Lamppost charging stations

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Ubitricity turns streetlamps into charging stations

How do you imagine mobility in the city of the future? When asked this question, many people have in mind a scene from a science fiction film – people flying around in their own cars right over the top of the skyscrapers. Although some researchers are actually working on this vision of complete independent mobility, the opposite is more likely to be the norm in the future: whether we are talking about public transport, bicycles and bike rental stations or cars, there will be complete communication between all road users and all kinds of transport technologies, and for the most part they will remain firmly on the ground. The advantage of such future interconnectedness is that traffic flows can be made considerably more efficient if cars share their data with other cars, buses, trains, bicycles, traffic lights, road signs and so on. Congestion and accidents should then be a thing of the past.

Electric mobility in the city of the future

Cars will continue to play an important role in the city of the future – that much at least is clear. How they are powered could change, however, with electric mobility becoming increasingly important. The German government wants to see one million electric vehicles on the country’s roads by 2020, this figure rising to six million by 2030. One sticking point is the question of where exactly space can be found in big cities for cars to be recharged. After all, there are far fewer garages than public parking spaces – equally, there are very few power points available.

Streetlamps fitted with power points

One solution to this problem has been developed by Ubitricity, a Berlin-based start-up company which plans to use streetlamps as charging stations for electric cars. This is in fact as simple as it sounds: the car driver plugs a special “smart” charging cable into an electric socket which can be retrofitted to streetlamps – allowing the driver to “tap into” the streetlamp’s power supply. This works not only with streetlamps, as such power points could also be fitted to the walls of buildings or to other places around the city. The cable contains a mobile electric meter, and once a month the user is sent an itemized invoice, a bit like a mobile phone bill. Ubitricity is currently trialling its idea in numerous cities, and plans to enter the market later this year.

Cashless payments

Turning streetlamps into charging stations is also the approach followed by the BMW Group. In its “Light and Charge” project, the German auto manufacturer has developed a particularly energy-efficient LED streetlamp which can also be used as a charging station for electric vehicles. Standardized sockets are built into the streetlamps and can charge the batteries of electric cars. Users pay for the power via BMW Group’s ChargeNow network – a mobility service designed to make it particularly quick and easy to find and use public charging stations of different providers. A special card allows for cashless payment.


The Berlin-based start-up Ubitricity develops innovations in the field of electric mobility.

BMW Group

The vehicles manufactured by the German BMW Group have shaped the global automotive industry for nearly 100 years.