The problems with driving an electric car, if you live in an urban centre, pretty much stem from a lack of charging infrastructure. Right now most EV charging is done at home, in a driveway or inside a garage, which is hard to come by in urban environments. The reverse of that is obviously that charging infrastructure is difficult to install in urban centres because it takes up a lot of space, and space is already at a premium.
Urban Electric has had a trial of these self erecting charge stations in the UK since the middle of last year, placing a gaggle of hubs along streets in Oxford, England. The app-activated 7 kW chargers retract below the surface of the footpath when not in use, keeping that precious footpath space obstruction free.
The startup claims 43% of UK households don’t have driveways or garages to park their cars in, pushing that parking out onto the street. These Urban Electric hubs are intended to facilitate overnight charging for those thousands of street parked cars.
Following the trial, Oxford City Council conducted a survey asking whether residents would recommend these pop-up chargers to friends and family. Amazingly, respondents gave this question a 4.3 out of 5 in the affirmative. Clearly the folks of Oxford thought this charging solution was elegant and effective.
Plug-in hybrids and battery electric vehicles account for over 7 per cent of the UK new car market at the moment. It only makes sense that this number would increase if another 43 per cent of the country had access to reliable overnight charging. Considering the country has already announced a plan to block the sale of internal combustion engine cars by 2035, the infrastructure only has 15 years to prepare for a massive influx.
Aside from Urban Electric, there are a number of other charging-related startups in the UK looking to add chargers to everything from municipal power company junction boxes to street lamp posts. This is a problem that will need to be solved in short order to meet the country’s ambitious EV goals.
Here is a segment on the Urban Electric trial from when they were installed. Having the visual really helps demonstrate how elegant the finished install is. When the charger post is retracted below the footpath surface, it’s almost as if it wasn’t there at all.
I have a sudden urge to exclaim affirmative Britishisms like “cor”, “innit”, and “get in!” If this proves to be scalable technology, it could be the step forward that electric cars need to be seen as fully integrated into normal life.