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On-street EV charging stations are the next street light

On-street electric vehicle charging points are starting to roll out across Toronto. Here is one that I came across this morning in the Junction on Annette Street. The stations are from Flo.

At its core, this is, of course, a great thing. Ubiquitous charging points are a critical component of overall EV adoption. But at the same time, it was a good reminder that (1) above-grade electrical wires are ugly (this is the typical Toronto approach) and that (2) on-street EV charging is a design challenge that is going to need to be solved.

In the above example, the charging stations were mounted to an existing electrical pole and two bright yellow bollards were installed on either side to make sure nobody smashes into said charging stations while they’re parking and/or trying to watch TikTok videos on their phone.

But what happens when nearly everyone has an EV? There are only so many electrical poles, so we will need to move on to standalone stations at some point, and that is obviously already being done. But if we’re going to have charging points practically everywhere, how should they work and what should they look like?

I am sure that lots of very smart people are already thinking about this. But as someone who is not directly involved in this space, it feels like we need to think about these in a similar way to street lights. Because they are going to be just as ubiquitous, if not more so. That means there is a strong cause for making them both functional and beautiful.

In fact, this feels like a real city branding opportunity.

1 Comment so far

  1. Will be interesting to see how this shakes out.
    1- There’s no obligation to provide charging at every space; perhaps charging becomes a premium service. Can imagine a scenario where some street spaces (such as those at light standards) have it, others (most?) don’t, and that’s ok? If one really needs a charge, then off-street spaces (either public or private) are available that would have that amenity. Can have a mix of service levels for curb/on-street and off-street parking: some parking is valet, some has a charge point, some doesn’t, some is indoor/covered, some isn’t, so on so forth? Driver can choose based on their needs/preferences/willingness to walk/pay, etc.

    2- There’s no obligation to provide parking/vehicle storage period? Think of Japan, where there’s street space for moving vehicles and deliveries, but government simply doesn’t build the streets beyond that mobility need to provide on-street storage lanes at the curb. Perhaps the EV charging conversation/expectation provides an opportunity to rethink the vehicle storage function of how we design street space and reallocate some of that space (especially where charging can’t be easily accommodated) to other uses such as wider sidewalks, patios, trees, stormwater swales, etc? If a bunch of on-street curb stalls become ‘obsolete’ due to charging being infeasible, perhaps those stalls could be repurposed to these other things that are in many cases better for the city.

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