BT set to trial first EV charging points from repurposed broadband cabinets

The UK is currently the sixth-largest car manufacturer in Europe.

The business’s startup and digital incubation arm, Etc., will convert a cabinet in East Lothian this month in a bid to assess whether the solution could be rolled out across the UK.

BT Group first announced its intention to undertake the trials last July and had initially hoped to start them sooner. The business sees potential for the conversion of up to 60,000 of its cabinets across Britain and will use the pilot to assess a range of technical, commercial and operational factors.

These include power availability, customer experience and accessibility, and what kind of collaboration is needed with local councils and other local groups.

The retrofit process does not involve the creation of a new power connection. Instead, EV charging is co-located with copper broadband services thanks to the use of a device that enables energy to the boxes to be shared.

Once the cabinet is no longer needed for broadband, the broadband equipment can be removed and recycled and additional EV charging capacity can be added. In time, trials will cover operational cabinets and those due for retirement.

All cabinets will be served by renewable energy, predominantly sourced through certificate-backed tariffs.

BT Group is funding the pilots but is still assessing whether a wider rollout should be a dedicated Group venture or whether a partnership model would be preferable.

Etc.’s managing director Tony Guy said: “Our new charging solution is a huge step in bringing EV charging kerbside and exploring how we can address key barriers customers are currently facing. Working closely with local councils in Scotland and more widely across the UK, we are at a critical stage of our journey in tackling a very real customer problem that sits at the heart of our wider purpose to connect for good.”

Growing the charging network

The UK currently hosts just over 50,000 public charging stations for EVs and the Government is aiming to increase the stock to 300,000 by 2030.

This ambition is backed with £1.6bn of funding, most of which (£950m) is supporting rapid charging on motorway networks. £500m of this pot, however, is open to local authorities looking to install on-street charging points and charging hubs at busy locations.

The installation of on-street charging points accelerated significantly in 2023 and these kinds of chargers are regarded as key in getting individual motorists to make the EV switch. Around one-quarter of British homes do not have access to off-street parking where they or their landlord could install their own charger and, as such, will rely on public infrastructure.

BT Group’s own recent consumer research found that 60% of people think the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, with 78% of petrol and diesel drivers saying not being able to conveniently charge an EV is a barrier to adoption.

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