Innovations revolving around making greater and more efficient use of local, renewable and pre-existing traidtional grid energy resources are cropping up worldwide, unleashed by ongoing digitization, decentralization and “decarbonization” of power and energy. Given an explosion in residential solar energy capacity, the “democratization” of energy phenomenon may well be most advanced in Germany, a country not known for copious amounts of sunshine.
More particularly, the German federal capital of Berlin has emerged as a magnet and hotbed of distributed renewable energy and clean tech innovation. Numbering among Berlin’s growing crop of new energy startups is Ubitricity, developer of what the company says is the world’s cheapest and most compact means of retrofitting streetlamps and streetlights so that they can serve as electric vehicle (EV) charge points.
Municipal authorities in the west London district of Hounslow have been retrofitting streetlamps and streetlights with highly energy efficient and longlasting LED lighting that can be monitored and controlled via the Internet or private IP (Internet Protocol)-based networks. The result is surplus capacity on the local grid, which Hounslow authorities are seeking to put to good use by retrofitting streetlamps with Ubitricity EV charge points.
Simple, Cheap and Efficient Public EV Charging Infrastructure
In an interview with UK power and energy tech innovation video magazine Fully Charged, Hounslow Council’s Kieran Taylor explained that the municipal authority is installing three Ubitricity charge points per streetlamp per customer request as a means of gathering data and gaining a better understanding of EV charging’s impacts on the municipal utility grid and public lighting infrastructure.
Ubitricity’s proprietary metered EV charging cable is essentially a crossover between a simple smartphone and a simple smart meter built into a standard EV charging cable, co-founder Knut Hechtfischer explained during an interview with Fully Charged.
Users just have to plug the smart EV charging meter-cable combination into a streetlight socket and charge away. Charging transaction data is recorded automatically and monthly bills are sent to Ubitricity customers via email and/or text messaging.
It only takes some 20 to 30 minutes to retrofit existing streetlamps with Ubitricity’s EV charge points, and they are small and inconspicuous enough to be installed in neighborhoods where historic or retro vintage streetlights are commonplace without raising much, if anything at all, in the way of public complaint or rancor. That translates into cost savings and quicker project deployments for cities and towns, which in turn gives Ubitricity a leg up on the competition, Hechtfischer told Fully Charged.
Hounslow resident and EV owner Patrick Banks recalled that Ubitricity charges him around 13 UK pence (USD0.17) per kWh (kilowatt-hour) to charge his EV, a convenient, low-cost solution to the problem he and other brave EV buyers have been experiencing. Banks added that he had driven his EV some 3000 miles over the course of the last couple of months and spent around GBP130 (approx. USD168) on electricity.
“This is one of the most exciting, really simple changes I’ve seen with electric cars and how you charge them. It seems so obvious now. It wasn’t obvious before you did it, but now it’s very obvious,” Fully Charged host Robert Llewellyn extolled upon meeting Hechtfischer for a mock demonstration at Ubitricity’s headquarters in Berlin.
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