Outdated broadband equipment could find new life as EV chargers

To help meet green energy goals, a UK internet provider has a novel idea to retrofit its soon-to-be obsolete hardware.
BT Group's green broadband cabinet box
These green broadband hardware housing units are ubiquitous in the UK. Geography Photos/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

A UK-based telecom giant is currently overseeing a massive logistical campaign to decommission its copper-based broadband and phone lines in favor of fiber connections. Doing so, however, will render its estimated 90,000 hefty streetside equipment cabinets obsolete. But instead of simply chucking the large housing units to the curb, the company hopes to upcycle the majority of them to help Britain’s ongoing transition to a greener future.

According to a recent announcement from BT Group, the telecom provider intends to retrofit as many as 60,000 of its ubiquitous, green broadband wiring containers into EV chargers in the coming years. Beginning next month, BT will conduct a slate of technical and commercial tests starting in Northern Ireland, with plans to expand to public trials by the end of the year.

[Related: 8.3 million places in the US still lack broadband internet access.]

“With the ban on sales of internal combustion engine vehicles coming in 2030, and with only around 45,000 public charge points today, the UK needs a massive upgrade to meet the needs of the EV revolution,” Tom Guy, managing director of BT’s innovation department, said in a statement. “The pilots are critical for the team to work through the assessment and establish effective technical, commercial and operational routes to market over the next two years.”

Although UK’s existing streetside EV chargers can be found across the country, the majority are concentrated in urban areas such as London and Birmingham. Last year, the government earmarked roughly £1.6 billion ($2.6 billion) to install at least 235,000 more strategically placed charge points by the decade’s end, although it is currently unclear if any of that funding will reach BT’s project. On BT’s end, there are still many factors to consider for such a sizable undertaking, including accessibility, cabinet locations, local engagement in planning, and funding options.

[Related: Volvo is the latest automaker to hop on the Tesla EV-charging bandwagon.]

As The Next Web notes, however, recent governmental analysis estimates the country is “10 years behind” its intended green energy infrastructure goals, with less than 40 percent of its emissions reductions supported by “proven policies and sufficient funding.” That said, it has made major strides in areas such as reducing reliance on coal—from 40 percent of all energy production in 2012 to just two percent in 2022.

BT’s announcement hopefully will be the first of many similar private company projects aimed at boosting the UK’s green energy transition. “Programs like BT Group’s are an incentive for other businesses and drivers to go electric,” Helen Clarkson, CEO at the non-profit Climate Group, told The Next Web at the time. “But we need the UK government to play its part.”