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Trojan energy, STEP & SmartSTEP

75% of electric car drivers charge their cars at home but that's only possible if you have a driveway or garage.

Ubitricity lamp post charger
Ubitricity lamp post charger

Street charging is becoming much more important as the growth of EV sales accelerates. We're not going to see many examples of bolting chargers to walls and trailing pavement cables although there are a few examples of cable-channels being run across the pavement.


I can't help feel dealing with the dirt build up and peeling up a mucky cable is going to be too pleasant in winter though.


Lamp post chargers are a great solution - they're already there and the sockets can be really discrete. As I walk across central London until I looked for them I'd not noticed just how many lamp posts in residential areas have sockets hidden on them.

Source London charge point posts
Source London charge point posts

That's good enough but of course lamp posts are too far apart to cope with the growth of EV sales and we'd hardly want long lengths of cables trailing along the pavement let alone imagining coiling a 20+ foot cable back into your car!


Enter the charging posts. Where space permits clusters of charging posts are marching in. These are fairly substantial pieces of street furniture due to supporting more than one socket, RFID controls and screens and needing to be quite sturdy to protect from those with below average parking skills. Usually there's a cabinet nearby housing metering, DNO connection and cloud service IT equipment too.


Source London charge point posts
Source London charge point posts

Getting the distance from the edge of the pavement right is hard - too far away results in cable tripping hazards; too close and you can run into issues opening car doors. In this example it's unusual for the street cabinet to be close to the pavement edge too; most likely due to the railings and planning permission.


Small clusters such as these two examples also put a constraint on parking. Councils are reluctant to designate EV charging bays as there's a balance to strike between non EV and EV drivers wanting to park.


This is where Trojan Energy have been able to solve a whole set of issues in one go - very slim charge posts (and only there when in use), as tight to the pavement edge as possible and rows of 15 sockets at a time dampening right down any competition for spaces.


Trojan Energy flat and flush charge point socket
Trojan Energy flat and flush charge point socket

When not in use the Trojan Energy charge points are flat, flush, 22kW sockets - essentially the street equivalent of office power point floor boxes - which can therefore be as tight as possible to the edge of the pavement. When not in use you can walk, cycle or even drive over them.


Their background is the oil and gas industry so they know a thing or two about designing for tough conditions such as dirt and water. There's a clever locking and connection method as the post/lance is inserted into the socket. And if the socket is damaged it can be switched out for a new one without digging up the street again.


A row of Trojan Energy flat and flush sockets
A row of Trojan Energy flat and flush sockets

Trojan Energy 'lance' charging an Octopus Energy electric van
Trojan Energy 'lance' charging an Octopus Energy electric van

In use a sleek post (they call it a lance) is inserted into the socket. Being close to the pavement edge means the cable distances are shorter minimising tripping hazards. They're also installed about 15 feet apart in rows of around 15 so there's no need for special parking bays as well as keeping those cable runs as short as possible. Trojan also sought the advice of Disability Rights UK and the RNIB to design the post with minimum accessibility issues.


All the charging technology, metering and IT comms are contained in a street cabinet which is usually installed up against a wall out of the way.



Under an InnovateUK and Office for Zero Emissions (OZEV) funded project Element Energy, Trojan Energy, Octopus Energy, UKPN, Leeds Uni and Camden and Brent councils collaborated to deliver a trial of the Trojan solution under the Subsurface Technology for Electric Pathways (STEP) consortium.

The first of these are up and working now for a few hundred EV drivers in Camden (60 sockets) and Brent (90) with plans for many more to be installed across London. During the trial the technology has been tested and proven and Trojan are actively expanding across the UK.


L+G SMETS2 meters under SmartSTEP
L+G SMETS2 meters under SmartSTEP

The STEP project was extended under SmartSTEP to also experiment with proportional control of charging using modified L+G SMETS2 meters - specifically proportional ALCS.

Smart Meters aren't usually used with street chargers let alone any form of proportional control so this was probably the first time this technology had been used. Increased EV charging puts strain on the grid, particularly during the peak period 4.00pm to 8.00pm so a proportional control means we can start to balance the load. Typically home and residential street charging can be stretched out over several hours unlike supercharger locations so lends itself well to proportional control. We're able to slow down the charging speed when there's a local constraint but the constraint is advisory than mandated and can be overridden by the EV owner. This is similar to the recent home smart charging policy that came into effect 30/6/22 and requires home installed chargers to be defaulted not to charge during the peak period.


UKPN engineer making a live connection (no power outage) to a Trojan Energy cabinet
UKPN engineer making a live connection (no power outage) to a Trojan Energy cabinet

Whilst technically we proved it works commercially it's more challenging as it results in an MPAN per charge point, tariff per charge point, daily standing charge per charge point and a smart meter per charge point significantly driving up the costs for install and management.


Continuing to innovate even with strings of 15 charge points parking congestion in busy London suburbs is still an issue so Trojan have invented a service called the De-ICEr which uses camera technology to alert drivers when a space near a Trojan socket becomes available. This is a great way to avoid councils having to designate EV charging bays.




Trojan's technology has great potential and solves a bunch of issues with street EV charging. They've got more to come I've not written about (e.g. look up DoorStep) and it's a great bonus to see expertise from the oil and gas industry being invested in to drive the EV revolution.

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