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Source: ubitricity/istock

These London Streetlamps Can Charge Electric Cars Now

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Hounslow, a western district of London, England, just got brighter in more ways than one. When the neighborhood council decided that old streetlamps needed to be replaced, it took things a step further and settled on lamps from German company Ubitricity, which double as electric car chargers.  

This decision is one step toward solving a problem that many cities around the globe now face: lowering emissions caused by traditional cars. One of the most effective way to do this is to encourage the use of electric vehicles, but how are city-dwellers, most of whom do not have garages, supposed to charge such cars? This dilemma is thought to be one reason that electric cars have been slow to catch on with the public. There simply aren't enough places to charge them. 

Without completely overhauling their neighborhood's infrastructure, Hounslow has reached a clever solution. Because streetlamps are so readily available throughout the neighborhood, drivers now have many places to charge up. But how will citizens be charged for the power they use? And how will Hounslow ensure that everyone who needs a charging station has access to one?

The system developed in Hounslow is rather ingenious. The Ubricity streetlamps in Hounslow are able to integrate with a special cable, which has a meter built in. An electric-car owner simply buys the cable, then contacts the Hounslow Council to request a charging station. The council then installs three charge points close to that owner's home (plugs are installed on nearby Ubricity streetlamps, rather than new lamps themselves being installed). The meter on the car owner's cable gives an exact reading of how much power is being used, each time that owner plugs in. Then, at the end of each month, Ubricity sends the owner of that specific meter a bill. In this way, paying to own an electric car in Hounslow is no more difficult than paying any other power bill.