On-street residential charging is crucial to mass adoption of EVs
What if charging your electric vehicle was more convenient than filling up a gas guzzler? What if you didn’t need to alter your daily routine? What if you didn’t even need to leave your street? And what if it didn’t matter if you don’t have a driveway and as such, can’t install your own charge point at home?
We live busy lives, we work longer hours than ever, our minds are constantly bombarded with a never-ending list of ‘things’ we need to do. Adding to your long list of tiresome errands, a trip to your local supermarket to charge your car for 40 minutes hardly sounds like an enticing proposition, rather another hassle in your busy life. Just one more thing to worry about.
Renowned 20th century inventor, Buckminster Fuller once said, “people never leave a sinking ship until they see the lights of another ship approaching”. To encourage people to make the transition to electric vehicles, we must show them the ‘lights’, we must make it as easy as possible for them to jump ship from their petrol-headedness, and this means providing them with sufficient, convenient and reliable infrastructure… on their doorstep.
Existing concerns, like range anxiety and cost, are swiftly being addressed by manufacturers through improved battery capacity and a continued reduction in costs as a result of an increase in economies of scale. The hot topic of concern therein lies with infrastructure, or lack thereof.
We know that in its current state the UK’s charging infrastructure will not be able to support the mass transition needed to achieve the Government’s Road to Zero aspirations. And while rapid and destination chargers are an integral part of the solution, ensuring that on-street residential, workplace and long-stay charge points are prominent in the charging ecosystem is crucial for mass adoption.
Upwards of 40% of UK residents do not have access to off-street parking or the ability to install a home charger, and this number is set to increase over the coming decade. Blending this statistic with the knowledge that over 80% of charging takes place at home due to greater convenience and prolonged dwell time, would give – we would hope – sufficient rationale for the installation of a vast on-street residential charging network. So why hasn’t it happened yet?
Well, the burden (and we use that word with the utmost sympathy) of facilitating this has fallen, somewhat predictably, onto the plates of local councils, and the task is colossal. These local government teams are having to create new models for EV charging with no tried and tested best practices to refer to, all while managing restrictive timescales, and financial and political pressures.
The funding that has been available to date has led to a prioritisation of small numbers of rapid chargers, rather than into large numbers of slower chargers. While this may be enough to support the early EV pioneers, as we move through the stages of early adopters and into mass adoption, investment must shift into deploying larger numbers of accessible charge points wherever dwell time is more than an hour.
Happily, on-street residential charging is finally receiving the focus it deserves. The Department for Transport has just recently declared that “a lack of suitable on-street charging is one of the biggest strategic barriers to mass adoption of electric vehicles”. But what does the development of a convenient and accessible on-street charging network look like? And, who funds it?
There are already concerns about the impact of the existing chargers to the streetscape – they’re large, can be loud and often unsightly. They’re also not all that environmentally sympathetic; often damaged, requiring additional materials, and at a very real risk of soon becoming obsolete as EV charging technologies advance.
To be deployed at the scale required to facilitate a nationwide EV revolution, charge points must be discrete, aesthetically sympathetic – and they must minimise environmental impact wherever possible. Simply put, this means utilising street furniture that already exists.
Instead of constructing another mammoth-sized ‘thing’ to plonk on the footpath and inconvenience all parents with prams out for an evening stroll, how about utilising posts and bollards that have been inconveniencing said parents’ evening strolls for years, and which they have already learned to live with. Better still, enable these charge points with ‘smart city’ capabilities. Think of it as adding value to existing street furniture rather than adding new street furniture.
The future is connected
While you’re at it, why not install charging infrastructure that can also support a wealth of other technologies, such as air quality, traffic, parking and environmental sensors; promoting asset longevity and more widespread benefits. By increasing the range of what a charge point can provide or enable, you’re delivering a value that far exceeds that of solely EV charging and delivering more benefits to more people.
By ensuring these discretely-deployed charge points are smart, interoperable and future-proofed, you’re securing a longer lifespan and reducing unnecessary resources, construction, accompanied costs and environmental impact. You’re creating cleaner, quieter and better-connected streets, and, you’re removing the need to dig up the street again in two years to install the next piece of ‘smart city’ infrastructure that will likely end up in the skip before the babies are out of their prams.
On-street residential charging provides the ability to charge overnight using cheaper tariffs and consuming a higher percentage of renewable energy and with no need to leave your street to visit a charging forecourt. They also enable EV access for all people. As mentioned, over 40% of UK residents do not have access to a driveway or the capacity to charge at home. For these people, the appeal and convenience of operating an EV is significantly diminished with the current infrastructure.
Deploy the clean, quiet and connected streets described above and you’re immediately incentivising the driveway-less to convert to EV. Essentially, providing the convenience of a home charging solution to those who can’t home charge. Moreover, we’ve seen a marked uptake in EVs when residents can actually see where and how they might charge their own EV. The visible evidence tends to break the ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum of when to transition to EVs.
People want convenience. To encourage mass change, ironically, you must ensure the least change to people’s current routines. And unfortunately, driving to a destination where there’s a possibility you’ll have to wait in line to use a fast charger (and then wait for the charge itself) is neither convenient nor fast, and highly unlikely to be enticing to the masses that we want, and need, to entice.
Connected Kerb’s solution
Our on-street solution is specifically tailored for urban residential areas and is a little off-beat when compared to other charge point vendors. What we provide is a smart city combined infrastructure platform; our charge point technology is connected to data, as well as power.
This means our system can support Internet of Things (IoT) technology, such as air quality, parking, traffic and other environmental sensors. It also means that our technology is future-proofed, and so can host advanced charging technology once available.
We don’t see much point in installing kit that will become obsolete and need to be replaced in five years, meaning additional materials, costs, physical disruption to nearby residents, as well as service disruption to users. This ties into our focus on sustainability and environmental sympathy. Our charging points are made from 80% recycled materials; including recycled plastic bags and vehicle tyres that would otherwise have gone into landfill or been incinerated.
We innovate and install smart, sustainable and future-proofed infrastructure that connects communities, promotes liveable streets, minimises environmental impact and amplifies the transition to electric vehicles for all people. Our vision is EV access for all.
Help us, help you
Our mission is to create cleaner, quieter and better-connected streets across the UK. We are working closely with councils to make this happen, but we need your help.
We are conducting research to understand how we can best make EV charging more convenient for all people. We would be grateful if you can take part and help shape the future of EV charging. To take part in the survey, please follow this link. We appreciate your support.
Additionally, if you would like to request CK’s solution on your street, please go to www.connectedkerb.com/request.
About the author
Beth Stavert joined the Connected Kerb team in mid-2018 to support the Directors in developing and nurturing the CKL brand in its emerging stages. She holds a Bachelor of Communication Studies from Auckland University of Technology, where she majored in Public Relations.