A new technology that allows electric car drivers to charge their vehicles directly from street lights has been showcased by the BMW Mini team at the annual Low Carbon Oxford Week event in the UK. Called 'Light and Charge', these prototype street lights combine energy-efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LED) and BMW’s ChargeNow recharging stations, and can be hooked up to a city’s electricity mains and installed along the side of any major road.
The plan is to make driving an electric car a whole lot more appealing by making charging stations as accessible and numerous as possible. In fact, they could easily become more available than regular petrol stations. "Seamless charging infrastructure is essential if we want to see more electric vehicles on the road in our cities in the future," Peter Schwarzenbauer, a member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, told the press.
The team announced that it would be testing the Light and Charge system out in Munich, Germany next year, but instead of using their own prototype lamps, they would be integrating the system into existing lighting networks. They’ve also got some of the charging lamps installed outside the BMW headquarters in Munich, which the public is free to use.
To operate the system, drivers can connect a standard charging cable to the street light, and use a control panel on the light to swipe their charge card and register their use. Any type of electric car, regardless of the model, will work with the technology. All the city needs to provide is enough room on the side of the road for temporary parking.
It’s no surprise that the German car company has made a commitment to getting more electric cars on the road. Last year, Germany was named the world’s most energy-efficient country by the Washington-based American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), now is now capable of producing at least half of their total energy from solar power.
According to Reuters, BMW has already funded software and applications that help electric car drivers locate nearby parking spots and charging stations, and are reportedly in talks with US competitors Tesla Motors about their new street light charging stations.