Kansas City pilots streetlight-mounted EV chargers


The Kansas City Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) is installing streetlight-mounted EV chargers as part of its City Right-of-Way pilot program. The project aims to test the efficacy of curbside charging for plug-in electric vehicles and use the findings to streamline efforts to support a diverse array of EV drivers. 

About 80% of EV charging occurs at home, said the National Resources Defense Council, and often in a garage or carport. For renters, about two-thirds lack access to such spaces, and EV charging access can be a further barrier. The Kansas City project seeks to better provide access to communities that have a dearth of EV charging infrastructure. 

Proposed charger locations.

Image: MEC

One reason to look to streetlights was the excess energy that is often tied to LED lights. LEDs are more efficient than conventional high-pressure sodium bulbs, and have been increasingly installed across cities. At the same time, however, the related power capacity in the pole is not reduced to match the greater efficiency. This creates an energy gap, which chargers could tap into. 

As part of the program, Level 2 chargers are planned to be installed across the metro area. The chargers are rated AC 240V and typically provide about 10-20 miles of range per hour of charging. (By contrast, DC fast charging stations can achieve 480V and 60-80 miles of range per 20 minutes of charging.) 

MEC said it costs $0.03-$0.06 per mile to fuel an EV, while conventional vehicles consume fuel at a rate of about $0.07-$0.27 per mile. Currently, there are about 80,000 public charging stations in the U.S., said MEC.

(Read: “Home solar makes EVs cheaper, reduces emissions”) 

Project funding is through a competitive opportunity offered by the U.S. Department of Energy. MEC and its partners also are making in-kind funding contributions. 

The project began its design phase in 2018, ran feasibility analysis in 2020, and now is conducting public outreach and deployment, with installation expected to be finished by December. 

Pole-mounted EV chargers have found their way into various cities, including  London; Essen, Germany; Melrose, Massachusetts; Los Angeles; and Portland, Oregon. The World Research Institute is conducting a study of these sites and said it will release a report this fall on the findings of both streetlight and utility pole-attached EV chargers. 

The City of Kansas City, Evergy, Missouri University of Science and Technology, NREL, Black & McDonald, EV Noire, and LilyPad EV are working on the Kansas City program and are expected to monitor its progress to inform future investment. 

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