Home Innovation New York City Ponders Pilot Program to Charge Electric Vehicles at City Streetlamps

New York City Ponders Pilot Program to Charge Electric Vehicles at City Streetlamps

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By David E. Hubler
Contributor, EDM Digest

U.S. municipalities need to think of ways to accommodate the growing popularity of electric-powered and hybrid vehicles. Forward-thinking city leaders know it’s not enough to rely on the few service stations and shopping malls that provide charging stations. These stations keep electric vehicles (EVs) from stalling in the middle of downtown business districts and further clogging traffic.

New York City, which is not known for being vehicle-friendly, has been grabbling with a traffic problem for decades. Now, the city that was first electrified by Thomas Edison in 1882 is looking to some of its European counterparts, including London, to accommodate EVs.

“The city is experimenting with new technology that allows drivers of electric vehicles to plug them into streetlamps,” Government Technology (GT) reports.

City Agencies Are Working with German Company to Create Pilot Program

The city’s transportation department and Office of Citywide Administrative Services are working with the Berlin-based company ubitricity to develop a pilot program. Their product would deliver electricity to vehicles when drivers plug them into a lamppost.

“Up to now, charging spots are expensive to buy and maintain – making their economic sustainability dependent on their workload and impeding a ubiquitous roll-out of charging infrastructure,” ubitricity’s website explains. “The ubitricity charging spots are different: technologically reduced to the minimum and thus smaller and cheaper, they are the perfect solution to this challenge.”

To use the system, car owners will have to carry their own ubitricity charging cables, similar to jumper cables. But the ubitricity  cable has a built-in meter to record the charge.

One Challenge Will Be Upgrading Streetlamps from 110 Volts to 220 Volts

“One of the challenges for the New York pilot’s design team will be upgrading the power supply to participating streetlamps from the standard 110 volts to 240 volts, which is needed for Level 2 electric vehicle charging,” Kathleen Clark, director of policy and communications in the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, told GT staff writer Skip Descant.

“This is strictly in a testing phase,” Clark explained. “There is no number of chargers to give out. Ubitricity has provided one single device at the moment.”

She estimated that there are currently about 4,800 electric vehicles registered in New York City, which is only 0.2 percent of all automobiles.

The technology industry was asked to compete in developing innovative approaches to car charging as a means of accommodating the growing use of EV transportation. Ubitricity was selected from among nearly three dozen companies and organizations as the winner of the NYCx Climate Action Challenge. Six finalists were selected to run pilot programs.

Now, if only City Hall could figure out a way to ease traffic on the George Washington Bridge!

Glynn Cosker Glynn Cosker is the Managing Editor of EDM Digest. Glynn has more than 20 years of writing experience, and he’s the Managing Editor of EDM Digest's sister blog site: In Homeland Security. Born and raised in the U.K., he began his career in government and spent 12 years working in the Consular Section of the British Embassy in Washington – attaining the rank of Vice Consul in the late 1990s. Glynn and his family live in New England.