By Sarah Wray, Editor, Cities Today
Liberty Global has formed a joint venture with Zouk Capital to roll out on-street residential electric vehicle (EV) charging points in the UK using the underground duct networks of its Virgin Media business. The tie-up could also support additional smart city use cases.
Private equity firm Zouk Capital manages the UK government’s £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund. The partners claim the venture will help achieve the UK’s national emissions reduction targets, as well as cities’ individual sustainability goals.
Liberty Global cites research that 40 percent of urban vehicle-owners don’t have access to a driveway that they could use to charge an electric vehicle. Liberty Charge will support the Virgin Media Park and Charge (VPACH) project, which aims to deploy 1,200 charging sockets in towns and cities across the country by early 2021. This will involve using existing infrastructure including 40,000 electric-powered broadband street cabinets and 170,000 kilometres of underground ducts. In future, EV charging infrastructure could be incorporated when new fibre is rolled out.
Liberty Charge CEO, Neil Isaacson, told Cities Today that while residential charging is the initial focus, the company is also interested in creating solutions that work for electric scooters and cargo bikes as well as ride-hailing, taxi companies and shared mobility providers to support cities’ goals to reduce car usage and emissions.
Platform for future use cases
The combination of power and data infrastructure is crucial according to Isaacson. “This provides the foundation for what councils and other players in the ecosystem can do.”
For example, in very dense areas many local councils are struggling with how the permitting of parking works with charging.
“In that scenario, whether it’s cameras, ANPR [automatic number plate recognition] devices or sensors to look at which cars are parked in which place, you’re talking about more data being generated,” said Isaacson. “That data needs low-latency connectivity to get it back where it needs to go. That is why data and power sitting side by side is going to be critical.”
Barbara Nash, Regional Affairs Director at Virgin Media, said the network could also support applications such as environment, waste and traffic monitoring.
“There are a lot of ways we haven’t discovered yet that we are going to be able to leverage this going forward,” she said.
Several models are available for local authorities, from providing the end-to-end service to a fully managed service or a hybrid approach which would give the city a revenue share. Isaacson noted, though, that EV charging has a long payback period.
Local authorities should understand this isn’t a short-term “goldmine of opportunity” but a “long game” and “we are here for the long-term play,” he added.About this Content