Are lampposts the Answer?

9th Aug 2022

 Are lampposts the Answer?

Street lighting may be the solution for Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities struggling to provide adequate charge points for electric vehicle owners who have no driveways.

One of the UK’s leading providers of new ‘intelligent’ technology for charging EVs is now in discussion with 24 Scottish LAs and says it can install lamppost charging points within a month.

“Big ambitions for Scotland,” says ubitricity boss

* Scottish EV drivers will benefit from state-of-the-art on-street charging

* incredible interest from local authorities

* already in contact with 24 Scottish LAs

* on-street standard lamppost chargers within a month

Dedicated funding and resources are to be part of this next phase of growth in Scotland, according to ubitricity - one of the leading providers of intelligent solutions for electric vehicle charging and billing in the UK.

UK managing director Toby Butler promises to “work closely with Scottish local authorities to help develop their EV strategy, from funding through to charge point deployment and maintenance, to make sure that residents have access to the best network possible.”

With over 5,400 charging points, ubitricity operates the largest public charging network in the UK, reflecting its “mission is to accelerate the public’s transition to e-mobility,” by installing public charging where drivers need it most: on-street charging, near home.

ubitricity’s solution is to turn lampposts into charge points by using existing street light infrastructure to provide help to local authorities in the rapid expansion of public charging infrastructure.

Lamppost charging points allow residents without access to off-street parking to easily charge their electric vehicle, close to home using a standard type-2 cable. When lampposts are deep set and not situated near to the edge of the kerb, ubitricity deploys its satellite bollard charge points solution, so that users can enjoy the same charging experience without the risk of trailing cables across pavements.

As experts in public charging infrastructure, ubitricity is one of the leading providers of intelligent solutions for charging and billing electric vehicles. “We are proud to have been able to work with over 30 councils and local authorities in the UK,” says Butler.

As part of the Shell group, ubitricity have pledged to install 50,000 on-street electric vehicle (EV) charge posts installed across the UK by the end of 2025.

In an exclusive interview, Toby Butler explains his company’s strategy for Scotland…

Q&A with Managing Director Toby Butler

We have big ambitions for Scotland. Transport Scotland has done a brilliant job on kickstarting their EV charging infrastructure strategy, and we want to dedicate funding and resource to be part of this next phase of growth in Scotland.

1. What are the company’s strategic plans for Scotland (and the north of England)?

We believe that no one should be left behind in the transition to e-mobility. Those residents who can’t have a home charger or don’t have access to a private parking space or garage should be able to easily access public charging infrastructure close to home.

Our plans for the next year are to work closely with Scottish local authorities to help develop their EV strategy, from funding through to charge point deployment, and make sure that their residents have access to the best network they possibly could have.
We’ve put a particular focus on Scotland and the north of England for the coming 12 month. For the UK to truly transition to e-mobility, charging infrastructure needs to be easily accessible everywhere and currently there is an imbalance in charging infrastructure between the north and south of the UK.

2. What are the most exciting developments within ubitricity for the coming 12 months - with particular focus on Scotland? (and the north of England?)

The most exciting development for us in Scotland is that we are already in contact with 24 Scottish local authorities and aim to be in contact with all 32 of them by the end of the year. The next step for us is to develop a deeper understanding on what each local authority needs. We want to bring our data and mapping capabilities to the local authorities of Scotland to put together the best tailored EV charging infrastructure approach for their residents.

We have had incredible interest from Scotland’s local authorities so far and have created good relationships and connections in all pathfinder territories (e.g., Aberdeen). We also have a great relationship with Transport Scotland and have great respect for what they are doing in the EV landscape.

3. What sort of reaction have you had from Scotland’s Local Authorities so far in relation to what ubitricity can offer in helping them meet their 2030 OZEV targets?

For ubitricity, one of the most important things we want to focus on is creating great infrastructure that can be easily rolled out to help bring LAs closer to their 2030 OZEV targets.

4. What has been the reaction from those LAs in Southeast England (where the majority of your installations have been so far) to the ubitricity offering.

As the largest public charge point operator in the UK, I think it is fair to say we’ve had a good reaction from southern councils, developing great relationships with LAs in the south.

We treat EV charging as critical infrastructure and we think that shows in the level of service and reliability we provide. We have very satisfied customers, from both the councils and end users.

Additionally, we have learnt much in our rollout of over 5400 public charge points in the UK and would love to bring that knowledge to Scottish local authorities.

5. What’s the difference / benefits of LAs adopting / using the ubitricity model?

Ubitricity’s solution blends effortlessly into the streetscape and means our charge points are very robust as we use the lamp post column to house the chargepoint.

Aside from the technology, we are a popular choice with local authorities due to our approach to maintenance. We provide continued maintenance and support across the whole of our network throughout the life of the product, which gives local authorities piece of mind that their residents will be able to access a reliable charging services.

6. Are you looking forward to (announcing) your first major breakthrough north of the border or will the process through to implementation with LAs be a lengthy one…. that’s to say from contract signing to local residents being able to use ubitricity installations?

We are looking forward to it and expect to be able to announce our first step in Scotland soon. It will be really exciting to see Scottish EV drivers benefiting from a great on-street public network and Scottish residents benefiting from cleaner air.

Timelines to installation on the ground are difficult to predict and can be influenced by a host of factors but we can say that ubitricity will provide support to local authorities at every step of the way to ensure the process is as smooth as possible.

7. Will ubitricity be involved in converting Shell fuel / service stations to offering electric charge point facilities (or is that handled by a separate division)?

We work closely with Shell to provide a wide portfolio of chargers where necessary. Whilst we ourselves don’t focus on converting service stations, we work closely with Shell Recharge who do.

8. Should councils prioritise rapid or slower charging?

We don’t think it is the right thing for councils to decide between installing either slow or rapid charging, you need both options when developing an EV charging strategy. The lead time for a rapid hub can easily be 12-18 months from planning to going live. In parallel, we can easily implement on-street standard lamppost chargers within a month. We aim to show councils that on-street charging can be quick to install and that projects can begin now whilst rapid and EV charging hub projects are developed over a longer time.

An ubitricity charge point provides a charge speed of 5kW. An average charge for our customers is 20kWh which means, on average, our customers actively charge for four hours. Most of our end users plug in on their street when they get back from work, around 7pm, and usually unplug in the morning before their morning commute. So 5kW charging speed for on-street charging is easily fast enough for drivers’ needs. Our customers do not sit there waiting for the car to charge, they use our charge points as they would a home charger and charge whilst they sleep. We are motivated to open up convenient EV ownership to drivers who do not have off-street charging and cannot install their own private charger.

Evidence shows the public wants to charge at or near home. When it comes to EV charging, near-home charging has been shown to be the most appealing and the primary charging solution for those looking to switch to EVs, with a common goal to park directly outside the home.

We also know the public don’t want to wait for their vehicles to charge. When asked what they considered a barrier to switched to an EV in relation to charging, residents said perceived long wait times for charging were viewed as inconvenient for many, particularly for those who have busy lives such as parents of young children and those who travel as part of their job.

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Well, in my opinion, this is not a good business proposal.  A handful of charge points along a residential road where one has no control over where you might actually be able to park is not going to make much difference. 

The key problem at the moment, IMO, is a lack of *reliable* and *available* rapid chargers mainly for use by those on long journeys or those who are caught out of their normal day-to-day driving/charging regime and need somewhere urgently to top up. They can of course also be used by people who have no facility to charge at home or at work or on the way to work (i.e. train commuters charging railway stations).

In the context of people who do you not have off-street parking at home, the main need is for readily available rapid charging facilities at places where motorists are likely to spend up to an hour a week , ie large supermarkets, DIY sheds, leisure centres and centres of entertainment (e.g. for those out for the evening). These need not be particularly high powered; 50 kW DC Charger would be perfectly adequate.

I do appreciate however that none of the above will make any difference; the government will continue to waste vast sums of public money supporting this and many other schemes as it has done disastrously in the past resulting in a wave of cowboy start-ups who will install rapid chargers in extraordinarily inappropriate locations then, when George Point start to go wrong, they will shut up shop taking a Publix money with them.

A classic example of this is the home charge point grant most of which are completely unnecessary on the basis that most EV owners would need nowhere near the maximum output that they provide and could easily make do with a simple portable EVSE which are often supplied with the EVSE.  These can be run off a simple and very cheap weatherised 13A socket or better still an industrial one to avoid 13A plug heating issues.

This sounds great. What can I do to encourage Edinburgh Council to talk to ubitricity asap?! They have taken three years to install a handful of on-street fast chargepoints, so they could really do with this sort of help from a company that knows what it’s doing.

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