Europe Just Solved the Biggest Problem With Electric Cars

The solution has been hiding in plain sight

By Alex Lauer

Europe Just Solved the Biggest Problem With Electric Cars
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22 June 2017

Electric vehicle proponents get a lot of flak for simply trying to do something good for the planet. Post about it online, and you risk the flood of naysayers and their mantra  “EVs pollute too!” True, but while the Teslas, Nissans and others are working on minimizing pollution, EV drivers have bigger fish to fry than trolling. Mainly, finding a place to charge the damn things.

German company Ubitricity has a clever solution: streetlight charging ports.

As the lights are converted from HPS to LED, they naturally use less energy, while still maintaining the same output capabilities. And since they’re ideally positioned on sidewalks all across cities, adjacent to street parking spaces, the light poles are ripe for converting into EV charging stations.

Ubitricity 2 (3 images)

The London borough of Hounslow is the first to implement the system, which places sockets into streetlamps with minimal installation time and expense. This would seem to give EV owners an unfair advantage, being able to hook up at will to free city energy while others are stuck pumping gas. But that’s where part two comes in — the cable.

To use these easily accessible stations, people must contact Ubitricity, which then sends them a personalized charging cable. These include an electricity meter, so whenever you plug in to charge, your credit card account is also charged for the amount of juice used — all of which is displayed on the meter’s screen. As Designboom explains, this allows electric car drivers to “take advantage of existing electricity infrastructure without the risk of appearing to steal power paid for by others.”

The video above from UK YouTube show Fully Charged shows how the whole system works and features interviews with a councilmember who helped implement it, an EV owner who uses it and Ubitricity co-founder Knut Hechtfischer.

Some of the obvious questions are answered, including:

  • Can’t someone just pull the cord out while charging? No. During the transaction the cable locks on both sides, and can only unlock when the car is unlocked.
  • Are these installed on all light posts in Hounslow? No, but if a resident of Hounslow contacts the council, they will install three ports near their home. (WOW.) 
  • When is Ubitricity coming to other cities? Unfortunately, no answer for that at the moment. But once it crosses the pond, the accessibility alone could create a greater demand for electric vehicles. No more making pit stops at Whole Foods to fuel up.

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