Turning Streetlights Into EV Charging Stations

Owning an EV in a dense urban city is challenging. Most people don’t have their own garages and so they park on the street or in large parking garages. We do the latter.

About five or six years ago, I walked into our parking garage and saw that the garage operator had installed a ChargePoint charging station in the garage.I literally walked back across the street to our apartment and bought our first EV. We now own three.

But charging with ChargePoint is not ideal. There are a limited number of these charging stations in our parking garage and more and more EVs. They are often filled up. And the rates that ChargePoint supplies electricity at are borderline gouging. They have a monopoly on our garage and price accordingly. I believe the rate we pay in our parking garage in NYC is literally double the rate we buy electricity from ConEdison in our NYC appointment.

In our homes in Los Angeles and Long Island we charge off our solar panels on our roofs and basically don’t pay to charge our EVs other than the depreciation on the solar installation costs. That is absolutely the way to go if you can afford the cost of a solar installation.

But back to dense urban areas like NYC. If we want more EVs and less gas powered cars on our streets, we need better charging infrastructure.

In Paris, where we have been for the last few days, they are trying an experiment with putting EV charging stations on street lights.


If the city makes those curb locations only available for charging and not parking, that could be a great option for encouraging more city dwellers to buy or rent EVs.

I believe the availability of charging options, whether it is a rational fear or not, is holding back a lot of people from moving from gas to electric. So anything that can change that dynamic is a good thing in my view.

#climate crisis#Uncategorized

Comments (Archived):

  1. Andu @ Widgetic.com

    Brilliant idea.I’m buying a car at the same time with my brother, at a few thousands difference in cost. I live in Spain, so Tesla’s supercharger network is all over the place, hence I get a M3. My brother lives in Bucharest, Romania, where there’s 0 supercharges in the entire country, so he pays that same amount of money for a Mercedes GLC Coupe, instead of buying a Tesla.I live in a house, he lives in an apartment building. Yes, charging infrastructure has the VETO when it comes to picking an EV or not.

    1. Robert Metcalf

      I had to read your comment twice to realize that your “M3” was a “Model 3” and not a BMW M3!!!Enjoy your electric rocket ship!

      1. Andu @ Widgetic.com

        There are at least 5 hints in there. 🙂

        1. Robert Metcalf

          Absolutely. That’s why I gave it a second read!

    2. JamesHRH

      Pro tip – for the next little bit, M3 still means a BMW.

  2. jason wright

    Perhaps EVs should be made to daisy chain to each other and with hyper charge to cope with this negative ratio problem (which is only going to get worse as time passes).Ultimately wireless charging has to come.Do you number your EVs, like Thunderbirds?

      1. jason wright

        The breakthrough will come when I can charge my car from my phone.

  3. LIAD

    Does the charging company set the rate or the parking garage. I’d have thought the charging co let’s the garage add as much margin as they want. Their business is in structural decline I’d have thought so can see why they’re being opportunistic.London we’ve a bunch of free parking/charging spots exclusive to EVs. Also malls have them located right next to disabled spaces at entrance to shops. So doing all they can to entice people to EVs.

  4. sigmaalgebra

    For powering a car, it’s tough to compete with a 20 gallon tank of gasoline.Electric vehicles have some nice advantages (I don’t count the 100% all-natural, delicate, sensitive, vulnerable environment or the environment at all which I regard as at no significant risk), but generally the range is too short and the charging a pain, especially takes too long. And there may be an issue about how long the batteries will last.I grew up a car guy, but now I see cars as too often too much botheration. Much of the botheration is things breaking and needing maintenance. Much of the cause of the breaking is the image that a car might be a luxury drawing room on wheels or something other than transportation with a minimum of botheration.Maybe my first cut idea of a good car is a WWII Jeep but with a cover to keep off the rain. So the thing is simple, rugged, with not much to break, and relatively easy to repair when it does break.

    1. Mike Cautillo

      I like HFCEV as a nice balance between both and believe they will gain a lot of traction in the near future.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Okay, I looked up the acronym HFCEV and athttps://ams-composites.com/…saw “hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles” andMany of the world’s biggest automakers are investing heavily in future hydrogen car development, as the industry looks for more sustainable, environmentally friendly options for future transport. So, the reason is that Greenie stuff. No need.Getting a lot of hydrogen in a bottle is tricky stuff. It’s MUCH easier if the hydrogen is bonded with some carbon; then have a liquid right away.Again, it’s tough to compete with a 20 gallon tank of gasoline.Then the concern is the carbon, but the Greenies and their concerns about carbon are a flim-flam, fraud, scam with good details at the relatively well done documentaryThe Great Global Warming Swindlehttps://www.youtube.com/wat…The Greenies want to spend public big bucks — get on everyone’s back and into their pockets, big time, some Greenies want $10 T — “reducing the carbon footprint” and fighting “climate change”. All 100% waste. destruction, more damage to the US than ever dreamed of by Hitler, Stalin, or Mao.That the internal combustion gasoline engine, with all its many parts, is as good as it is, is a bit amazing, but that’s the case now and the main reason a 20 gallon tank of gasoline is tough to compete with.We’ve got plenty of neglected, serious problems in the US while carbon is not a problem at all. Just watch the documentary.

  5. Salt Shaker

    Curious why public utilities aren’t in this biz (and perhaps they are)? They can amortize the cost of any hardware purchase/install w/ monthly fees (like a cable box), while driving usage. Our building in Seattle (surprisingly) is not equipped, in part, cause of inferior marketing by charging station suppliers.

  6. curtissumpter

    Interesting. However, it might have to be done with a fact in mind. I think the city (especially for areas downtown (61st St. and below and probably eventually up to 90th and maybe even up to 125th, is going carless. Corey Johnson (probably our next mayor) is making noises about possibly banning cars on certain entire avenues.In Manhattan it’s certainly feasible. In certain areas of Brooklyn as well. Actually, this might increase the use of electric scooters/bikes, etc.Idk where this leaves this idea but food for thought.

  7. William Mougayar

    How about wireless charging? Skip the physically visible infrastructure altogether. Norway has the first such trials in progress for taxis, during their wait times. This could be extended eventually to charging while waiting at a red light. The charging mats/pads technology will eventually get better, so you could imagine driving momentarily into a “charging lane” or parking in charging spots without hooking-up.[Interesting data point from my travels in the past year- Oslo and Hong Kong had the largest percentage of Tesla’s showing-up when summoning an Uber. Almost 15-20% of the time.]

    1. awaldstein

      How do you safety test this?In abstract I love the idea of cars getting charged at a light. Me as the driver in the car, I have questions.

      1. jason wright

        The McLaren F1 had a heat shield between the seats and the engine bay behind. Something similar in the floor panel separating the cabin from the batteries might work for an EV with wireless charging, or turn the frame of the car into a Faraday cage. I’m sure there are ways to solve the problem.

    2. pointsnfigures

      NuCurrent.com might have a way to do it

    3. Khürt L. Williams

      I can’t imagine what those wireless signals will do to people with medical devices (e.g. pacemakers).https://sites.tufts.edu/sam

  8. awaldstein

    The slow adoption of solar is a mystery to me.

    1. pointsnfigures

      It doesn’t work at scale

      1. awaldstein

        I am seeing possibilities of hybrid grids, solar and traditional in one grid, one marketplace and that idea has appeal.

        1. sigmaalgebra

          A biggie problem is that with solar we essentially still need reliable base load to power the whole grid when solar is not helping. So, still have to pay for all the capital expense and operating expense 24 x 7 of the base load installations; all we save is some coal, natural gas, head water in hydro, or some fuel rods in nuclear. Also turning base load off and on quickly can be challenging. Net, solar adds cost and for no good reason.Solar is going the way of the hula hoop. EV? Can still use it for golf carts, fork lift trucks, maybe some city buses.

    2. Robert Metcalf

      The explanation that I’ve come up with is that it’s an expensive new thing that no one has ever bought before, that has polarizing politics attached to otherwise simple and straightforward science. And in the US, it’s all driven by LOCAL policies, incentives, and energy markets, so there are places where it’s an obvious yes and others where it’s less clear.Also, it’s a job that people already pay the utilities to do, so they just want the utilities to do what they do, but with clean electricity.

      1. awaldstein

        I think there are visibility issues on both sides as the grid is a mess built on antiquated systems.Working on a project to address with blockchain and NFTs to add visibility to a hybrid grid.Early. Interesting. Great usage of the tech for a great purpose.

      2. sigmaalgebra

        The electricity is plenty “clean” now.

    3. sigmaalgebra

      It is intermittent, that is, doesn’t work in rain, snow, overcast skies, after dark, and dust storms. So, it needs storage, and that’s expensive. Moreover, there’s no good reason to give up on coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear. The US has a fantastic electric power grid; we should quit trying to ruin it.

      1. awaldstein

        ignorance breeding confidence.

        1. Khürt L. Williams

          Please respond with something other than an adhominem attack.

          1. awaldstein

            That is not an attack.It is a sigh of exhaustion to someone with a common pat and foolish retort.People who think that the world is flat, that coal is a good business and clean, that the Holocaust is a myth are wrong and their patter is simply noise.Your chiding is ill placed.

    4. Khürt L. Williams

      If you live in a condominium/townhouse that needs to be retro-fitted for solar it’s a huge capital cost. The owners won’t see any ROI unless they live in the home decades. Additionally, condo association fees would have to be raised to pay for the captial cost and future repairs and replacement of solar panels.

    5. John Revay

      easy… I need to spend $25K upfront to save $300 a month

      1. awaldstein

        Who is blogging/thinking about the real process of this switch on a broader scale?Doing a project at the grid stage with Blockchain touching the utility companies and at a large scale visibility layer where the economics are obviously quite different.But it has sparked a lot of interest and curiosity.

  9. kenberger

    it’s an interesting time now for this in Paris, after the abrupt pull-out of Auto-lib car share last summer resulting in currently having all these grotesque abandoned car spots (see photo).There is a current bidding process for recycling these spots, including electric and non-electric cars, scooters, etc. https://www.worldcrunch.comhttps://uploads.disquscdn.c

    1. jason wright

      Not a great logo.

  10. Brian Allman

    #ElectricVehicles: undoubtedly the heart of EV adoption is and will continue to be driven by charging infrastructure availability, convenience and cost! Thanks for sharing on this explosive industry that is still be defined. Also, I don’t know this officially (rumor) but I heard that ChargePoint has just done a major lay-off.

  11. Yurii Filipchuk

    https://www.meredot.com/ wireless-charging solution gonna solve it with much less effort. And what’s important for Paris – vandalism resistance

  12. pointsnfigures

    As long as the base power is still coal, doesn’t matter. France was pretty nuclear which is where the US should go.I wouldn’t own one simply because I do a lot of long driving trips and an electric car won’t make it without breaking the trip up a lot. They are good for around town.

    1. sigmaalgebra

      And with an EV you may find that with the thing sitting out in -10 F in a Chicago winter, the battery energy is barely enough to turn on the lights, and you’d want it to move the car, keep the lights on, and WARM the car!

    2. JamesHRH

      I held this view a long time. But, the EV infrastructure will be terrific when the electrons are not carbon based.Timing isn’t that important.

  13. Richard

    Elon Musk was a bit naive about opening up Tesla’s technology and patents to the world, (I corresponded with Tesla first HR VP about this). Capital intensive technology often needs a moat and the lack thereof can limit investment. yes, there are technologies that trade secrets and patents can hinder investment, but when you need time and money to scale – you don’t want to commoditize to 6% margins too quickly.

  14. Tom Sun

    Hi Fred,I drive a Nissan Leaf without a home charger, and started https://ampup.io/ that was incubated by YCombinator. We have a similar idea: reservation based charging for EVs via shared private/home chargers. We allow EVSE owners to set their own hourly price and many of our current hosts are solar users too, and selling that generation through ampUp is much better than giving back to utilities at whole sale price. Check us out!

  15. William

    The gas station model will never suffice for EVs. We need more charging options that are reliable, affordable, convenient, and preferably reservable. ChargePoint is a good solution for parking garages, but we need other solutions as well.EVmatch is another good solution that uses the peer-to-peer model. So just like Airbnb, charging station owners can rent out their chargers on the app so EV drivers can find and reserve them.There’s no limit to the number of good ideas in the EV charging space. It’s worth exploring every option, whether it’s light-post chargers or super-fast chargers on major corridors.I’m curious – would rather wait 10-30 minutes while you charge at a fast charger, or use a slower Level 2 (220V) charger that’s close to home or work so you can go about your day while your car refuels?

    1. sigmaalgebra

      Maybe all or nearly all the chargers are 220 V. The difference will be in the Amperes available. Commonly a suburban house has 100 A. Then the power is 22 KW.

  16. Khürt L. Williams

    I can’t afford any Tesla – not even the $54,000 Model 3. So the idea, that public parking spaces should be reserved for the wealthier people who can afford a Tesla just feels wrong.Some practical considerations. In the photo above, the EV has a cable running to the the pole. How does the EV owner ensure some vandal hasn’t disconnected the vehicle when the owner is away? You park, plugin, go off to shop and come back in 1 hour only to find out that the car was unplugged. Now what?

  17. John Revay

    fred – “We now own three”, what is the third one – a model 3? how do you like it

  18. JE

    Thank you for the article and perspective. I would add/clarify a few points:1) ChargePoint does not charge for electricity. The owner of the station, (in this case your Condo Board?) sets those rates and can modify them in two seconds. Most condos simply pass through the electricity costs to their residents. No mark up, no gouging.2) Europeans hate the sidewalk charging.3) By some estimates, 40% of curb side stations in Europe are not working at any one time. Why? B/c non EV drivers don’t care about running over a cord they never use; and there is no EVSE provider accountability.4) Look at the pic. Now imagine a driving rain, or cold evening after a day at work. Do you want to grab the filthy, wet/damp cord to charge your car?5) two words: retractable cables6) I don’t know if you drive your EV to the office each day, but if you do, charge there. 60%+ of the F500 have workplace charging solutions in place. People charge their cars where they charge their phones: at work, at home and at play. In the mental model, swap out a EV charger for a phone. That’s what drives charging patterns. It’s not the “fill it up” model of the ICE world, it’s the “top it off” model of the mobile world.7) of all the major European cities to praise for EV infrastructure, Paris would be among the last to heap it on. France in general has a lot of ambition, but has yet to fulfill it. Hamburg, Amsterdam, London, Manchester are all light years ahead.

  19. James Richards

    If the right weren’t so anti-science, we could have this here in the USA as well.

  20. Mike I

    The charging car should display the phone number of the driver. There is nothing worse than pulling in only to find no one in charge (pi).