BMW Develops The Thing We’ve All Been Wanting: Street Lights That Charge Electric Cars

It’s a question we’ve been asked time and time again by current and would-be plug-in car drivers. And if we’re honest, it’s one of those “well duh” moments that make us wonder why no-one has actually done it before: put electric car charging sockets at the bottom of each and every streetlamp.

BMW's Light and Charge does what we've all been thinking should be possible for years...

BMW’s Light and Charge does what we’ve all been thinking should be possible for years…

Historically, there’s always been a raft of reasons why this particular innovation hasn’t ever made it to market — some of them revolving around political rather than technical challenges — but now German Automaker BMW has put its might behind a new pilot project where street lights can be used to charge plug-in cars.

As Reuters reported over the weekend, BMW has developed two prototype Light and Charge street lights which combine the functionality of a street light with the convenience of an electric car charging station. Using LED light bulbs rather than halogen, CFL or incandescent light bulbs, the Light and Charge street lights can replace any conventional street light, but use a tiny fraction of the power of their predecessors to provide light.

Since these LED lights are far more energy efficient than their predecessors, this leaves a lot of spare power capacity in the street lighting circuit, power which can be used to charge an electric car.

The system is really simple: combine an energy-efficient LED street light with a BMW ChargeNow charging station.

The system is really simple: combine an energy-efficient LED street light with a BMW ChargeNow charging station.

At the moment, the two prototype Light and Charge street lights have been installed outside of BMW’s Munich headquarters, but eventually, BMW says its Light and Charge street lights could be installed in more locations, replacing existing street lights with the specially-designed units.

To access the charging stations, which BMW says will be accessible by any make and model of electric car, users will have to download BMW’s ChargePoint mobile phone app and create themselves a BMW ChargeNow account. Using the post will be identical to using any of BMW’s other ChargeNow charging stations.

Here at Transport Evolved, we’re glad to see someone finally utilising the spare electrical capacity released as cities and municipalities around the world switch their street lamps to energy-saving LED light bulbs in an attempt to be more energy-efficient. Instead of requiring separate, expensive infrastructure, BMW’s solution not only allows plug-in car owners to find more places to charge their cars in public, but it also allows for a much-needed revenue stream for cash-strapped councils.

Of course, not every street light is suited to the installation of a charging point in its base, but with enough side-streets and existing parking spaces converted to park and charge spaces, we can definitely see a bright future for city-centre electric car charging.

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