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UK telecoms firm plans broadband cabinet charger repurposing scheme
Widely distributed broadband infrastructure could be key to equalling up regional charging disparities
British telecommunications company BT is rolling out a trial phase of a plan to repurpose up to 60,000 broadband cable cabinets into EV chargers across the UK, leveraging ubiquitous ageing electrical hardware to provide streetside charging.
Curb-side locations are viewed as an opportunity to install Level 2 infrastructure for slow or overnight charging.
"The cabinets are proven to support 7.4kW AC fast charging by utilising the existing power supply within them," BT tells EV inFocus. "They also have the capacity to be upgraded to 22kW chargers, dependent upon cabinet and model type, with each cabinet providing two charge points."
According to UK charging services provider Zapmap, across 2023 "low powered chargers to support those without charging points at home have grown — there are 72pc more on-street chargers than there were this time last year, although the rollout is regionally patchy and largely dependent on the engagement at a local authority level".
The ubiquity of the cable boxes throughout the UK could provide valuable pre-existing locations in rural and remote areas, which are underserved in comparison to larger urban areas.
The first charger will be installed at a location in East Lothian, Scotland, with further pilots to roll out across the UK in the coming months. The charging solution works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device that enables renewable energy to be shared to a charge point alongside the existing broadband service with no need to create a new power connection, BT says.
"Whilst the UK government's ambitions are to increase the number of charge points from 53,000 today to 300,000 by 2030, access to charging is already creating a significant barrier to EV purchase for many. BT Group’s recent research found that 60pc of people think the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, with 78pc of petrol and diesel drivers saying not being able to conveniently charge an EV is a barrier to getting one," BT says.
BT's research also findis that "more than a third (38pc) 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".
Its plans come a week after research from British automotive services company the RAC found that the UK is "well short" of its target of having six high-powered chargers at every motorway service area in England. Ade Thomas of Green TV Media caveats this charging negativity with the point that "40pc of the [UK's] installed public infrastructure has been installed in 2023, so there is a lot going in".