Street cabinet EV chargers: What are they and how do they work?

Residents of an East Lothian town can now charge their cars up using an old street cabinet.

BT Group green cabinets trial for EV chargers begins today.
BT Group green cabinets trial for EV chargers begins today. (John Walton/PA)

The UK’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure continues to grow and while there are gaps in the allocation of chargers across the country, there are certainly more ways to top up than there ever have been.

BT Group announced last year that it would convert its old on-street cabinets into EV chargers, but how do they work and what sort of impact will they have on the overall network?

Here are a few key questions answered.

How many old BT Group cabinets are being converted to EV chargers?

As of today, a trial begins to see whether the old street BT cabinets will be of use to an EV owner. Currently, 600 charging points will be installed all over the country, with the first being completed today (May 1) in a street in East Lothian, Scotland.

What were the old BT Group cabinets used for originally?

Before they became surplus to requirements, they stored telephone and broadband cables – which means that all their electronic gubbins are already installed inside, which means that they can be easily converted into EV chargers.

Can I charge my car for free?

The first installation will be free to use for residents up until May 31. Users will also have to download an app to allow access to the charging point.

What is the point of upcycling an old broadband cabinet?

The whole point of this experiment is to not only improve the country’s EV infrastructure but to also help on-street charging.

Tom Guy, from BT Group said: “Our research shows 78 per cent of petrol and diesel drivers see not being able to conveniently charge and EV as a key barrier to purchasing one. ”

How many old cabinets could be transformed into EV chargers?

The BT Group looked into how many could be converted and that at the moment, a total of 4,800 street cabinets in Scotland alone could be suitable for the change.

Where is the next location?

As it stands, the pilot is looking at another site in West Yorkshire, though it’s expected that the roll-out will continue throughout the rest of the UK.

Where can I get the App to access the charger?

The Trail app is available to purchase via the App Store or Google Play Store. EV owners can connect their cars to get live updates and battery levels, smart estimated costs, charge times and access to their charge history.

The UK government has a target to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, and while EV uptake has slowed in recent months, it’s expected that further increases in charging infrastructure – including these BT ones – will help boost interest.