LED street lights: The fuel of the future?

In less than 150 years, cars have transformed from clunky gas-guzzlers into sleek energy-efficient machines.

Gas GuzzlerTesla

According to new information from the Centre for Solar Energy and Hydrogen Research, the global market for electric vehicles (EVs) is expanding at a growth rate of 76 percent, reaching 740,000 units earlier this year.

In consideration of this rapid increase of Teslas and other pure-battery powered vehicles on the road, debates are emerging over the best way to implement charging stations.

A team at Mini proposes the solution lies within existing urban landscape infrastructure.

During Low Carbon Oxford Week 2015, the British automotive brand demonstrated its “Light and Charge system”, a new technology that would allow EV drivers to charge their vehicles from LED street lights.

BMW

Given street lights run along the sides of most roads and are already connected to main sources of electricity, Mini’s approach has the potential to make more charging points available to drivers than there are fuel pumps currently available. The Light and Charge points could be set up at any location where there is a street light and safe parking is available.

The Light and Charge units would employ amodular LED design, proving the global widespread conversion to LED street lights could have even greater benefits for cities than just energy savings. Presuming street lights along busy main streets would be accessed most frequently, Mini says they would likely require four LED modules while street lights along quieter residential streets would suffice with only one or two.

Ease of use may be the best benefit of the Light and Charge points, however. EV drivers need only connect their vehicle using a standard charging cable then swipe a credit card to begin charging.

As the number of EVs on the road continues to grow, Mini’s showcase piece could very well become reality. Although the Light and Charge system has yet to be adopted widely, this technological breakthrough shows LED street lights could play a role in ushering in a future filled with electric vehicles.