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It sounds simple: using lampposts as charging stations for electric cars. However, actual practice shows that there are a few snags to this idea. For starters, even though lampposts run on electricity, there is nowhere near enough power in them to charge a car. Moreover, during the day there isn’t even any voltage on lampposts. “This is because the public lighting network (OVL in Dutch) only works when it is dark,” Michel Versteeg of Dutch Charge points out. “That makes the standard lamppost utterly unsuitable as a charging station.”

By 2030, at least 1.7 million charging stations will need to be installed in the Netherlands. Converting existing lampposts is out of the question, which is why a new generation of lampposts is needed. “The lampposts that we are erecting now are specially designed for this purpose,” Versteeg states.

Yet this issue not just about the lampposts themselves. “The public lighting power cables are also not capable of supplying very much electricity. There are also major disadvantages if the municipality were to take on the role as an energy supplier. All in all, this makes it seem practically impossible to use public lighting for charging electric cars,” Le Gras notes.

Not enough is known

Yet, according to Versteeg, lampposts do offer a solution. Converting a lamppost into a charging mast is not a viable option. Instead, smart lampposts have now been developed that can function as charging facilities.

The Municipality of Zoetermeer does see the value of this. “The council feels that at the moment not enough is known about the respective responsibilities of the various parties involved,” Le Gras said. “The council will have to examine what is actually feasible. We are waiting for the results of other studies that are still ongoing.” In particular, questions remain about who should pay for these smart charging lampposts, who the actual owner will be, and the numbers that should ultimately be installed.

Smart public spaces

While Zoetermeer is taking a wait-and-see approach, in Eindhoven they are blazing ahead. Here, in the neighborhood of Te Veld, seven charging lampposts have recently been installed that are indistinguishable from conventional lampposts. “They are placed in a so-called ‘charging bay configuration.’ This means that one central charging station supplies power to seven charging lanterns. Later on, this number will be doubled, as Eindhoven municipality spokesperson Martijn van Gessel explains. “Through this pilot, we want to gain knowledge and experience, including about the technology itself, and its management and maintenance.”