The project will look to repurpose BT’s decommissioned cabinets – originally used for copper-based broadband and phone services – into electric vehicle (EV) charging spots.

BT’s start-up and innovation company Etc. has today announced it will begin pilots to transform decommissioned street cabinets into EV charging points in a bid to accelerate the UK’s journey to net zero.

The first phase of the pilots will take place in Northern Ireland this autumn. If successful, it will be expanded to the public with more pilot locations added across the UK later in the year.

A study from 2021 found that the installation of chargers needs to increase by five times the current rate if the plan to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 is to be achieved.

BT said the pilots will provide critical insight into the viability of scaling up EV charging to more locations across its estate.

“With the ban on sales of internal combustion engine vehicles coming in 2030, and with only around 45,000 public charge points today, the UK needs a massive upgrade to meet the needs of the EV revolution,” said Tom Guy, managing director, Etc.

“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to connect for good in a whole new way by innovating around our cabinet infrastructure. The pilots are critical for the team to work through the assessment and establish effective technical, commercial and operational routes to market over the next two years.”

The cabinets are currently used for providing copper-based broadband and phone services, and will be decommissioned as the ambitious nationwide upgrade to full-fibre progresses.

Etc. has suggested that, over time, as many as 60,000 of BT Group’s 90,000 cabinets may be suitable for upgrades to EV charging points. The firm added that neither the trials nor any potential scaling of the new EV charge network would force any change or disruption to the telecommunications services supported from the cabinets.

During the trials, the team is expected to analyse a range of different technical, commercial and operational considerations with bringing this EV charge point network online, including cabinet location, power availability, customer accessibility, digital customer experience and funding options.

Ben Nelmes, CEO of New AutoMotive, said: “The need for more EV charging represents an exciting business opportunity, so it is great to see BT Group announcing plans that could play a key role in growing the number of charge points and helping enable more people to make the switch to an electric car.”

Helen Clarkson, CEO at the Climate Group, added: “We’re seeing more and more ambitious commitments from corporates to grow their EV fleets in the coming years. Programmes like BT Group’s are an incentive for other businesses and drivers to go electric. But we need the UK government to play its part – wider availability of charge points right across the country, not just in London, will help build confidence that switching to an EV is the right option.”

Last year, the government published a plan to accelerate the roll-out of high-powered chargers on the road network through the £950m Rapid Charging Fund. However, research conducted by the RAC has shown that the government is “unlikely” to meet this target.

Extracted from IET website, read more here

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