Advertisement

On-Street residential charging without the clutter

We need hundreds of thousands more on-street, residential EV chargers for those who don’t have access to drives and garages. Where are they coming from? AQN editor Paul Day looks at the options that don’t fill our pavements with extra street ‘furniture’.

The UK recently welcomed its 50,000th public EV charge-point and is set to reach the 100,000th in August 2025. These charge-points are typically located in high traffic locations such as motorway service stations and shopping centre car parks.

But given that VAT on domestic electricity is 5%, compared to the standard rate of 20% that users of public charging facilities pay, it’s not surprising that 80% of EVs are charged at home. Apart from the financial implications, plugging in when you get home is much more reliable and convenient.

However, 60% of houses in urban areas do not have drives and this constituency is being badly overlooked. Recent research by Vauxhall reported that 72% of local authorities have no published strategy on how they will enable residential charging on streets where homes don’t have driveways.

The report, published in August 2023, found there were just 17,047 residential on-street chargers in the UK – but 75% (12,708) of them are in London, leaving just 4,339 distributed across the rest of the UK

This is not a discrepancy that can be overlooked and, in some quarters, it is not.  The dilemma however is two-fold. Not only does the charge need delivering to the vehicle, but it needs to be done without cluttering the streets with eight million clunking great machines getting in everyone’s way.

Here we look at some of the efforts under way to cater for those EV drivers who have to leave their cars on the road at night.

The Lamppost Charger

Lamppost charging is already a popular solution, allowing local authorities to roll out an expansive and cost-effective charge-point network, with a typical lamppost being able to be converted in less than two hours.

Kensington and Chelsea Council have taken to the concept enthusiastically, turning to Ubitricity, part of the Shell group, who began trialling lamppost chargers in 2016. Having now installed around 700 Lamppost chargers, the council estimate that 90% of their residents are within 100m of a charge-point and the remaining 10% are within 200m. The chargers have been installed on lampposts adjacent to resident and pay-by-phone visitor parking bays.

In a sign that this technology is refusing to stand still, Otaski Energy Solutions, based in Gateshead, have been awarded £229,000 to develop a smart street lamppost capable of charging electric vehicles and sharing power back to the grid.

The Portable Charger

One of the concerns about living in a neighbourhood with a generous amount of on-street charging is that it attracts people from other neighbourhoods who are not so well catered for. Trojan’s innovative solution prevents that by requiring the driver to be carrying a portable ‘lance’ that attaches to the charger, which sits unobtrusively, flush to the pavement.

The Trojan HUB uses a single feeder cabinet to power up to 15 charge-points on a street and such clusters have already been installed by Barnet, Brent and Camden Councils.

The charging cable and lance lock in place when charging begins and the only way to remove them is by unlocking the car. The lance monitors how much electricity is used and the car owner is billed accordingly.

Complimenting the HUB is Trojan AON, aimed at individual EV owners, who get a flush chargepoint installed outside their property, which is connected to their own electricity supply, rather than a feeder cabinet.

The Retractable Charger

Urban Electric’s elegant UEone charger is unnoticeable until a user activates it via an app and it slowly rises up from the pavement. While the aesthetic benefits are obvious, one of its most useful features isn’t apparent to the eye – if a unit is vandalised or malfunctions, it can be replaced in half an hour.

Following a trial in Dundee, Fraser Crichton, Corporate Fleet Manager at the Council said, “This was one of the most exciting projects I have ever been involved in. It provides a solution to residential street charging in both affluent and poor areas and solves issues around vandalism and street furniture deployment. But what I really love is the swap-out system, gold dust to keep the network going.”

A total of 124 prototype charging bays were installed in Dundee, Plymouth and Staffordshire for Innovate UK and ADEPT Live Labs trials and, over a period of 18 months, they achieved 99.4% uptime, significantly above the industry average.

Following these pilots, Urban Electric has partnered with Balfour Beatty to commercialise the UEone and launch Urban Fox as a new charge-point operator into the UK market.

The Gully

Connecting the house directly to the car is the ideal solution and a number of companies are providing solutions to do that with the minimum  fuss.

County Durham recently trialled the Kerbo Charge system, which runs a charging cable through a narrow channel cut into the pavement and protected with a hinged lid.

The works are carried out by the local authority’s own highways contractor, meaning a Section 50 license is notionally internally granted.

Installation takes around an hour and once a visual survey has established the gulley is not close to a dropped curb, tree roots or a road turning, further survey work is usually not required because the channel is only 32mm deep, well above any buried utilities.

Someone Else’s Charger

Described as ‘Airbnb for electric car chargers’ community EV charging allows those with access to home charging to rent out their chargers to those without.

Co Charger, who are partnered with Octopus Energy, have launched an app which connects drivers who need to use an EV charger with someone who has one they can use nearby.

Although 80% of EV owners charge at home, those chargers are only used around 5% of the time. When it is not being used, the host can list it in the app as available to book by other EV drivers.

The scheme is mutually beneficial as while the cost to the person charging is considerably below that of using a public charger, the host can make up to £1,000 a year renting their charger out.

The Future

Who knows? As technology develops and EV batteries become smaller and cheaper, we can expect drivers to be able to unplug them and carry them into their home to charge, probably in a few minutes.

In some parts of the world solar panels integrated into the car’s design might mean the battery never needs to be charged in the way we do it now.

There is also the possibility that inductive charging systems can be built into cars, with charging mats beneath the road surface to provide wireless charging, As with many EV-related technological advances, Norway are already trialling this, so watch that space.

The problem – and it’s one we’ll have to accept – is that the technology in batteries, and the charging of them, will develop swiftly, to the point where, in 20 years, when most of the cars on the road are electric, the infrastructure we are rolling out now will be relatively outdated. But even with that in mind, we desperately need to roll it out regardless.

Comments

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Help us break the news – share your information, opinion or analysis
Back to top