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[NEWS] Britain's new EV charger: Iconic or inconspicuous?

Britain's new EV charger: Iconic or inconspicuous?

99 designing uks ev charger standard feature lead

A few weeks ago, we showed off our proposal; what does its designer it think of the official choice?

This morning the government unveiled its new EV charger, which it hopes will become a design "icon" like the traditional red phonebox or London bus.

The surprise is that it's so small and inconspicuous, unlike those other symbols of Britishness. 

The EV charger proposal I put together for Autocar recently was based on the idea that fast-charging was the future, which needs a big box and ventilation – something lacking from this design.

Indeed, along the A3 running into South West London, commercial charging bays are blooming, but they're mostly basic folded-steel boxes covered in stickers. 

My proposal was to suggest something rather more elegant and thoughtful. After all, if you want Britishness, you usually need a decent chunk of character.

But this government desire might have run up against public perceptions. 

This new charger was a creation of PA Consulting and the Royal College of Art. So far, technical detail has been light, with just a couple of quotes from the two institutions.

Dan Toon of PA said: "The end product needed to be functional, inclusive, sustainable, adaptable [and] affordable and, arguably most importantly for behavioural change, people had to love it."

By which he might also mean "not hate it".

This latter point is further explained by the RCA’s Clive Grinyer, who said: "We've listened to people around the country who asked for minimal impact on the streets."

That’s a desire that, arguably, runs in direct contradiction to being "iconic" and, ironically, was also the reason for the 1924 design competition to create the classic phonebox: people objected to the first designs as blots on the local landscape.

From what we can see, the charger is very nicely turned and detailed. And rows of them along a pavement would certainly not be offensive. That said, there have already been Twitter protests suggesting the stylish round handle might prevent the plug from fitting into some EVs' charging hatches.

Nevertheless, this modest but very polished proposal just might also give us a clue to the government’s long-term strategy for moving to mass EV use. A plan for moderate-speed charging, overnight, at the roadside.

News reports in September suggested that these chargers would be automatically switched off at the peak times (between 8am and 11am and 4pm and 10pm) to avoid straining the National Grid. Public fast chargers would be exempt, presumably because they will mostly be utilised by business traffic.

In a sense, this attempt to switch drivers to battery-powered cars is extremely British. Minimal fuss and change and modest impact on the landscape, with just a whiff of the black cast-iron bollard so beloved of British towns.

One other thought did strike me: imagine the confusion for Britain’s dog population when faced with a row of 20 of these chargers...

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