BT looks to repurpose decommissioned street cabinets as EV charging ports

Etc. EV Image

UK telco group BT’s incubation unit, Etc, will begin a campaign of technical and commercial pilots to transform redundant street cabinets into electric vehicle charging points.

The cabinets are currently used to provide copper-based broadband and phone services, but will be decommissioned in the wake of BT’s fibre rollout. Over the next two years the telco will conduct a series of technical and commercial pilots to turn them into watering holes for electric cars.

The first of these will kick off in Northern Ireland this autumn, and will initially offer Openreach and BT Group colleagues access to the charging ports, though we are told this will be expanded to the public later and more pilot locations will be added across the UK later in the year.

Etc says that many as 60,000 of BT’s 90,000 cabinets may be suitable for upgrades to EV charging points, but the ultimate scale on the programme will depend on how the pilots go over the next two years. Over this time, it also promises that new EV charging network wouldn’t present any change or disruption to the telecommunications services the cabinets support.

“With the ban on sales of internal combustion engine vehicles coming in 2030, and with only around 45,000 public charge points today, the UK needs a massive upgrade to meet the needs of the EV revolution,” says Tom Guy, Managing Director, Etc at BT Group. “We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect for good in a whole new way by innovating around our cabinet infrastructure. The pilots are critical for the team to work through the assessment and establish effective technical, commercial and operational routes to market over the next two years.”

Ben Nelmes, CEO, New Automotive was also quoted in the release: “The need for more EV charging represents an exciting business opportunity, so it is great to see BT Group announcing plans that could play a key role in growing the number of charge points and helping enable more people to make the switch to an electric car.”

The release cites the UK Government’s ambitions to grow the number of UK charge points from around 45,000 today to 300,000 by 2030, along with a £1.6 billion pot of public funding announced back in March 2022. It’s not clear from the release whether any of that cash has been allocated to these trials.

Meanwhile in Europe, the EU yesterday adopted new regulation meaning that from 2025 onwards fast recharging stations of at least 150kW for cars and vans will need to be installed every 60 km along the EU’s main transport corridors.

Raquel Sánchez Jiménez, Spanish Minister of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda said: “The new law is a milestone of our ‘Fit for 55’ policy providing for more public recharging capacity on the streets in cities and along the motorways across Europe. We are optimistic that in the near future, citizens will be able to charge their electric cars as easily as they do today in traditional petrol stations.”

Pushing electric vehicles and other sustainability related initiatives is certainly higher on the agenda of governments and businesses than it ever has been – indeed it seems barely any announcement in the telecoms sector can go out unaccompanied with some form of reference to one or another of them.

However, in terms of the ambitious government net zero goals the BT release cites as the propellant for this scheme, there is reportedly some back and forth going on right now in political circles as to whether some elements are given a rethink in the midst of the cost of living crisis.


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