Technology that could make electric vehicle (EV) charging accessible for people without driveways or garages is being trialled across London.
Start-up company Trojan Energy has been awarded £3 million in co-funding by Innovate UK to install 200 kerbside chargers across Brent and Camden as part of the Subsurface Technology for Electric Pathways (STEP) project.
If successful, the technology 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.
Each charge point is slotted into the ground with a flat and flush connection. The technology has no permanent footprint or ‘street clutter’ as the hardware is only visible when a vehicle is charging.
The charger can provide charge rates from 2kW to 22kW, and up to 18 chargers can run in parallel from one electricity network connection.
Trojan Energy said that this will in turn create opportunities for electric vehicle owners to use spare capacity in their batteries to provide services to electricity network operators which could make the cost of owning and running EVs cheaper.
Both London boroughs have rapidly growing EV usage, encouraged by council policy aimed at driving down air pollution in their neighbourhoods.
Councillor Shama Tatler, lead member for regeneration, property and planning at London Borough of Brent, said: “Electric vehicles will play an important part in improving our local air quality which we know can have a detrimental impact on people’s health.
"I hope these discreet curbside chargers will make electric vehicles accessible for more people and get us one step closer to our aim of becoming a zero carbon borough.”
Element Energy, a strategic energy consultancy specialising in the analysis of low carbon energy, is leading the STEP project, which it believes will overcome "the Achilles heel of charging infrastructure: scalability".
A key aspect of the trial involves collecting consumer feedback on the technology and gathering new information on the charging behaviour of EV drivers who park on-street. This research will be led by the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, alongside input from Element Energy. Feedback from this research will inform the development of commercialisation plans.
Jillian Anable, Professor of Transport and Energy at the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds, said: “Transport is a crucial sector for decarbonising the UK economy, as carbon emissions from transport, and particularly cars, continue to rise, undoing the gains in other areas.
"A major plank of the Government’s plan is to electrify the car fleet, but not everyone can park and charge off-street in drives and garages.
"If electric cars are to be made available to people in terraces and flats too, then on-street charging needs to be sorted out.
"We want to research how this new technology is taken up, and whether Trojan’s particular device resolves some of the concerns about early charging stations.”
Other partners include: UK Power Networks, who will ensure the system can scale without detrimental effects to it network, and Birmingham City Council.
Renewable electricity supplier Octopus Energy will also be recruiting its customers for the trial and providing expertise in backend billing.
Trojan Energy managing director Ian Mackenzie said: "We are grateful for the support we have received from our consortium partners and Innovate UK. This backing will allow us to bring our discreet curbside charging to cities where the need to transition to EVs is greatest.
"Our technology will allow us to electrify whole streets at a fraction of the cost of traditional charging infrastructure and without the need for curbside clutter. We are really looking forward to the challenge of bringing this revolutionary new solution to London and beyond."