Pop-up electric car charging point trials underway in Oxford

Are retractable points ideal for on-street electric car charging?

ONE OF the chief obstacles to mass uptake of electric cars is being addressed in trials of “pop-up” charging points, designed for use in residential areas by drivers who have no access to off-street parking.

Oxford City Council will assess the viability of the new type of charging point in a pilot programme that will run until February 2020.

Urban Electric, which manufactures the “OxPop” charging points, says the system allows electric car drivers to “charge conveniently overnight in the street where you live”.

While the power of the charging points won’t set the pure-electric world alight (the 7kW output is similar to that of a domestic wall box charger), its advantage is in being able to retract into the ground when not in use, thereby reducing pavement clutter. The maker says this means pedestrians and wheelchair users on narrow footpaths won’t have to navigate around fixed charging points when they’re not in use.

Oxford City Council says the retractable nature of the points also means they negate the need for parking spaces reserved only for electric vehicles.

While the OxPops will be free to use during the trial period, only local residents who have successfully applied to take part in the pilot programme will have access to them. The council has also secured the use of a pure-electric BMW i3 city car for the duration of the trial, in order to ensure people who “are not ready to lease or purchase an electric car outright” can still participate.

The council concedes that the OxPop isn’t a one-size-fit-all solution for electric car owners who only have access to on-street parking. When finalising where to install the points at the Lonsdale Road trial site in northern Oxford, the council says it had to shelve plans to place them in the middle of the residential street, due to the number of dropped kerbs and street lights in that particular area.

The pop-up points aren’t the only on-street electric car charging idea being trialled by Oxford City Council. Options also being assessed include larger, non-retractable points that can recharge two vehicles at once and lamp post-based installations similar to those rolled out across Southwark in London in November 2018.

Less advanced alternatives are being put through their paces, too. One such solution involves digging a gully into the pavement, meaning electric car owners can recharge their vehicle at home using an extra-long cable without the risk of pedestrians tripping over it.

Councillor Tom Hayes, Oxford City Council’s Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, said: “We’ve brought investment into Oxford to test different electric vehicle charging technologies and ensure residents get the best public infrastructure. By trialling the world’s first pop-up on-street chargers, Oxford is freeing our streets of clutter for residents travelling by mobility vehicles or pushing children along in buggies.

“We’re also ensuring that more people can own or drive electric vehicles, especially those who want to switch but just don’t have driveways for off-street charging. The electric revolution should be open to all, whether they have driveways or not.”

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