Need to plug in an EV? BT Group kicks off cabinet update pilot

Old BT green boxes to be repurposed

The BT Group has made good on its promise to repurpose street cabinets into EV charge points by kicking off a pilot to demonstrate the concept actually works.

The first installation location will be in East Lothian, Scotland.

The plan is to retrofit existing cabinets, currently used for providing broadband to households. These are set to be decommissioned during the full-fibre roll-out.

Since they are already hooked up to a power source, the thinking is that engineers can retrofit a device to split the existing power supply, meaning that the current broadband can keep running, and a new charge point can be made available. A battery backup will mean that households shouldn't experience any disruption during installation.

The power supply itself comes from renewable energy, we're told.

Once the cabinet is no longer needed for broadband as the full fiber rollout continues, the kit can be recycled, and more charge points can be added.

BT Group currently has 90,000 green cabinets squatting on streets around the UK. It is estimated that around 60,000 could be repurposed to add much-needed charge points. The UK government hopes to increase the number of charge points in the UK to 300,000 by the 2030s, and using those cabinets will help toward that goal.

According to BT Group, 60 percent of people think the UK's EV charging infrastructure is inadequate. A surprising figure – this hack is an EV driver and doesn't know any fellow electric jalopy fans that would describe the current situation in the UK as anything other than pisspoor. A further 78 percent of petrol and diesel drivers regard being unable to conveniently charge an EV as a barrier to getting one.

The pilot is laudable, but judging by the glossy promotional video, only Type 2 connectors capable of delivering 7kW are on the cards. These are the most common charger types, but you can expect to spend several hours before an EV's battery is refilled. We asked BT Group if this was indeed the case, and will update if we receive a response.

Cost and maintenance are also an issue. EVs make sense if you can charge at home and take advantage of low domestic tariffs. Unwary drivers might find themselves on the receiving end of an unexpected bill when using public charge points. BT Group also failed to spell out who would be responsible for maintaining the charge point. Updating an old cabinet is all well and good, but ultimately pointless if the charge point malfunctions and cannot be used.

Overall, the plan sounds like a good one. Much like popping charge points on lamp posts, the infrastructure is there, and there is the potential for re-use. However, questions over cost and maintenance must be answered before the requirement for 100 percent of all new vehicles to be zero emission in the UK arrives in 2035. ®

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