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BT innovation arm Etc to trial conversion of street cabinets into EV charging points

Staff Reporter
January 8, 2024

Etc., the startup and digital incubation arm of BT Group, has unveiled plans to convert street cabinets into electric vehicle charging stations.

A series of technical trials will investigate the conversion of up to 60,000 cabinets across the UK to receive the shortage of charging points on UK roads. There are only 53,000 public EV charging points in the UK.

The EV charging solution involves retrofitting cabinets with a device that facilitates the sharing of renewable energy for charging alongside the existing broadband service, eliminating the need for new power connections.

Cabinets currently in use for copper broadband services or those slated for retirement can be equipped with EV charging, depending on space and available power. Once a cabinet is no longer needed for broadband, the equipment is repurposed, and additional EV charging points can be added, allowing for the efficient reuse of existing infrastructure while rapidly expanding the charging network.

The first installations are likely to be in East Lothian, Scotland, with plans for further pilots to be rolled out across the UK in the coming months.

The government aims to increase the number of charging points to 300,000 by 2030. Limited access to charging infrastructure remains a significant impediment to EV adoption.

The trials will delve into various technical, commercial, and operational factors such as cabinet location, power availability, customer accessibility, digital customer experience, civil planning, engagement with local councils, permissions, commercial viability, and operational models, whether as a dedicated BT Group venture or through partnerships.

There are only 53,000 public EV charging points in the UK.

Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc. at BT Group, said “By collaborating closely with local councils in Scotland and across the UK, we are at a pivotal stage in our journey to tackle a very real customer problem that aligns with our broader mission of connecting for good”.

Guy: collaborating councils in Scotland and across the UK

Joe Thompsom, Head of Group Optical & Network Product, TXO a provider of critical telecom network hardware and asset management services, said this could be the start of a trend where service providers leverage existing or legacy network furniture for EV charging writes

Most street cabinets have enough power to support EV charging without needing significant upgrades. But each cabinet needs to be assessed on a case-by-case basis. You also need access to these fibre cabinets 24/7 and can’t have cars blocking maintenance engineers”.

BT claims that almost 60,000 of its cabinets would be suitable for EV charging points, giving it the scale to make building a business unit dedicated to this service financially feasible. However, for smaller ISPs who might only have 20 charging points, the economics would look very different and it will be interesting to see how these services will be charged.

Thompson: street cabinets have enough power to support EV charging without needing significant upgrades

The industry is now also exploring a range of other use cases to do more good with this essential street furniture, such as monitoring environmental metrics like air quality, noise pollution and land moisture, to serving communities as WiFi hotspots or for enterprise peering arrangements. These new initiatives could unlock much-needed revenue as providers look to monetise their fibre networks and build stronger relationships with local communities.”



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