One of the biggest concerns about the nation’s switch from petrol and diesel cars to electric vehicles is the charging infrastructure available – and the impact it will have on how our roads will look.
When demand grows, so will the need for on-street chargers, meaning a lot more road furniture than we’re currently accustom to.
However, there might be a solution – and it’s already in use in the UK. That’s because Oxford Council has installed the nation’s first ‘pop-up’ electric-vehicle chargers that rise out of the pavement.
This is the first residential trial of Urban Electric’s UEone on-street electric vehicle charging points, also known as ‘OxPops’.
Six have been installed on the north eastern end of Lonsdale Road in North Oxford offering fast charging up to 7kW.
Like bollards, they retract into the ground and sit flush into the pavement when not in use.
However, when an electric vehicle owner needs to access one for charging, they can remotely summon it from the ground using as smartphone app.
Installations will be in ‘clusters’ rather than individual charge points as a cost-effective way of digging up footpaths to fit them.
The app will also be able to tell users where these clusters are located (given they’re not easy to spot), if someone is currently plugged into one or if it’s not operational at that time.
Pop-up power: These are the UK’s first retractable street chargers that rise out of the ground. They’ve been installed in Oxford as part of a six-month trial
New cabling and a grid connection will usually need to be added under the road, though the devices will still tap into the low-voltage network in place.
The devices are smart too, meaning they will attempt to charge vehicles during the cheapest periods, especially when a car is plugged in overnight.
The devices will be compatible with all type-2 charging cables for ease of use.
And because the devices fold into themselves, Urban Electric claims you don’t have to dig deep into the ground to put them in.
The dedicated app will also have all account details and is where users can pay for and manage their usage.
It’s just one of a number of solutions being explored to solve the issue of charge points adding to street clutter and getting in the way of pedestrians.
This includes lamppost being converted into chargers, which have been used in London for the last two years.
Left: Ubitricity first installed lamppost chargers in London in June 2017. Right: A number of boroughs in the capital now have them because they mean there’s no additional road furniture
EV owners have to purchase a specialist smart charging cable for the devices, which holds all metering and billing information that is then relayed to the user’s mobile electricity contract
Street lights have been fitted with sockets, each at the cost of £1,000 for the conversion.
This is significantly cheaper than installing new free-standing chargers, which are rumoured to set councils and network providers back around £6,000 for each device.
EV owners have to purchase a specialist Ubitricity smart charging cable for the sockets, which holds all metering and billing information that is then relayed to the user’s mobile electricity contract.
The first installations of the new pop-out chargers are being aimed at residents on the street who have limited access to parking and struggle to boost the batteries of their electric vehicles.
The charging hubs were fitted in September with the trial running until next February.
Oxford Direct Services has been involved in the planning of the trial for a year, which is being led by Oxford City Council.
In 2019, the highways team at ODS began ‘trial holes’ to find the best position for where the chargers would be housed.
During early summer, the team excavated the pavement, and installed the chargers outer casing and ducting, whilst the electrical team pulled in the cables ready.
By the end of summer, the chargers were fully installed and the top surface of the pavement had been finished – ready to begin the trial.
Another 18 hubs are due to be fitted in Plymouth and Dundee, Urban Electric has revealed
Because the devices fold into themselves, Urban Electric claims you don’t have to dig deep into the ground to put them in, the provider says
Councillor, Tom Hayes, who is also a cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, said: ‘Everything we do to tackle emissions has to be practical if it’s going to work.
‘We‘ll only achieve our Zero Emission Zone and clean our dirty air if the City Council supports drivers to replace older polluting vehicles with cleaner ones.
‘That’s why it’s so important to have Oxford Direct Services furthering our values, in this case by helping to make our new pop-up electric vehicle chargers a reality.
‘This is an exciting trial which will allow us to explore new electric vehicle charging options for residents and I am thankful that ODS were a part of the shared effort.’
Another 18 hubs are due to be fitted in Plymouth and Dundee, Urban Electric has revealed.
These will ‘help refine’ the product before the full launch of the production device is available from around late 2020, early 2021.
Are pop-up chargers the future? Or is it another idea that will sink into the ground?
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