03/08/2023 – Sustainability / BT / EV / Electric Vehicle / Charging / Infrastructure / UK
BT to repurpose street cabinets for innovative EV charging pilots
The new pilot projects in the UK will help the telecoms giant assess options and viability of repurposing its street cabinet estate for EV charging.
Over the next two years, BT Group’s start-up and digital incubation team, Etc., will conduct technical and commercial pilots to convert or upgrade its street cabinets for electric vehicle charging units.
A familiar site across the UK, BT’s green 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. The pilot projects will provide critical insight into the viability of scaling EV charging to more locations across BT’s estate.
First pilot in Northern Ireland in Q32023
The first phase of the EV charging pilots – accessible to Openreach and BT Group colleagues – is anticipated to kick off in Northern Ireland in Autumn 2023, and will be expanded to the public with further pilot locations added across the UK later in the year.
While still at an early stage, BT’s planned repurposing of its existing infrastructure could make an important contribution to decarbonising the transport system and supporting the UK’s plans to get to net zero.
Technical, commercial and operational considerations
BT Group has stated its Etc. team will scope a range of different technical, commercial and operational considerations with bringing its EV charge point network online.
Technical factors include cabinet location, power availability, customer accessibility, digital customer experience and engineering considerations.
With regards to civil planning, points under consideration include location, local council engagement and physical accessibility.
On the commercial side, public funding options, private investment, partnership, and wider financial modelling will need to be factored in to the decision-making process.
Finally, the firm highlighted the operational aspects that would need to be considered – chiefly, whether the EV charge point network would be run as a dedicated BT Group venture or in partnership with others.
60,000 cabinets might be suitable for EV upgrade
Etc.’s early projections suggest that, over time, as many as 60,000 of BT Group’s 90,000 cabinets may be suitable for upgrades to EV charging points.
However, the firm was keen to point out that neither the trials nor any potential scaling of the new EV charge network would present any change or disruption to the telecommunications services supported from the cabinets. It also stressed that decisions on any further scaling on this programme would depend on the success of the two years of pilots.
Certainly, scaling up the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is much needed, given the government’s ambition to grow the number of UK charge points from around 45,000 today to 300,000 by 2030. Accordingly, it has committed some £1.6 billion in public funding to the effort under its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy.
Forecasts for the public EV charging sector are evolving rapidly as consumer habits shift ahead even of the 2030 deadline for the end of internal combustion engine vehicle sales, although estimates generally see the segment climbing to be worth multiple billions of pounds by the early 2030s.
“A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”
“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,” stressed Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc. at BT Group. “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 need for more EV charging represents an exciting business opportunity,” noted Ben Nelmes, CEO of non-profit organisation New AutoMotive, which works to support and accelerate the UK’s transition to electric vehicles, “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.”
BT Group already purchases 100-per-cent renewable electricity and will continue to do so through the EV charging pilots.
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