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A new scheme by SSE Enterprise is set to turn unused lock-up garages into urban charging hubs

Rows of lock-up garages are a common sight across London and other urban settings in the UK, and now a new scheme could unlock their potential as urban charging hubs. SSE Enterprise – part of energy provider SSE – and property management company InfraTech Property Solutions (IPS) have joined forces to work on the project.

Working out ways in which to install public charging hubs in space-poor London is an ongoing issue and there are numerous innovative solutions in the pipeline. Shell is repurposing one of its fuel filling locations; wireless charging is being trialled and the government is pumping money into residential charging schemes.

The latest scheme, being undertaken by SSE Enterprise and IPS is exploring the possibility of utilising the numerous lock-up garage locations across the capital which could be turned into what the team are calling 'Digital Community Hubs' (DCH). These would combine rapid charging capability with 5G and Edge computing (location-based, ultra-fast computing infrastructure) to provide customers with a place where they could connect to digital services whilst their vehicle is charged.

According to the plans, a DCH would consist of between 10 and 20 rapid charging bays with areas for waiting customers to grab a coffee as their vehicles charge. Through rapid and – increasingly – ultra-fast charging the aim is to provide quick 10-30 minute top-up juicing slots 24/7 for all manner of customers such as couriers, taxi drivers and delivery vehicles, as well as regular EV drivers.

The availability of lock-up garages makes this scheme genuinely viable, to the extent that a pilot site is set to go online near Terminal 4 at Heathrow later this year. Catering predominantly for delivery and taxi users it will use solar power, on-site batteries and distributed energy generation to ensure the pressure on the local grid is minimised.

Whilst SSE Enterprise is doing much of the development in terms of the charging infrastructure, IPS's access to useable sites gives the project potentially London-wide reach. Harriet Dudding and Steve White, Founding Partners of IPS, said: “We are excited by partnering with SSE Enterprise as it means we can maximise usage of over 1000 sites for EV drivers in London to re-charge with total confidence. Local communities will benefit hugely from our Digital Community Hubs with the provision of the latest technology in EV charging, local Edge computing facilities, 5G telecoms and energy generation effectively in a one stop shop facility.”

If fully utilised those 1000 sites could charge over 100,000 cars every year – or four per cent of the 2.66 million cars in London, according to Kevin Welstead, SSE Enterprise EV Sector Director. He is also acutely aware of the value of available real estate upon which to install EV charging infrastructure.

“This project has the capability to provide the mass rollout of EV charging that London is crying out for as more and more consumers switch to EV. Space in the capital to build charging hubs is like gold dust, but thanks to the network of lock up garages tucked away across the city managed by IPS, we can build a network that could charge a tenth of all EVs in London,” he said.

As well as the overall benefits to London in terms of air quality and improved facilities for current and future EV drivers, the scheme's inclusion of 5G and Edge computing is being touted as having benefits to local communities which (presumably) could tap into this.

Discover EV's take

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has set out some ambitious targets for the capital's uptake of EVs and improvements in air quality, as presented in the London Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Delivery Plan. By 2025 he is targeting 50,000 charging points, with 300 rapid charge points (100kW+) going in before the end of this year and up to 4100 by 2025. This will require huge investment from London councils, Transport for London and the private sector.

SSE Enterprise and IPS's scheme makes a lot of sense, combing the infrastructure expertise of the former and the access to locations of the latter. It will be interesting to see how the pilot location at Heathrow (no pun intended) is born out in reality and whether the promise of 5G and Edge connectivity is more than just a gimmick being communicated to the media to make it look jazzier than a regular charging hub. Not that we'd turn our noses up at any additional infrastructure to help London clean up its act.

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