British telecom giant BT Group unveils pilot project to convert existing Digital Subscriber Line Access Multiplier, or DSLAM boxes, into EV charging stations.
The small charging stalls can recharge two vehicles at 7.4 kW, requiring several hours for a small or midsize EV.
The program has the potential to transform some 60,000 DSLAM boxes in the UK into charging stations, easing overnight charging opportunities for city and suburban dwellers.
Overnight EV charging for city dwellers is still seen as one of the longer-term barriers to EV adoption.
After all, even if everyone who owns or rents a home can probably count on some level of charging in their garage or outside, even if it involves running an extension cord through a cracked window, there will still be tens of millions of apartment owners and renters who may not have guaranteed overnight charging opportunities.
British telecom giant BT Group has a possible answer: Curbside charging stations that will draw power from phone and broadband access points housed in "street cabinets" as they call them in the UK. These devices are better known stateside as Digital Subscriber Line Access Multipliers, or DSLAM boxes.
The company has launched a pilot project in East Lothian, Scotland, that will explore the feasibility of retrofitting some 60,000 street cabinets in the UK with small charging stations, aimed at recharging for cars that rely on street parking each night.
"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," said Tom Guy, Managing Director of Etc., the incubation arm of BT Group.
The design of the stations themselves is aimed at taking advantage of older copper broadband infrastructure that is currently being upgraded. The retrofit involves adding a device that allows a charge point to share energy with an existing broadband service, eliminating the need for an entirely new power connection to the street cabinet. An app-based system would handle the payments.
"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," BT Group says.
The concept for this type of charging station was presented at CES earlier this month and received an Innovation Honoree award for 2024 for outstanding design and engineering.
This type of retrofit for existing infrastructure is the latest in a line of curbside charging concepts that we've seen developed by European companies, and is similar to street light poles that have been reworked in the same manner.
The main limitations, of course, are charging speeds, as these stations will be able to offer 7.4-kW charging for two vehicles, as well as the demands on the grid if this pilot project really were to be scaled up to 60,000 charging poles.
But if one considers that an EV would essentially be charging from about 6 pm until 7 am each night—and not from 0% to 100% state of charge—these speeds should be quite suitable for juicing up an EV overnight.
Still, the potential for this type of curbside charging solution appears high. BT Group has plenty of DSLAMs in the UK that could be upgraded in this manner, which would roughly double the country's public charging network, and the telecom giant plans 600 such stations to be installed as part of its pilot project running this year.
It's clear that if ZEV-only sales are to be achieved in coming years (by 2035 in the UK), all types of curbside charging solutions will be needed to make this happen. Otherwise EVs will continue to be an item mostly for homeowners.
Is the lack of curbside charging likely to prevent apartment dwellers from owning EVs, hampering an eventual transition to ZEV-only sales, or would the ubiquity of DC fast-charging stations make up for this shortfall? Let us know what you think.