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Turning light poles into electric chargers

Ubitricity’s innovative solution could be instrumental in helping the city achieve its climate action goal

The challenge brought forward a vast array of climate action solutions
The challenge brought forward a vast array of climate action solutions

German electric mobility company, Ubitricity, has won the New York City NYCx Climate Action Challenge for its technology that transforms existing light poles into charging hubs. It will now undergo further testing in the city.


Mayor De Blasio, in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the Office of Sustainability, Department of Citywide Administrative Services and Department of Transportation, announced the winner of the challenge, which is believed to be first-of-its kind. A call was put out to the tech industry in late 2017 to develop solutions for scaling electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and accelerating the use of EVs citywide.


Curbside vehicle charging


Ubitricity’s technology allows lampposts to be transformed with outlets into electric vehicle charging points that users can connect to with personally owned smart charging cables that have built-in meters. This technology has the potential to enable the city to deploy curbside vehicle charging more quickly, with lower cost, and with less street clutter than other approaches.


“Ubitricity’s innovative solution could be instrumental in helping the city achieve its climate action goal while simplifying the needs of electric vehicle users and future adopters, said Jeremy M Goldberg, deputy chief technology officer of NYCx, Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer.


“I’m thrilled that the NYCx Climate Action Challenge surfaced a number of new technologies that have the potential to improve the lives of New Yorkers and future generations.”


Nearly three dozen international and local organisations submitted technology ideas and solutions, including solar canopies, energy-harnessing infrastructure, and software to connect vehicle batteries to the energy grid. Six finalists were chosen in June and each received up to $13,000 to pilot their technologies.


Ubitricity’s retrofit technology is being used in Germany, the UK, and France. Prior to the NYCx Climate Action Challenge, the technology had not been showcased in the US. If a pilot programme is successful, the Department of Transportation and Department of Citywide Administrative Services will explore a possible near-term, multi-year demonstration project that could include chargers in light poles and new cordless, stand-alone charging points.


“We are extremely excited and proud as a team to have been selected as winner of the NYCx Climate Action Challenge,” said Knut Hechtfischer, founder, strategic corporate development of Ubitricity.


“New York City’s decision to act and to lead by example will help speed up transformation in the transport sector around the globe."


“To make the EV revolution happen, charging infrastructure needs to become comfortably accessible for city dwellers. Being able to retrofit existing streetlights to serve as EV charge points can contribute a lot to building a dense EV charging infrastructure.”


Sustainable infrastructure for New Yorkers


Nearly one third of greenhouse gases produced in New York City come from transportation, and private vehicles account for 90 per cent of those emissions. A solution must not only look at building infrastructure, but infrastructure that works sustainably for all New Yorkers. Reducing these emissions will require much wider adoption of electric vehicles and related charging infrastructure.


“The NYCx Climate Action Challenge exposed us to emerging technologies from around the world,” said Michael Replogle, deputy commissioner for policy at the NYC Department of Transportation. “This has helped our understanding of the feasibility of adapting existing infrastructure, like light poles, that might enable distributed curbside electric vehicle charging with less clutter to the City’s streetscape.”


A pilot test of Ubitricity’s winning solution will complement the City’s plan to develop fast charging stations across the city with a $10 million investment to develop hubs with up to 10 chargers per site. These efforts can, in coordination with the City’s Clean Fleet programme, support the Administration’s target of having 20 per cent of new motor vehicle registrations in New York City be electric by 2025.


Other finalists in the line-up


Finalists in the challenge demonstrated a diverse and vast array of climate action solutions including:


Volta Charging: a San Francisco-based company delivering a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations by partnering with brands to sponsor free charging for all EV drivers;


Wave: a Salt Lake City-based company providing wireless charging infrastructure for transit, port, industrial, and off-road EVs;

Adaptive Motion Group (AMG): a Solana Beach-based company designing and delivering smart vehicle technology and smart ecosystems where intelligent systems work in harmony with humans, safely and intuitively;

Jump Bikes: a Brooklyn-based electric bike share company that in four years has delivered 15,000 bikes into 40 different markets traveling five million rides. Their Social Bicycles were the first ever smart-bikes with integrated GPS, payment systems, and locks, and they believe that dockless, electric biking is the future of clean transportation;

Innology Consulting x Chinatown Bureau: a joint partnership. Innogy is a Boston-based management consultancy with a mission to support energy leaders in mastering the challenges of a transforming energy world. In partnership with Chinatown Bureau, a New York-based digital product studio that has led mobility solutions for Ford and Lincoln Motor Company in the US and China, they’re proposing a concept focused on accessible and quick EV charging infrastructure in a one-stop shop Mobility Hub.


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