Prototypes of a new design of retractable on-street electric vehicle charge points that sit flush within the pavement when not in use have been installed within the London Borough of Brent. The aim is to deliver on-street charging while keeping streets clear of clutter.

Five of the Trojan Energy charge points have been installed for a small group of trial participants to carry out real-world testing. The full trial of 150 charge points across Brent and the adjacent borough of Camden will then go live later in the year.

The system has been designed with input from Disability Rights UK.

The charge points, says start-up Trojan Energy, represent a critical moment in the three-year Subsurface Technology for Electric Pathways (STEP) project funded by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) and delivered by Innovate UK, which has seen the charge points developed from concept, through manufacturing and now deployment.

In use up to 15 of the “flat and flush” charging points will be installed in parallel from one electricity network connection, with power distributed across the chargers. London’s electricity network operator UK Power Networks, as a partner in the STEP project, is looking at how to manage the additional load presented as the uptake in EVs continues and more people charge at peak times.

Ian Mackenzie, CEO of Trojan Energy commented, “Trojan Energy is delighted to reach this important milestone in the STEP project, as it represents the first implementation of our flat, flush and futureproof charging technology. We’d like to thank Innovate UK for their support, all the project partners for their expertise and help, and OZEV for their funding. We can’t wait to see the first driver reactions and hear their feedback so we can generate learnings for the wider project rollouts across Brent and Camden.”

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean added, “Innovation is key to creating cleaner, greener local communities – not only in the capital, but right across the country.

“This project is a great example of how technology is being used to solve a real-world problem to ensure that our EV infrastructure fits in seamlessly in our local towns and cities. This is crucial as we build back greener and encourage more people to make the switch, which is why I’m delighted this government is backing its delivery.”

The full trial will see 10 sets of 15 charge points deployed on six streets in Brent and four streets in Camden.

Strategic energy consultancy Element Energy are leading the project and have designed a survey alongside academic partners Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Leeds to evaluate the success of the project. Results from the pre-trial survey suggest that 50% of EV Driver participants find their current charging situation inconvenient and are in need of a better solution, with over 70% stating that the availability of local charging points was an important factor for their EV purchase.

Sarah Clements, Principal Consultant at Element Energy and the Project Manager commented, “The sheer volume of participants signed up to this trial demonstrates the crucial need for on-street charging in residential areas. STEP is tackling a key barrier to EV uptake by providing convenient access to chargers for those that cannot charge at home. One aspect we are particularly keen to understand is whether deployment of this on-street technology will give confidence to local consumers to upgrade to EV – an important policy focus in the UK today”.

As part of the trial, renewable electricity supplier Octopus Energy is offering the opportunity for customers to merge their car charging costs with their home energy bill through Octopus’ EV roaming service, the Electric Juice Network. This will create a seamless system for paying for all the electricity they use in one place, as if charging at home.