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Liberty Global rolls out electric charging points in London

Liberty Global has announced the completion of the first phase of its UK electric vehicle charging initiative in the London borough of Waltham Forest.

Liberty Charge is a joint venture between Liberty Global and Zouk Capital, the manager of the UK government’s Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF) which is funded by the Treasury with the aim of rolling out public charging points across the UK. The entity was  originally set up as a small incubation initiative within Liberty Global’s investment arm, Liberty Global Ventures, in 2019 with the partnership with Zouk Capital following last May.

There’s some tricksy wording in Liberty Charge’s latest announcement. While it heralds completion of the Waltham Forest rollout, it is not wholly clear what that actually means. “The project will see the joint venture install 20 charging points across 10 sites in the borough,” Liberty Charge said. From which we can assume that the charging points are not yet up and running…and therefore use of the expression “successful completion” might be a little premature.

Nonetheless, it is clearly making some progress in what is an important area. As Liberty Charge pointed out when it tied up with Zouk last year, more than 40% of urban vehicle drivers do not have access to a driveway that they could use to charge an electric vehicle. Hence the need for on-street charging facilities, especially with the government having moved to end the sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

“Recent research has highlighted the need to do much more to meet the rising consumer demand for electric vehicles charging if the UK government’s carbon neutral targets are to be met,” said Liberty Charge chief executive Neil Isaacson, referring to Westminster’s bid to to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050. “There are many challenges on the road to net zero and at Liberty Charge we’re doing everything we can to ensure that charging infrastructure is not a limiting factor.”

It would be unfair to question Liberty Global’s commitment to environmental issues such as reducing carbon emissions, but it is worth noting that there is a strong business rationale behind its involvement in this project too.

For one thing, the project uses Virgin Media’s infrastructure in the UK. As Jason Simpson, Vice President Global Energy and Utilities for Liberty Global, put it a year ago: “This investment from Zouk re-enforces our belief that there is significant value in leveraging Virgin Media’s wide ranging infrastructure and connectivity capabilities into new and fast growing sectors such as eMobility and Energy.”

As well as being a new string to the cableco’s bow, there are also some economies of scale to be realised. The companies are rolling out electric charging infrastructure in some locations alongside Virgin’s own network rollout, thereby reducing dig costs.

Liberty Charge says it is working with local authorities up and down the country to put electric vehicle charging infrastructure in place. The Virgin Media Park and Charge (VPACH) project, a forerunner to Liberty Charge, earmarked installing 1,200 charging points in the UK by a loose timeline of early this year.

Regarding the Waltham Forest project, Liberty Charge says it will add to its initial 20 charging points, increasing the number to 50 sites as future locations are determined. And more broadly, the company says it is looking forward to partnering with more local authorities elsewhere in the country.

“Waltham Forest is the first installation in a national programme being rolled out by Liberty Charge. More areas for deployment will be confirmed during the course of this year as Liberty Charge continues discussions with local authorities throughout the UK to maximise on-street electric vehicle charging opportunities for residents,” the company said.

We have long talked about telecoms operators moving into adjacent industries. Electric charging seems like a no-brainer.


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