On street charging points served from a BT street cabinet

Street cabinets to EV chargers

Wednesday, September 6, 2023 - 08:32
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BT Group’s start-up incubation team, Etc., has unveiled ambitious plans to conduct technical and commercial pilot programs aimed at evaluating the feasibility of repurposing their street cabinets into electric vehicle (EV) charging stations. These cabinets currently serve as the backbone for delivering copper-based broadband and phone services to BT customers. However, as the UK moves towards a full-fledged fiber broadband infrastructure upgrade, these cabinets are slated for eventual decommissioning.

These recently announced pilot initiatives are designed to explore various possibilities for leveraging this existing infrastructure to expand the network of EV charging points throughout the country.

BT Street Cabinets

Image: BT Openreach

Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc. at BT Group, emphasized the urgency of this initiative, stating, “With the 2030 ban on internal combustion engine vehicle sales looming and only approximately 45,000 public charging points available today, the UK faces a pressing need for a substantial upgrade to meet the demands of the EV revolution. We have a unique opportunity to revolutionize our approach by innovatively repurposing our cabinet infrastructure. These pilot programs are of paramount importance for our team as they will enable us to meticulously assess and establish effective technical, commercial, and operational pathways to market over the next two years.”

During the course of these pilot programs, the Etc. team will meticulously evaluate a variety of technical, commercial, and operational aspects related to the potential expansion of the EV charging network:

  1. Technical Considerations: This encompasses factors such as cabinet location suitability, power availability, customer accessibility, the digital customer experience, and engineering requirements.
  2. Civil Planning: Evaluating location suitability, engaging with local councils, and ensuring physical accessibility.
  3. Commercial Viability: Exploring options including public funding, private investment, potential partnerships, and developing comprehensive financial models.
  4. Operational Strategies: Deciding whether to pursue this endeavour as a dedicated BT Group venture or in collaboration with external partners.

Initial projections by Etc. suggest that up to 60,000 out of BT Group’s 90,000 cabinets could potentially be upgraded to EV charging points without disrupting telecommunications services. However, the decision to scale this program will be contingent on the outcomes of the pilot initiatives conducted over the next two years.

The first phase of the EV charging pilots will kick off in Autumn 2023 and will initially be available to Openreach and BT Group employees in Northern Ireland. Subsequently, the program will expand to the public, with additional pilot locations being introduced across the UK later in the year.

It’s noteworthy that BT Group currently sources 100% of its electricity from renewable sources, and this commitment will persist throughout the duration of the EV charging pilot programs.

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