BT has announced technical and commercial pilots to convert its street cabinets into electric vehicle (EV) charging points. The goal of the pilots is to assess the viability of expanding the EV charging footprint – it also repurposes cabinets currently being used for copper-based phone and Internet services, which will be decommissioned as the switch from PSTN to full-fibre communications accelerates.

The challenges are significant, ranging from the location of the cabinets to planning issues, and charging issues (both electric and financial). The 90,000 green boxes that people walk past already hum with electricity but will need to be upgraded. A charging point in front of your house might be convenient for personal use, but what if you aren’t able to park because someone else has already grabbed the space and charging point? Additionally, there are usually pavements (sidewalks) in between the cabinets and the road so there will be a need for engineering works and yet more disruption at a time when people are already irritated by all the digging associated with fibre roll-out.

BT is to be commended for ‘thinking outside the box’ (or cabinet) as it strives to meet its net zero goals. BT plans net zero in its own operations by the end of March 2031, and supply chain by the end of March 2041. BT already purchases 100% renewable electricity.

The trial also addresses the lack of EV charging points across the country and may be a solution that is viable for the mass of terraced housing dating from the Victorian and Edwardian streets where off-road parking is often unavailable for household charging.

GlobalData principal analyst Rob Pritchard observed: “With a government goal of expanding the number of UK charging points from about 45,000 today to 300,000 by 2030, when a ban on sales of new vehicles powered by internal combustion engines is to become law, any new ideas to reuse existing street furniture potentially both repurpose legacy infrastructure and helps to expand charging availability. This is especially important with range anxiety a key issue for prospective buyers of EVs.”

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