Britain’s largest telecom service provider has put forward a plan to ensure that EVs are always within range of a charger. To do that, they’re planning to retrofit their existing street cabinets into publicly accessible L2 chargers.
Retrofitting a city’s existing electronic and digital infrastructure to promote widespread adoption of EVs isn’t a new idea — but UK telecom giant BT Group isn’t content to just talk about what’s possible. They’ve already done it!
The first such telecom cabinet-to-L2 charger conversion has already been completed in East Lothian, Scotland, and BT Group isn’t stopping there. The company says it plans to convert more cabinets in Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland in the coming months, with as many as 600 such conversions earmarked for completion by the end of 2024.
Now that nearly everyone has “cut the cord” with their home phones and broadband internet providers, these street cabinets (known as DSLAM boxes, for “Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplier”) represent a sunk cost that’s ripe for repurposing. To take that step into reality, BT Group developed a device that allows electricity from the existing DSLAM unit to be shared with a charge point alongside the existing broadband service, without no need to create a new power connection.
In this way, BT Group can keep using remaining wired telecom connections for their remaining phone and broadband customers, and streets and sidewalks don’t have to be dug up in order to run wires for EV charging.
BT estimates that thousands of its existing DSLAM boxes can be made into EV chargers with 100-amp power connection, but they need to also be located within 80-or-so meters of the parking spot to be suitable for this kind of double duty. Each suitable street cabinet will be able to offer two 7.4-kilowatt “Level 2” AC connections that will each provide a full charge in 6 to 8 hours. Translation: while you sleep or work.
BT Group claims it owns some 60,000 curbside cabinets (!?) in the UK that could be upgraded, going a long way towards the government’s stated goal of putting 300,000 EV chargers in service.
While I couldn’t find a solid number for how many DSL/DSLAM cabinets there might be in North America, it’s reasonable to assume that there are tens of thousands of such cabinets out there offering the same kind of possibilities as their English brothers across the pond. What’s needed, then, is some brave telecom to make it happen.
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