Sustainability-in-Tech : Green BT Street Cabinets To Become EV Charging Points

In line with the government’s aim to increase the number of electric vehicle (EV) charging points from 50,000 to 300,000 by 2030, the BT Group has announced that it will be repurposing its old, green street cabinets to EV charging points.

60,000 New EV Charging Points 

The move, as part of a pilot scheme beginning in Scotland “in the coming weeks” will see BT’s end-of-life green street cabinets being repurposed to add 60,000 new chargers nationwide.

Green Boxes 

BT’s green boxes, a familiar sight on many streets, have traditionally been used to house cabling for phone lines and broadband but BT says the cabinets are slowly becoming obsolete as fibre-optic broadband is rolled out across the country. The company says that when the boxes reach the end of their life the old broadband equipment can be recycled, and EV points housed there instead.

Easy To Repurpose 

The BT Group says green boxes can be converted simply by using a small device to supply renewable energy to an on-street charging point, without the need to create a new power connection. The technology can actually be deployed in cabinets which are either in use or due for retirement.

Huge Step 

Tom Guy, Managing Director at BT Group said: “Our new charging solution is a huge step in bringing EV charging kerbside and exploring how we can address key barriers customers are currently facing.” 

Other Ideas 

An insufficient number of charging stations and whether charging points are available at home (or at work) have long been seen as major challenges to the growth of EV ownership in the UK (along with other factors like the price of EVs).

Some of the many suggestions for other potential kerbside solutions include:

– Lamp posts, especially in residential areas where traditional charging stations might be impractical, and they already have an electrical connection, which can be modified to include charging points.

– Parking meters. This would save space plus make use of the existing power supply and payment systems.

– Utility poles (similar to lamp posts), which have an existing power supply and are widely distributed, making them a viable option for EV charging.

– Street furniture such as benches, bus shelters, or other street furniture with integrated solar panels which could be equipped with charging capabilities.

– Retired/classic telephone boxes (only available now in some areas) can (and have been) repurposed as EV charging points, combining cultural heritage with modern technology.

– Bollards could be equipped with charging technology.

– Public toilets, which have been getting scarcer due to closures from council cuts, already have electricity for lighting and heating, and could be adapted to include EV charging points.

– Solar-powered recycling bins with built-in Wi-Fi and charging capabilities are one suggestion of an innovative way to combine waste-management and EV charging.

– Pop-up, temporary charging hubs / mobile charging stations, in areas with high demand, using existing power sources or portable generators.

What Does This Mean For Your Organisation? 

The innovative repurposing of BT’s green street cabinets essentially kills two birds with one stone, breathing new life into old infrastructure while tackling the UK’s lack of EV charging points. It’s one step in the right direction towards sustainable technology and environmental responsibility and it sounds as though it has the potential to make a major contribution (60,000) to the UK’s target of having 300,000 EV charging points by 2030. However, bear in mind that this is still only a pilot scheme.

It also seems like quite a practical option for a broad segment of the population. For organisations operating in the EV sphere, this expansion could also open new avenues for growth and innovation, as the increased infrastructure will likely stimulate demand for electric vehicles.

Environmentally, the repurposing of existing structures for EV charging aligns with green initiatives and carbon reduction goals and utilising existing assets, such as BT’s green boxes, is a way to reduce the environmental impact of constructing the necessary new EV charging stations in the UK. It also highlights how sustainability can be achieved through intelligent innovation, rather than just new construction.

Exploring the other potential kerbside solutions, like integrating charging capabilities into lamp posts, parking meters, and even public toilets, underscores the potential for creative solutions to the EV charging challenge. A versatile approach like this could well be the key to meeting the challenge of insufficient charging points in a faster, more affordable way at scale.

However, it’s still important to acknowledge that there are other remaining challenges within the EV market, such as the high initial cost of EVs, the need for widespread adoption of renewable energy sources to truly realise the environmental benefits of EVs, and the technical challenges associated with rapidly scaling up EV charging infrastructure. Addressing these issues requires a concerted effort from both the private and public sectors, with continued innovation and investment in sustainable technologies being paramount.

That said repurposing BT’s green street cabinets, alongside other innovative kerbside solutions, could offer a blueprint for how we can meet our environmental targets while fostering the growth of the EV market in the UK.

Sustainability-in-Tech : World’s First “Superfast Charging” EV Battery

China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Limited (CATL) has announced the launch of world’s first 4C superfast charging LFP battery.

The ‘Shenxing’ EV Battery 

CATL says the ‘Shenxing’ battery can deliver 400 km of driving range from a 10-minute charge as well as a range of over 700 km on a single full charge, which is around 60 per cent further than the average electric vehicle (EV) on full charge in 2023.

The company says the Shenxing battery will “considerably alleviate fast charging anxiety for EV users” and “opens up an era of EV superfast charging”. 

How It Beats “Fast Charging Anxiety” 

The company, which manufactured more lithium-ion batteries than any of its competitors last year, says that fast charging anxiety is the top factor that stops consumers from shifting to EVs.  CATL says that its Shenxing battery “redefines” Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP) batteries and alleviates “fast charging anxiety” because:

– It leverages super electronic network cathode technology and fully nano-crystallised LFP cathode materials to create a super-electronic network, which facilitates the fast extraction of lithium ions and the rapid response to charging signals.

– CATL’s latest second-generation fast ion ring technology has been used to modify the properties of the battery’s graphite surface, thereby increasing intercalation channels (improving energy density) and shortens the intercalation distance for lithium ions. This creates a kind of “expressway” for current conduction.

– Its multi-gradient layered electrode design has been developed to strike a perfect balance between fast charging and long range.

– CATL’s new superconducting electrolyte formula effectively reduces the viscosity of the electrolyte, resulting in improved conductivity within the battery.

– The improved, ultra-thin SEI film (a passivation layer on the anode surface, inhibiting electrolyte decomposition) reduces resistance of lithium-ion movement, thereby improving the transmission rate of lithium ions and decreasing the resistance of lithium-ion movement.

Better Overall Battery Performance

CATL says that new Shenxing battery’s features, as listed above, improves its overall performance in addition to its super-fast charging, because the Shenxing battery also has a longer driving range, fast charging over a wide range of temperatures, and a high level of safety thanks to structure innovation and leveraging intelligent algorithms.  For example:

– The use of CATL’s “trailblazing all-in-one grouping technology,” is a key reason why the Shenxing battery can reach a range of over 700 km, pushing the limits of the performance of LFP chemistry.

– CATL’s cell temperature control technology means the Shenxing battery can charge as normal even at low temperatures. For example, Shenxing can charge to 80 per cent SOC in 10 minutes at room temperature, and from 0-80 per cent in just 30 minutes in temperature as low as -10°C.

– CATL say the Shenxing battery’s upgraded electrolyte and the separator with a highly safe coating, combined with its intelligent algorithms, provide it with a “real-time fault testing system” that can solve the problems brought about by fast refuelling, thereby giving the battery a high level of safety.

EV Batteries

Although CATL identifies “fast charging anxiety” as the biggest obstacle preventing more people from buying electric vehicles, battery technology has long been a real (physical) challenge to how far electric cars are able to travel on a charge. However, many buyers would also argue that there are many other ‘anxieties’ about EVs that are holding back EV sales such as the price of EVs (especially during a cost-of-living-crisis), and the availability of charging points (charging infrastructure).

There was some good news for the UK last month when Tata, the owner of Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), confirmed it will be building a £4 billion EV battery factory (termed a ‘gigafactory’) at Bridgwater in Somerset. As well as providing jobs and giving the UK more of foothold in the EV industry, it will also help the UK by delivering half of the battery production needed by 2030 (in the UK, 2030 will see a ban on the sale of new cars using petrol or diesel).

Which Car Companies?

Although it was reported three years ago that CATL had developed a battery that could power an EV for 1.2 million miles over a 16-year lifespan and that deals may have been in place to supply Tesla, BMW, Daimler, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Volvo, it is not clear from its latest more detailed announcement about the Shenxing battery’ which car manufacturers will be the first to use the new battery.

Record Breaking EV Sales In Recent Times

Even with the battery challenges, EVs are two or three times more efficient than conventional petrol/diesel-powered vehicles, plus they have the added benefit of having zero emissions (during driving). Major carmakers have already committed to making EVs and phasing out cars with internal combustion engines entirely by 2040, and it’s predicted (IEA) that electric car sales could overtake fossil fuel-powered car sales within the next 15 years. However, the hope is that breakthroughs in battery technology could make this happen faster which is good news for governments looking to hit carbon emissions targets and deadlines for phasing out fossil fuel vehicles.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

EV battery technology development and how it affects factors like speed-of-charging, range, battery weight, cost (and more) are factors which affect the wider adoption of EVs. The superfast charging and long range (700 km on a full charge) of CATL’s Shenxing battery appear to tackle two of the major challenges, although there are still many more, including charging infrastructure and EV prices.

However, if deals are successfully made with major manufacturers to use the battery and are they’re able to communicate the benefits to the car buying public, this could be one element that could speed up the uptake of EV ownership and the many benefits that brings (e.g. environmental / climate) and giving a better chance of hitting carbon reduction targets.

As mentioned, there are number of challenges that need to be met to make conditions better to enable larger sales of EVs, but this new battery technology could be an important step in the right direction.