Today I feel like talking EVs. I haven’t been covering electric vehicles that much on the blog, and that’s simply because I still have mixed feelings about them as means to halt climate change. No car is better than an electric car, I’m used to saying. That being said, our society is not going car-free anytime soon. I expect electric vehicles to start booming from this year onwards thanks to a wide range of new EV models that are coming out. There is now an electric car for every type of consumer.
In the meantime, the pressure on the fossil fuel car industry keeps rising. Only last week a court in Stuttgart, the hometown of Germany’s most icon car brands, ruled that cities can ban diesel cars as part of their effort to improve air quality. With battery ranges continuously improving, most EVs are already now a suitable alternative for most families. Yet, there is one roadblock that remains: in most cities, charging stations are scarce. Driving around to find a parking is already annoying in and of itself, imagine trying to find one with a charging hub.
To kick-off the EV revolution, charging stations should become ubiquitous. And that’s exactly what the Berlin-based start-up Ubitricity is aiming to do. Instead of getting the car parked next to a charging station, they figured it made a lot of sense to bring the charging station to where the car is parked. Instead of dedicated charging pods, electric sockets should be available all around.
Now I hear you thinking that’s going to be an expensive operation. Breaking up the pavement every twenty meters or so to install a big charging pole doesn’t really sound like a great idea. But wait a second… the street is already full of poles: lamp posts! Ubitricity developed a simple socket (they literally called it the SimpleSocket, very original) which can easily be installed in any street lamp. Takes under 30 minutes and costs about a thousand euros. This is about ten times cheaper than a stand-alone charging pole, partially because you already have the connection to the electricity grid. The result is municipalities can install ten times more charging points with the same budget. Sounds like a big win to me!
The SimpleSocket is only half of the story though. To make use of it, the EV owner has to get himself a Ubitricity charging cable. This cable contains a communication chip that talks with the SimpleSocket and with the billing system of Ubitricity. This way, they keep track of who is charging where, and how much. With a simple tap in the app, you start juicing up your car. All metering and billing happen thanks to the nifty cable.
I see only two drawbacks to Ubitricity’s approach. For one, not all lampposts (especially newer ones with LED-lighting) have a very strong grid connection. This will limit charging speeds significantly. Secondly, many EV owners already have a charging cable. Having to buy a proprietary one is an additional investment and to me only seems reasonable if Ubitricity can guarantee it also works with other charging stations.
That being said, Ubitricity is yet another start-up coming close to nailing it :) I hope it inspires you to jump on some problems that urgently need some creative minds to fix it!