September 6th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan
There are various sorts of electric charging stations to accommodate different needs, lifestyles, and business opportunities. Most people with electric cars use home chargers — or just plug into the wall — whereas I thoroughly appreciate ChargePoint chargers at the grocery store, the mall, some nearby parks, and the beach since I don’t have home charging. But we’re at the beginning of the electric vehicle revolution (or at least the middle), not the end, and I think some of the most popular charging options of the future are yet to really roll out and scale up.
One idea that I think should take over Europe eventually is being pioneered by Trojan Energy. Europe is plastered with on-street parking, and there is much less opportunity for home EV charging in many places. An elegant EV charging solution that doesn’t result in cables being strewn all over sidewalks and curbs is critical to the EV future. Trojan Energy’s solution is an electric vehicle charging pole that comes out of the sidewalk when you’re ready to charge and slots back into it when you are done.
A few initial benefits of the solution popped to mind when I saw it, but the company has a much more comprehensive list to share:
“With no permanent footprint or street clutter, it’s only visible when a vehicle is charging. Better for wheel chair users, visually impaired, baby buggies, delivery drivers, children on bikes & scooters, teenagers on phones, refuse collectors, street cleaners, mobility scooters, and everyone on a busy pavement. … Far less visually damaging in heritage areas.”
Another benefit: it provides up to 22 kW charging, which is pretty close to ideal for my tastes — quick enough that you don’t have to think about it, but not so quick that you have to worry about degrading your battery pack with frequent use.
Trojan Energy is reportedly putting 200 of these into sidewalks in Brent and Camden in London, the UK.
“The Subsurface Technology for Electric Pathways (STEP) project has been awarded £3m in co-funding by Innovate UK. If successful it will enable entire streets to be filled with the charge points so that no matter where a driver parks, they will be able to charge their EV,” Element Energy writes. Element Energy is a cleantech-focused consultant that is assisting with this initial pilot project.
The system also includes an interesting “plug & charge” system for payment. “The technology consists of 2 parts – a charge point slotted into the ground, and a ‘lance’ which is inserted into the charge point in order to charge. The charger can provide charge rates from 2kW to 22kW, and up to 18 chargers can run in parallel from one electricity network connection.”
How much does the UK, or Europe more broadly, need a solution like this for on-street parking? “10 million people park on the street in the UK and 100 million in Europe,” Trojan Energy writes.
The EV startup adds that it aims to become a leading conduit for vehicle-to-grid (V2G) use across the UK. “By aggregating demand through one central power cabinet the possibility of EV to grid will become commercially viable. Ultimately we aim with the help of our customers to become the UK’s biggest battery allowing us to power the UK for days at a time if the wind doesn’t blow. The rewards for our customers and our planet will be massive and prove the point that a big idea and great engineering can change the world.”
While I am certainly enthusiastic about this charging solution, my non-expert mind does bring up some concerns. As I understand it, anything that moves can get broken and then not move. How likely is this to happen with a technology that comes in and out of sidewalks? EV charging stations are not super reliable in general. For some reason, there are far too many that break and then won’t charge your car. What are the chances that Trojan Energy is too clever for its own good?
On the other hand, the ability to keep sidewalks clear and safe is probably worth a premium in many places. As long as this system is implemented well in Brent, Camden, and other early locations, and as long as it comes at a reasonable cost, I could see other cities and businesses clamoring for this solution. Aside from Element Energy, Trojan Energy is working with UK Power Networks, Birmingham City Council, the University of Leans, and Octopus Energy for this initial technology trial.
What do you think? Sold? Want to see more evidence?
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