The street light industry has a surprising new player as of Nov. 7: German automaker BMW.
The company announced it has created two prototypes for a street light that can also serve as a charging station for electric cars. These “Light and Charge” lamps use ultra-efficient light-emitting diodes (LEDs) along with the charger, in order to provide a two-for-one energy benefit without expensive modifications to underground power lines.
“Seamless charging infrastructure is essential if we want to see more electric vehicles on the road in our cities in the future,” said Peter Schwarzenbauer, a BMW board member, on why BMW had taken on the development project.
A pilot program will be implemented in Munich next year using existing street lights, and BMW says it hopes they will have them completely installed by the spring. The charging units will be grafted on to the municipal light posts, testing the issue of whether it’s possible for governments to retrofit aging street lights in order to both reduce overall consumption and encourage people to consider electric, rather than gas-powered, vehicles.
“I think the industry is definitely starting to lean more towards the LED and energy saving type systems. This idea of a charging system included in public street lights is a good idea,” says Wendell Peterson, General Manager at Rock Island Street Clock Company
The chargers, BMW’s “ChargeNow” ports, will be compatible with any make and model of electric car. Drivers may also be able to pay for the energy usage via a smartphone app.
Since a dearth of charging options has been a serious barrier to replacing gasoline-powered cars with electric ones, BMW has made several efforts to make charging easier for drivers.
In addition to the development of new technology, it has also invested in applications that guide owners of electric cars to charging stations, such as Justpark.com. It’s also part of the SLAM charging network, an agreement between BWM, Daimler, VW, Ford and the German Ministry of Economics that will install 400 charging stations in Germany between now and 2017.
BMW executives even held a recent meeting with industry rival Tesla on the topic of added charging options.