Etc., the startup and digital incubation arm at BT Group, said it will power up its first EV charging unit built from a street cabinet traditionally used to store broadband and phone cabling. The startup said this marks the first step in the rollout of new technical trials, exploring the potential to upgrade up to 60,000 cabinets to help meet government sustainability targets and decarbonize the transport system in the UK.
Etc. said the pilots will explore how this solution could be scaled to address the lack of chargers on UK roads. With only 53,000 public EV charge points currently on UK roads, the startup said the pilot marks an important step in the journey to net zero. Etc. said its first installation location is in East Lothian, Scotland, with further pilots to roll out across the UK in the coming months.
While the UK Government’s ambitions are to increase the number of charge points from 53,000 today to 300,000 by 2030, access to charging is already creating a significant barrier to EV purchases for many. BT Group’s recent 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 getting one.
Through the trials, Etc. said it will scope a range of different technical, commercial and operational considerations with bringing this EV charge point network online, including:
- Technical – cabinet location, power availability, customer accessibility, digital customer experience and engineering considerations;
- Civil planning – location, local council engagement, permissions and physical accessibility;
- Commercial – public funding options, private investment, partnership, and wider financial modeling to establish a route to commercial benefit for the Group;
- Operational – as a dedicated BT Group venture or in partnership with others.
While in its early development stages, the initiative has already been celebrated at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), after being awarded an Innovation Honoree for 2024 for outstanding design and engineering.
According to Etc., the charging solution works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device that enables renewable energy to be shared to a charge point alongside the existing broadband service with no need to create a new power connection. EV charging can be deployed to cabinets that are in use for current copper broadband services, or in those due for retirement, depending on the space and power available to the unit. Once the cabinet is no longer needed for broadband, as nationwide full-fiber rollout progresses, the broadband equipment is recycled, and additional EV charge points can be added. This allows re-use of existing infrastructure while deploying more charge points at pace.