Considerations for lamp post charging infrastructure in Brighton & Hove

February 3rd 2019

Brighton & Hove council is currently hard at work planning the deployment of lamp-post chargers across the city, which marks an exciting time for the progress of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the city.

One of the key benefits of a system such as lamp post chargers is the creation of a vehicle charging solution for those residents without off-street parking. But based on local driver feedback and our own understanding, we believe there are some problems to solve with the currently planned solution. The two main problems are:

1. Most lamp post chargers will be 3.6kW

Although the CityEV charging hardware on trial is capable of 7kW output, the available power output is up to the individual lamp post being utilised. All of the lamp post chargers in the Council's trial have been 3.6kW and we are led to believe that this is the expected power output for future installations.

A few years ago, when some of the first battery electric vehicles hit the market, 3.6kW was seen as a fairly standard baseline power output for a charger. However, this is no longer the case. Technology is moving at such a pace, that battery sizes in cars are now triple that of what they were 4 years ago. As such, these slower chargers can lead to unfeasibly long charge times.

The following cars are all coming out this year, and listed here is the amount of time it would take to charge 80% of their battery capacity on a 3.6kW charger:

  • Hyundai Kona EV: 17 hours 39 minutes
  • Nissan Leaf E+: 17 hours 6 minutes
  • Jaguar I-Pace: 25 hours
  • Audi E-Tron: 22 hours 13 minutes
  • Kia Nero EV: 17 hours 40 minutes
  • Mercedes-Benz EQC: 25 hours 14 minutes
  • Tesla Model 3: 17 hours 33 minutes

There isn't a car coming on the market now which would be able to charge 80% on an overnight charge at these lamp post chargers, and batteries are getting larger every year as the costs reduce.

Whilst a partial charge may be a perfectly valid part of a mixed charging solution for EV owners, the speeds offered by 3.6kW chargers are simply too slow for the cars coming on the market. Residents won't be able to charge their new car to 80% overnight, and for visitors to the city, for the amount of power they can charge from for a few hours whilst shopping, may well not be worth the effort.

Additionally, these slow speeds may also represent electric vehicles, and the Council's efforts, in a negative light. Someone looking to buy an electric vehicle, may well be told their new car will "take over a day to charge at one of Brighton's new lamp post chargers". This is not appealing to new buyers. And the slower speeds of charging at 3.6kW represent poor value for money considering the hardware is capable of twice the power at no extra installation cost.

2. No dedicated parking

With there being so much politics around parking in the city, this is always going to be a difficult area to get right.

Although the future may present options to improve this area, the issue of not having dedicated parking for lamp post chargers is a very real concern for current and future owners. Without dedicated parking, there's no way to tell if a charger is available at any given time. It's frustrating having to drive to a location to see whether or not it's possible to park at a charger.

It's also a hard sell to assure those considering an EV, that although there are many lamp post chargers near their home, there's no guarantee any of them will be available for them to charge from overnight. And, if they do manage to charge there overnight, they probably won’t get a full charge if they have a more modern vehicle. Most people need the reassurance to know that they will be able to charge their vehicles to get to work the next morning if they need it.

Our proposal

We believe that lamp post chargers are best deployed in conjunction with dedicated charging bays. Our suggestion is as follows:

  • Deployment of 7kW twin column chargers with dedicated parking across the city (same as the ones the council have installed recently in Islingword Road).
  • For every 7kW twin column charger, there are 4 lamp post chargers distributed nearby. Importantly, lamp post chargers are only deployed to lamp posts capable of supporting 7kW output.
  • Lamp post chargers are given dedicated parking for predetermined thresholds of EV ownership in their immediate area.

We've done an approximate model of this type of deployment across central Brighton & Hove, the area covered is where there is generally little off-street parking (plus it is central which would also be beneficial to visitors).

Brighton & Hove Charger Distribution

Each circle illustrates a 200-metre radius around a twin 7kW charger with dedicated parking. Blue circles show existing chargers, orange circles show suggested chargers.

With the suggested plan, it could be claimed that:

Everyone living in central Brighton would gain access to charging within a 5-minute walk, with access to a charger with dedicated parking within a 10 minute walk.

This manner of deployment not only helps to create a feasible level of reliability, through variation of charging infrastructure, but also accommodates redundancy to some degree.

We estimate that 30 twin 7kW column chargers would be needed for coverage of central Brighton, with 120 supporting lamp post chargers.

However, the outline of a plan such as this is completely scalable - it could be increased or reduced in cost according to the costs involved (for example, adjusted to claim 7 minutes walk / 12 minutes to assured charging), but the nice thing about pinning it to distance is that it keeps a relatable metric for the end user experience. People don’t want to park their car a long way from their home when charging overnight.

In summary

  • Pair distribution of lamp post chargers with dedicated 7kW twin charge posts.
  • Only install lamp post chargers on lamp posts capable of supporting 7kW power output.
  • Scale the rollout of dedicated parking for lamp post chargers. No dedicated parking initially, but eventually however, there will be enough EV owners within an area to warrant all lamp post chargers having dedicated parking.

Update: Response from Brighton & Hove Council

We'd like to thank Brighton & Hove Council for contacting Electric Brighton after we shared our thoughts on EV charging strategy in the city. They have given us the following response, addressing some of the concerns we've mentioned:

Lamp-Post Column Chargers

The council’s reasoning to place EV chargers on strategically located lamp post columns within the city was born out of considerations regarding the limited available on-street space and the need for a standardised solution. We see lamp post column chargers being part of the solution for residents who do not have off-street parking facilities.

We recognise that the needs of EV drivers vary and the introduction of lamp column chargers is one aspect of the step change to facilitate and promote EV vehicle usage and is only one part of the council’s strategy for providing EV charging infrastructure.

Current Progress

Site surveys are on-going for the lamp post column EV chargers planned for implementation by the end of October 2019. This is for a first wave of 200 chargers for which potential residential locations have been identified. Our list of potential locations as it stands at the moment is attached.

The funding for this work was obtained from the Office of Low Emission Vehicles and we are anticipating being able to apply for additional funding moving forward to install even more chargers across the city. It is at this point, we will be considering other options such as 7kW twin column chargers.

In highlighting these potential sites, we have endeavoured to ensure the best coverage across our residential controlled parking zones. Brighton & Hove is a very densely populated area and we have to get the right balance between wide, accessible coverage without reducing the number of resident parking bays during this phase.

We have had to consider the limited space across the city’s streets along with existing signage and other street furniture. These are some of the reasons why lamp posts were chosen to power this element of the on-street charging provision.

We also are aware of the need for some form of enforcement to ensure EV drivers have access to the chargers. This is also a complex matter to resolve as official EV bays would require Traffic Regulation Orders in order to enforce the EV bays. However, this is all being considered as the project progresses.

Fast Chargers

The current network of Fast chargers is run and maintained by ‘Charge Your Car’. The contract for their maintenance is shortly up for renewal. A tender that will secure the on-going management and maintenance of the city’s fast chargers and lamp column chargers is to be published this week. Once awarded, this tender exercise will ensure our network of lamp post column chargers, fast chargers and future rapid chargers are monitored and maintained for the next 5 years. Exactly how the fast chargers will evolve is yet to be determined, but as part of the tender we will be ensuring the city’s fast chargers are modernised, reliable, fully maintained and easily accessible.

Rapid Chargers

We are also looking into strategically placed Rapid chargers for both taxis and the public. We are in very early stages of this piece of work and much is yet to be finalised, but our vision is to work towards there being a good mix of residential, fast and rapid chargers meeting the needs of all EV drivers moving forward.

We have been informed recently that we have been successful in our bid for OLEV funding for rapid chargers for new ultra-low emission taxis. This is great news for the future of Brighton & Hove. Link to announcement.

I hope this provides a little clarity as to our EV programme. Our strategy is a mixture of Lamp Column chargers for residents without off-street provision, fast chargers for visitors and shoppers to the area, and Rapid charging for Taxi’s and visitors from out of town. Of course there is nothing to stop a visitor from out of town using a Lamp Column charger, but as you have outlined this is probably not the best solution for them, and we are endeavouring to cater for all.