Street-Level Charging Options Could Get You in an EV

Even if you live in an urban setting

Charging an electric vehicle (EV) presents one of the most significant challenges to adoption, but street-level chargers are an easy-to-implement solution that could make EV adoption easier.

EVs are perfect for an urban environment. The stop-and-go traffic actually helps with range, and typically a city driver who stays within the limits of their town might be behind the wheel for hours, but probably only actually travel 20 miles in a day. The flip side to that is, where do they charge if they live in an apartment without a garage? It turns out there's a solution for city-wide charging stations without the hassle of cables being strung about on sidewalks.

The Proche Taycan all-electric sports car connected to a street-level charger.

Martyn Lucy / Getty Images

A few years ago, while driving around Oslo, Norway, I saw a series of boxes next to each parking space on the road. It wasn't until I saw a man open the trunk of his Volkswagen E-Golf EV, pull out a cable and plug it into the box, and then into the charging port of his EV did I realize what I was seeing. Norway's street chargers were BYOC (Bring Your Own Cable). 

The USB Port for Cars

BYOC would solve a few problems. First, there's the issue of interoperability. Currently, there are three charging ports found on vehicles in the US.

One is CHAdeMO, a charge port found most notably on the Nissan Leaf. It's fallen out of favor in the US, and even the Leaf now has the more prevalent Type 2 and CCS, which is a Type 2 combined with a DC fast charging addition.

Type 2 is the most prevalent out there and has become the defacto industry standard. Finally, there's Tesla's proprietary charge port. The industry may favor Type 2, but Tesla's status as the No. 1 seller of EVs in the US means this port requires attention. 

Instead of trying to cram one, two, or even three types of cables onto a street charging station, there could be a universal plug that any charging cable could plug into—a sort of universal USB port for EVs.

This lowers the cost of the machine for the company or municipality hosting the station. It also makes every station work with any EV on the road, while ensuring no issues with cables not being properly stored on these machines and lying in the street, gutter, or sidewalk. It's also one less item for vandals to destroy. 

EV adoption can't progress if those who don't have access to a driveway or garage can't participate because charging becomes a multi-hour chore a few times a week.

Because these stations are essentially universal, they're also future proof for any new charging port developments that may occur in the future. While CCS seems destined for a long life on our EVs, you can never tell how battery technology could evolve and what those changes could mean in terms of ports. 

Park and Charge Everywhere

These charging stations could be peppered around residential neighborhoods with EV-only parking. They wouldn't be DC fast-charging stations, but instead would deliver 7.4 kW. Enough for an overnight charge or to add a few miles during the day. An EV makes sense in the city when you can charge in your neighborhood regardless of having a driveway or garage. 

These stations also could be added to commercial neighborhoods with shopping and restaurants—no more driving in circles in a parking lot looking for the three chargers available. Instead, parking on the street would be a viable option for those looking for some juice while eating out. 

These types of stations also will help in cities like Los Angeles, where light poles are used as charging stations in addition to illuminating the street. The light poles are there. The power is there. They might as well add a port. Without the need to add a cable, the transition can be quicker, and once again, you won't have a bunch of random cables hanging from poles for vandals to destroy. 

Still Have the Need for Speed

These would be in addition to DC fast charging and Tesla Supercharger stations. So whether a person is going on a road trip or just needs to charge a bit quicker than overnight, those won't be going away any time soon. In fact, the proliferation of those stations will continue to grow as EVs become a more significant part of overall car sales over the next decade. 

An EV charging at a public charging box on the side of a building.

Ed Harvey / Unsplash

OEMs Taking Part

Of course, this would require EV owners to buy another cable for their vehicle. For those who already have an EV, it would be an additional expenditure, but also one that would open up charging opportunities no matter where we are in town.

In the future, once this is deployed, like the home charging cables, a universal cable that works with these charging stations should be included with every new car. 

EV adoption can't progress if those who don't have access to a driveway or garage can't participate because charging becomes a multi-hour chore a few times a week.

Cities, companies, and automakers have to figure out a solution for the apartment dweller who needs a car and wants their next vehicle to be an EV. Deploying street-level stations with a universal port for cabling might be one of the ways to make that happen. 

Want to know more about EVs? We have a whole section dedicated to electric vehicles!

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