Company is modding street lights into electric vehicle chargers


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/07/03/company-is-modding-street-ligh.html


#2

That’s a cool idea. I’m wondering how they stop cable theft and how easy it will be to hack the authentication protocol to make bootleg cables.


#3

And I’m wondering how this is legal. I assume they have a contract? They’re not just running about willy-nilly shouting, “Free juice! Getcher free juice here!” (Not sure how to say that in German.) This would never fly in the States; the oil companies would murmur something to their friends in government, and suddenly it would become a menacing hazard, and maybe a plot to take away our guns. Remember what they did to the water carburetor!


#4

Ubitricity is the middle man; it has a contract with whoever owns the lamppost and/or supplies the streetlight with leccy and it has contracts with the owners of the EVs that want to use a lamppost to charge their vehicle.

What I’m wondering - is that Kryten in the video?


#5

It’s only easy until there’s enough demand that the streetlight circuits are overloaded. Then it’s expensive to pull new wire and upgrade all the electrics.


#6

Hey Nixie, Check out the video to see that as part of upgrading the streetlights to efficient LEDs there’s some extra availability. The offering is white labeled so that it’s not just limited to streetlights. What a bright idea! Here in London (UK) they’ve already been converting them. The LEDs make the street brighter with a whiter light. Strange to think that London used to be lit by gaslight.


#7

Also from the YouTube description:

the cable locks at both ends while the vehicle is charging
The simple and very commonplace lamp post will soon become a ubiquitous charge point for electric cars.
They charge at about 5 kW, or 16 amps, not super fast but overnight charging is all most drivers need.

#8

Yes that’s Kryten (from Red Dwarf series 3 onwards) … Fully Charged is a weekly + series produced and hosted by Robert Llewellyn (Red Dwarf, Scrapheap Challenge, Carpool).


#9

A nice touch would be to allow electric bicycles to top off as well (for free, perhaps, as an anti-congestion incentive?)


#10

This is pretty great, although unfortunately it’s not much current carrying capacity. 20A is very slow charging, even at 240VAC. I consider a 30A charger* kind of the minimum for my purposes… although I do carry a 15A cable that can plug into any 125VAC US outlet, for the same reason that ICE cars carry a spare tire. But I’m American; there are probably many European city dwellers who could get along just fine on 20A opportunity charging.

And swapping out existing lamp bulbs for LEDs so that the existing wiring has plenty of capacity to carry the current to charge cars is brilliant.

The Nissan Leaf has an integral locking connector socket in the car; I think the BMW and Chevy Volt do too. The plug in Prius does not, but I can loop the cord around the wheel and pass the cable intersection through a serious lock, or I can use the hole in the J1772 trigger with a fairly lame lock (it’s a small hole).

The Teslas don’t use J1772 and probably aren’t compatible with this scheme without a special adapter, but Teslas do have integral cable locks and automatically lock the charger* port when you lock the car.

In a pinch, to secure your cable you just park on it. It’s not good for it, obviously, but apparently you can get away with it a surprising number of times.

Locks won’t stops cable vandalism, of course, but the 240VAC welding arc through your bolt cutters will discourage anyone from doing that twice.

BTW, a cut cable is pretty close to valueless. The only reason there’s anything special about the cables at all is that they have current-limiting information embedded in the connector head, so that your car won’t pull too much juice and melt the copper, other than that a J1772 cable is just a wire with a molded-on connector. If you’ve cut and spliced the cable, that information is not going to be accurate, so there’s little or no market value to cut cables.

I have found hacking automobile stuff that protects the driver to be absurdly easy, and hacking automobile stuff that protects corporate profit to be quite difficult. Your talents may differ ;).

*Not Actually A Charger, since the battery chargers for production electric vehicles are on-board. It’s technically an EVSE - which literally stands for Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment but really only means a connecting cable that is engineered to limit charging current for safety purposes. There is also no charger in the device that Ubitricity is installing - it’s just an outlet with a meter.


#11




#12

HA, that’s what I couldn’t put my finger on. It is!


#13

I’m with you on this. Most street lights are 200-400W, no? Even going to an LED conversion is going to drop you down to 50-150W…but that’s just one light in a long string on a single circuit. At 5kW they would need to space these out to about 1 of every 20 lamp posts to maintain circuit loading. I suppose it is better than nothing, but it is a far cry from the amount of cars on the road.


#14

Also, cell antennas. These are becoming a lot more common.


#15

Cue neighbourhood fights over who gets to latch to which lamppost overnight.

But yeah, it’s the sort of thing we need more of: simple hacks to retrofit electric distribution over standard road infrastructure.

I also expect cables to soon be reinforced with metal armours, similar to motorbike-locking chains. In my old neighbourhood, I bet people would find ways to cut simple plasticky cables very quickly (yeah yeah current - you just need isolated tools…).


#16

It’s plenty in the UK. 5kW for (say) 7 off peak hours from midnight to 7am will give you 35kWh which will take the average electric car well over 100 miles. The average car in the UK does less than 25 miles per day.


#17

Because they have knowledge of the sockets in use they can also tell the cable to draw less current if more than a couple sockets on a circuit are being used.

Standard EVSE controls appear to be being used, which means that the amount of current draw can be controlled by the smart cable.


#18

You obviously don’t know anything about this. You take an insulated cutter to a 220v 30-40a line and you’ll blow the power for the entire street and weld your tools to the cable itself.

Not to mention the fact that you’ll be on at least a couple cameras-- this is London, after all…


#19

Presuming you won’t be changing all the poles to socketed poles, but will be changing all the lights to LED, you should have some reserve capacity. Remember, it’s not uncommon for several blocks of a street to be on a single circuit.

Even if you did put a socket on every pole you wouldn’t have a problem as long as utilization was below a certain level; even at higher levels of utilization you can reduce the current draw on a per-vehicle basis via the controlling cable.


#20

The calculation I gave was based on the idea that the existing infrastructure had been designed and loaded for 400W lighting that had been switched to 150W LED. Hence the additional 250W per post to give you 5kW per 20. I’m sure there is some additional capacity to be had from the existing system, but no where near enough to load 1 out of ever 5 poles.