BT’s Etc. EV charger program pilot leverages repurposed telecom street cabinets

Jan. 10, 2024
The pilot aims to extend the usefulness of near-end-of-life green street cabinets as EV charge points.

Telecom street cabinets in the UK will have a new life as electric vehicle charging stations thanks to Etc., BT Group’s startup and digital incubation arm. 

The group has powered up its first EV charging unit built from a street cabinet traditionally used to store broadband and phone cabling. This marks the first step in the rollout of new technical trials, exploring the potential to upgrade up to 60,0002 cabinets to help meet government sustainability targets and decarbonize the transport system in the UK.

To help solve EV charging infrastructure needs by repurposing existing street furniture, the pilots will explore how this solution could be scaled to address the lack of chargers on UK roads. New BT Group research shows that more than a third (38%) would already have an EV if charging were less of an issue, with only 53,000 public EV charge points currently on UK roads. The pilot marks an essential step in the journey to net zero.

Etc. installed the first EV charging station in East Lothian, Scotland, with further pilots to roll out across the UK in the coming months.

While the UK Government aims to increase the number of charge points from 53,000 today to 300,000 by 2030, access to charging is already creating a significant barrier to EV purchases for many. BT Group’s recent research found that 60% of people think the UK’s EV charging infrastructure is inadequate, with 78% of petrol and diesel drivers saying not being able to charge an EV conveniently is a barrier to getting one.

Despite being early, the initiative won praise at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which awarded BT’s Etc. an Innovation Honoree for 2024 for outstanding design and engineering.

So, how does the program work? The charging solution works by retrofitting the cabinets with a device that enables renewable energy to be shared to a charge point alongside the existing broadband service without creating a new power connection. EV charging can be deployed to cabinets that are in use for current copper broadband services or in those due for retirement, depending on the space and power available to the unit. 

After 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. This allows the re-use of existing infrastructure while deploying more charge points at pace.

The UK’s efforts reflect the greater global challenge of advancing the availability of charging infrastructure. For example, the United States has only 160,000 public EV chargers installed to serve over 2.4 million electric vehicles.

“Our new charging solution is a huge step in bringing EV charging curbside and exploring how we can address key barriers customers are currently facing,” Tom Guy, Managing Director, Etc. at BT Group. “Working closely with local councils in Scotland and more widely across the UK, we are at a critical stage of our journey in tackling a genuine customer problem that sits at the heart of our wider purpose to connect for good.”

For more news, products, and technical profiles in broadband cable and telecommunications technology, subscribe to BTR's newsletter and follow us on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook