Something unusual’s happening to all the lamp posts on Clapham Common Northside. You may have seen it yourself – what usually happens is a gentleman in hi-viz digs holes about two feet deep, throws in a big copper grid, wires it up to to the lamp post electrics, pours a bag of clay back in to the hole, adds a gallon or so of water and then puts the pavement back, as though nothing had ever happened.
What does it all mean? Those involved are happy to explain what they’re doing – and it turns out these are preparatory works to be able fit an electric car charging socket on to every lamp post between Lavender Hill and Clapham Common Northside.
It turns out there’s plenty of electrical capacity to do this (since the street lights were converted to use energy efficient LEDs a few years ago, the cable have been carrying much less load!) – but the earth connections, some of which date back to the 1980s, aren’t really up to modern standards for a car charger – hence the need for an earth connection underground, made of copper and an electrically conducting clay.
Some time back we explored, in detail, whether you could really run an electric car in Battersea – given we all share our parking spaces (our article at this link). The answer back then was ‘maybe, but it’s not easy’. There are a fair few chargers scattered about that run at various different types, and speeds, and costs – but with a mix of ‘pay by the minute, and probably full’ fast chargers, and ‘decent and cheap – but good luck finding one that’s available’ slower chargers, it was clear that the biggest headache will be finding somewhere you can park your car and leave it to charge!
Which is why this initiative by Wandsworth Council is very welcome. It’s actually been on the cards for a while – helped along by a grant the Council won from the Go Ultra Low Cities Scheme. It’s encouraging to see that despite all the Coronavirus chaos of recent months, the longer term need to do something about air pollution and our future climate hasn’t fallen by the wayside.
We do have several rapid chargers in the neighbourhood (details here), which work more like a petrol station and are likely to serve those passing through (and electric taxis) – but realistically, it’s these less slower-charging and frankly less glamorous ‘SimpleSocket‘ lamp post sockets that will probably do the most help Lavender Hill residents with cars to go electric. Because they provide the cheapest option to charge a car, because there’ll be one by your house or flat, because a good half of all the parking spaces will be in reach of one with a decent extension lead, and above all because you can just plug the car in and leave it to get on with it.
Around 200 of these SimpleSockets have been installed in the Borough over the last couple of years, with a few already up and running on Forthbridge road and Ilminster Gardens – they’re the yellow pins on the very comprehensive Zap map of electric charge points. There’ll soon be many more: as far as we can tell, preparatory work is underway on every lamp post that is next to car parking spaces (which is most of them). The streets south of Lavender Hill are the first in line for a major rollout of car charging sockets, but if this works we suspect the concept will extend to the Shaftesbury Estate too. We’ll keep you posted as this develops.
Update (early August) – Wandsworth have now published more details of the scheme, including this map that shows the coverage area, below (which is pretty much what we expected based on where the lamp post works have been underway – and which, as you would expect, pretty much corresponds to the local permit parking zone). They also report that the effort to make it easier to own an electric car in the borough is having some success: the annual number of plug-in vehicles bought by people living in the borough has grown from 252 in 2012 to 4,527 in 2019 – with numbers rising by more than ten per cent every three months. And that Wabdsworth’s own vehicle fleet is gradually being converted to electric power. Full details on the Wandsworth website here.