the unit. Once the cabinet is no longer needed for broadband, as the nationwide full-fibre rollout progresses, the broadband equipment is recycled, and additional EV charge points can be added. This allows the re-use of existing infrastructure while deploying more charge points at pace.
Whilst the pilot is being rolled out in the UK, EV charging infrastructure is a global challenge. The US, for example, has only 160,000 public EV chargers currently installed to serve over 2.4 million electric vehicles.
Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc. at BT Group, says “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.”