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.
Ubricity's charging streetlamps also have another important feature that was paramount to Houslow Council's decision to implement them throughout the neighborhood: they use energy-saving LED bulbs. LEDs last far longer than traditional light bulbs, and are responsible for fewer emissions.
The streetlamps are good news for London, especially considering that last year, the city vowed to crack down on vehicle emissions which result in air pollution. An uptick in eco-friendly policies in cities around the world means that many neighborhoods will soon face important decisions about their infrastructure, and challenges in updating it. Companies that offer two-in-one solutions, like Ubracity's car-charging streetlamps, will likely be lifesavers in urban areas where space is already limited.
Whether Hounslow's change will lead to an uptick in electric car sales in London remains to be seen. But it stands to reason that as infrastructure rises to meet the challenges of a more eco-friendly world, consumers will feel more secure in purchasing items that require such infrastructure to function. Electric cars have particular potential to catch on in urban areas, where even long commutes tend to be relatively short. This is good news for city-dwellers, since air pollution is far worse in major cities than anywhere else around the world.