Electric Cars Charge From Street Lights In Germany – Video


It’s a simple, yet perfect idea: charge an electric car via a socket mounted on street lights.

This idea is now reality in Germany where tests are being conducted to understand whether or not this EV-charging-via-steet-light idea is feasible on a grand scale.

Here’s video showing electric cars juicing up at street lights.

BMW i3 Charging Via Street Light

BMW i3 Charging Via Street Light

Category: Charging, General


57 responses to "Electric Cars Charge From Street Lights In Germany – Video"
  1. Carsten says:

    That will only work if the lights are individually controlled by a low light sensor.
    I tried to get this setup at a parking lot at my work place and there is one sensor, that switches the lights for the whole parking lot.

    1. mike w says:

      +1 ours work like that also. could still charge at night. I’ll check to see if they have 125V sockets inside the pole.

    2. Robert says:

      There must be power to the sensor for it to work. Just wire in the charging socket before the sensor. Then you should have a live socket whether the light is on or off.
      If the power is switched off before the lamp post itself, then you are buggered…

      I think this is a brilliant idea. Lets see if they fit these charging sockets to lamp posts on double yellow lines, or whatever the German equivalent is 🙂

  2. Anthony says:

    I’ve never understood this concept. In the US at least, an HPS streetlight is at most 400W (and can be as low as 100W), so even if the streetlight is off, the most you’re going to get out of that is 400W. That’s about half of what you’d get from 110V/8A. One hour = 1.5 miles of charge. At night, assuming the HPS light was replaced with an LED, you’d have between 50 and 300W left over. Again, one hour = one mile of range. Not enough to recharge an EV.

    Now if you redo the infrastructure to run dedicated 220V/30A circuits to each light pole then that will work. But you cant just repurpose the existing infrastructure.

    1. Alaa says:

      Not only that but if they get rewired the net will not sustain the load or LOADS. It can work for electric bikes maybe but for 10s of kwh the net of any country for the street light is not designed for that.

    2. kdawg says:

      I think that’s the idea.. to repurpose the poles.

    3. Jouni Valkonen says:

      In Europe, street Lights are wired to three phase 400V power and if needed, you can take some 40 kW power from street light pole.

    4. mike w says:

      In Germany they use 240 volts not 120 Volts. As long as each light has its own sensor it should work. No word on how long it takes to recharge a BEV.

    5. Speculawyer says:

      OK, streetlights might only be 400W . . . but why does that make you assume the wiring to pole only supports 400W?

      I agree you gotta be careful and analyze this stuff but don’t just assume it won’t work.

      1. Jesse Gurr says:

        Because to keep costs to a minimum, designers will size the wires to the power expected. If they expect the light will draw 400W max, then they will design with the wires that can handle that with a little overhead to make sure the wires don’t overheat and cause damage.
        Usually, you don’t overbuild unless you have a really good reason to. If they knew these would be used for a different purpose other than a light, then they might have designed it differently.

        1. tedfredrick says:

          I don’t belive that there is anywhere in the states that doesn’t have a circuit that can handle less than 1000W. 110V X 10 amps= 1100 Watts. I don’t belive the National electric code does not allow wires less than 14 gage.

        2. finecadmin says:

          You, neither, know how highway lamps are wired.

          1. Jesse Gurr says:

            If you know, please enlighten us.

            1. Bill Howland says:

              Highway lighting, if you mean ‘freeway lighting’ around me is typically done with 2400 volt constant-current loops, except instead of series string light bulbs as they used 100 years ago, they use 6.6 amp or 20 amp constant current sodium vapor or metal halide ballasts, with a constant – current transformer at the feed end.

              This is the simplest way to do it since, say 2000 volts at 20 amps is 40,000 watts of lights, and 400 watt fixtures would be enough for 100 lights on the string.

              Trivia question: When series-string street lighting systems were around from 100 years ago, how did they keep all the rest of the lights lit when one bulb burned out. The price of the device used automatically isolated the burned out street light and its cost was about one penny. What was it?

        3. Francis L says:

          I’m pretty sure that to keep cost low, you don’t use the minimum, but what is standard. 400W doesn’t seems standard, they probably use standard wire that can handle much more.

          1. Jesse Gurr says:

            I think you’re right. I looked into a little of how street lights are designed, it differs from utility to utility, seems some of the ones in Southern California use 120V. The problem seems to be the transformers. They are designed to use between 60-100% of nameplate rating for the lighting they serve. So they are sized for that particular circuit no more, no less than necessary.
            So basically, light pole circuits would have to be looked at on a case by case basis and have a high chance of being upgraded.

            1. Bill Howland says:

              I had heard that PG&E, and now you say SCE is a bit parsimonious with their transformer sizing. That’s not the case anymore around me, my utility, National Grid sizes things on the distribution transformer sizing as if everyone had electric cars already. Other neighboring Utilities, were a bit more frugal. I remember one neighborhood in gates (Rochster, NY suburb) that had 8 houses, most with central air, and they ran the thing on a 10 kva (average 42 1/2 amp) pole transformer. Not the case any longer since being purchased by a spanish conglomerate.

              Voltage drop and physical strength seem to be the watchwords by me as far as street lights go. Older installations have #8 copper THW wiring (very tough), and more modern installations have #6 AWG copper THW.

              All this for 70 watt sodium vapor fixtures. So my point was, this stuff is so overbuilt it could charge a few volts at 8 amps each.

    6. finecadmin says:

      You clearly don’t know how highway lamps are wired.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        Since you know the answer, please answer the trivia question I posted above about how to keep series string lighting working when one bulb goes out, for only $.01 expense.

    7. James says:

      Just because a streetlight only uses 400 W does mean the outlet is only capable of drawing that amount!

    8. Bill Howland says:

      Anthony, not exactly sure what concept you are not seeing, but due to extreme reliability of Street Lights most systems are made much beefier than they’d absolutely have to be.

      So, some streetlights that would work fine with #14 are actually wired with #6.

      So there’s plenty of headroom in most systems to charge a few 110 volt ev’s, if not the whole street.

  3. Carsten says:

    Now the expensive equipment is owned by the individual and there is no easy way to prevent theft and misuse of the charger by others.

    1. kdawg says:

      Maybe padlocks and security codes.

    2. Assaf says:

      Actually, Leafs since 2013 (or 2014?) are equipped with optional charger-locking, so no one can remove your EVSE from the car socket. That prevents theft.

      Vandalism can still be perpetrated, but someone might just as well vandalize the whole car, there’s “nothing” to prevent that except law enforcement, surveillance cameras, etc.

      1. Sublime says:

        A chopstick, pencil, plastic knife, etc can defeat that locking mechanism in about 1 second. I would not rely on it.

        1. tedfredrick says:

          Dang, I just saw a young hooligan carring chopsticks around the parking lot where I am charging my car.

  4. Just_Chris says:

    One has to wonder why they didn’t just install a charging station on/in the street light with a cable hard wired into the unit. You can buy EVSE’s now that don’t have a “brick” on the cable with all the electronics in the gun so space shouldn’t be a constraint. Really a plug socket on a street light is not that revolutionary we have them at work to charge the electric golf carts that we use to move sheet metal and other equipment around the sight.

    1. kdawg says:

      I thought the innovation was putting the brains in the cord, and that’s what keeps track of how much juice is used and allows the users to pay. This keeps the light-pole installations very cheap.

  5. Speculawyer says:

    More parking lots need to do this. Especially employee lots. And 110V is good enough . . . actually, it is probably desirable since it will keep away people coming for opportunity charging and it will keep electricity costs down.

    1. Alaa says:

      Electricity will be free soon. Yesterday I read that Russia cut off the gas supply to the EU. Today I read that Russia entered Ukraine. So war is certain in the EU. I say free because Germany has no choice but to increase the wind and solar power to be independent energy wise. So electricity will be free in Germany provided they survive the war that is coming. Do you think they will?

      1. kubel says:

        Even if there’s no cost to generate electricity, there is a steep initial investment required. I don’t think we can really call electricity free.

      2. Ken_3 says:

        Umm , that was a WW II reference. Trying to rewrite history of the German invasion of Russia. If the article I read was accurate.

      3. Scott Franco says:

        I suspect that war is over. The one between your brain and reality, that is.

      4. Bill Howland says:

        There has been a reduction, mainly because the New Ukraine Gov’t steals the gas.

        Its difficult to get accurate info in the west because there’s always so much of a political agenda that colors the news reporting. Reporters in the west these days merely take dictation, they don’t ask any politically incorrect questions.

        What Putin has done he has said, Europe, if they want Russian Gas, should install connection points to Turkey, since Turkey is the only semi-western country not ‘sanctioning’ Russia. Meanwhile a reduced amount of Gas (mainly for humanitarian purposes) continues to flow through the Ukraine.

        Russia and China are being very low-key here, and are not threatening nor issuing ultimatums. Wish I could say the same. TO me they are in the much stronger position. All they’d have to do is insist payment of Rubles or Yuan for their gas, rather than $. That would upset the apple cart, and westerners would HEAR about that change.

        1. Speculawyer says:

          I wouldn’t call Russia’s meddling in Ukraine ‘low key’ or ‘not threatening’.

          I kinda like the fact that Putin is playing games with the gas supply . . . that will just encourage the Europeans to build more renewable energy. Not being reliant on the Russia Bear has probably been a big selling point of Germany’s Energiweinde for years. And Putin is proving that selling point was quite valid.

          1. Bill Howland says:

            Russia was not the one that was caught bragging that they spent $5 Billion over the past decade engineering an overthrow of a democratically elected government. It was our own Victoria Nuland.

            So Americans these days have a wierd sense of the word ‘meddling’. Poroshenko is bombing apartment buildings (meaning women and children) in Doneske, with my tax dollars paying for it. I’m not meddling, they take the money whether I want them to or not.

            1. Robb Stark says:

              Putinistas popping up all over the place.

              Russia invaded Ukrainian Crimea,held a bogus referendum then absorbed it.

              Russia has now invaded Eastern Ukraine.

              The US nor NATO did either.

              Yanukovych and his Pirate ship were as democratically elected as Putin and his Mafiosi.

              1. Bill Howland says:

                Yes, that’s what our ‘coverage’ wall-to-wall states.

                And to think that, as a kid, I used to laugh at Pravda ‘TRUTH’, for supposedly misinforming the Russian populace.

                1. Phr3d says:

                  I was and am still anti-communism, namely due to my personal experiences living and breathing near the Berlin Wall, so many years ago, so that’s -my- bias, and my distrust of a Russia’s current, uhmm, leader.
                  I am wondering that you feel a part of a sovereign country suddenly woke up one decade and decided to throw in their lot with Russia is perfectly understandable and acceptable. Just give themselves and a Large percentage of their country’s land mass and productivity to another sovereign nation, free of charge.
                  I have shut up about your ‘we don’t understand Putin’ missives prior to this, but I sure wonder what you are reading, currently or historically that makes this play out acceptably in your deduction.

                  1. Bill Howland says:

                    US bombs drop all over the world (in this generation, think Clinton and Bosnia as the start).

                    How dare people in other parts of the world think they should be able to run their own lives the way they want to.

                  2. Bill Howland says:

                    Phr3d this is a car blog, but since you asked a specific question I’ll give a specific answer.

                    Poroshenko BANNED russian speech in Eastern Ukraine, and started tearing down all the WWII (“Great Patriotic War” – what Russians call WWII) statues to their famous generals.

                    Most of eastern Ukraine is ethnic Russian, having been part of Russia since Catheryn the Great.

                    (In other words, Crimea has been part of Russia longer than California has been part of the United States).

                    The “Gas Princess” (the one who always braided her hair like a crown on her forehead, said ‘we should drop an atom bomb on eastern Ukraine’.

                    I’m not of Russian extraction, but if I was like 90% of the people there, I would tend to see the handwriting on the wall, and want to go back to Russia, which is where Crimea was until Kruschev gave it away in the 50’s, but then . it didn’t matter since it was all the same country essentially (USSR).

                    Now as far as it being a ‘bogus’ election, 96% of the people voted to (precisely by UN standards) on week 1). Voted to become independent of the newly installed Ukraine gov’t, and on week 2). Requested to be reunited with Russia as they had historically been. It was monitored by 15 neutral countries as observers, and no fraud was seen. The Russian Duma voted to reaccept Cremia and Putin (since after all, he is *NOT* a dictator, and simply went along with the Duma), and reaccepted them.

                    Interestingingly, on the day Putin the Peacemaker brokered a cease fire between Kiev and the “rebels” (the rebels are anyone who doesn’t want their homes torched), rather like anyone who expresses an opinion in this country is a ‘terrorist’), the Western Gov’ts applied Sanctions on Russia. Some Thanks!

                    “Bogus Election” you say? That’s a laugh. In this country we have computerized Diebold voting machines that tell the people how they voted but then skew the overall result to the pre-programmed desired one, and people have the gaul to criticize other countries’ fairly monitored elections?

                  3. Bill Howland says:

                    In rereading my comments, I failed to be cognizant of the fact that most Americans are so pitifully misinformed. And that all the magpies will jump on me for the ‘gas princess’ comment, without undeniable proof:

                    so here’s the link:


                    1. Phr3d says:

                      Bill, that was op-ed with no links to what they were referring to as ‘fact’.

      5. Someone says:

        Neither Russia nor Ukraine is part of the EU

  6. Phatcat73 says:

    I went through this exercise with a former employer. Unfortunately lighting systems typically run at 277 volts in the US. EVSE’s do not support this voltage.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      You can’t generalize the whole country. I know in parts of Illinois it is 480 volts single phase. By me, it is 120. Ballasts of the typical Sodium Vapor fixtures are multi-tapped 120/208/240/277/480.

      As these transition over to LED fixtures in the future, I’d assume the current limiter ‘ballast’ (in quotes since it doesn’t have to be a real ballast) would have the same range of voltage operation.

    2. Bill Howland says:

      Since, in the States, the vast majority, if not all of the Tesla Superchargers run on 277 volts, and supposedly, these are exactly the same chargers as are installed in the cars themselves, one would wonder if the “HPWC” Tesla EVSE, now lowered in price to $750, is also compatible with 277 volts since the charger in the car itself ostensibly is. There would certainly be enough commercial parking lots where the easiest pressure to supply for multiple TESLA HPWC’s would be 277.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        If I were laying out several Tesla 80 amp HIgh power wall connectors in a commercial parking lot, I’d have no qualms about sending 277 to the individual unit. I’d just mount a 3 kva 32 volt buck transformer next to it so that the Tesla EVSE/car system would charge at roughly 244 volts. ALot less money to install due to the lack of Big transfomers and smaller wire, and you’ve got 20% faster charging compared to the otherwise typical 200 volts.

      2. Bill Howland says:

        *** This is not a Duplicate Comment!! ***

        If I were laying out several Tesla 80 amp HIgh power wall connectors in a commercial parking lot, I’d have no qualms about sending 277 to the individual unit. I’d just mount a 3 kva 32 volt buck transformer next to it so that the Tesla EVSE/car system would charge at roughly 244 volts. ALot less money to install due to the lack of Big transfomers and smaller wire, and you’ve got 20% faster charging compared to the otherwise typical 200 volts.

  7. Lindsay Patten says:

    I wonder if you could use near field communication on smart phones to provide an inexpensive billing mechanism. With an app on the phone that can communicate with the charger with NFC and with a central server over the internet you could make a pretty simple and inexpensive controller on the charger that wouldn’t need its own means of communicating with the central system. That would be less expensive than the featured system which needs a fairly expensive piece of hardware in the cord to handle billing.

  8. Bill Howland says:

    In the states, due to most residential or Rural Areas being 120/240, as opposed to Europe’s 230Y/400 means that, for the same amount of aluminum (aluminium for our UK friends) we can only go 1/3 as far from the serving transformer.

    I would guess in Berlin they are strategically located in the street near the sidewalks. That is rarely the case in the US, except for some very modern housing developments (under 25 years old). So, typically, US street lighting isn’t quite as easily ‘robustified’ to take car charging service as easily as in Europe, since the required distances are 1/3 of what they can be in Europe, and then the electric facilities in general are *NOT* near the street lights.

    But anything is possible if you throw enough money at it. It would be possible to charge a volt at 900 watts (8 amps) here and there with what we currently usually have. But every single lamp post having a volt plugged in at the same time? Only in a very few set ups would this be possible, so you’d think some town somewhere would try it where it is doable and the wiring, while marginal, would work for trickle charging ev’s , even several of them at a time.

    It would be interesting to see if Future street lighting set ups ran much heavier wiring to allow for the provision of this.

  9. ThosEM says:

    The power level possible or appropriate for this is of course the big question. It seems like 1-10 kW should not be difficult to support, though the higher values may require the pulling of some heavier wire through the conduits. So at the very lease L1 charging 5 kph) should be easy, and L2 (50 kph) does not seem out of the question. The level should perhaps scale with the length of time for which parking is allowed. If just an hour or two, L2; if all day, L1.

  10. Spider-Dan says:

    The main question with this kind of setup is not really “Is there enough power to charge quickly?” or “Will the wiring support it?”

    The main question is: who is going to pay for the electricity?

    Many EV owners seem to presume that EVs will continue to be a niche market, and (consequently) that publicly available free fuel is a viable long-term solution. I don’t see how either is the case.

    Unless/until there is a billing solution built in, I consider this nothing more than a tech demo.

    1. Bill Howland says:

      I would assume, on a public street, they’d have a ‘timed’ outlet that would meter a certain amount of power before shutting off, when paid for at the ‘centralized parking meter”. It would just be assumed that the customer is drawing 110 volts at 12 amps for the duration. The customer in the States would supply his own charging EVSE brick.

      It would be really cheap to implement since the customers bring their own evses and cables, and detailed metering wouldn’t be necessary since it would be strictly based on time.

      And the relatively low power consumption means the exisiting street lighting systme could run a few low-power evs without any massive rewiring.

      1. Bill Howland says:

        To get down to brass tacks about it, lets say each side of a ‘mid town street – long block has 10 streetlights, and 25 parking spaces per side.

        Let’s further assume the 50 spots and 20 streetlights are fed by 2 sets of 120/240 3 wire feeds (3 #6) from either side of the street since it is not desired to actually dig up the street proper.

        In my town, instead of an individual parking meter, they are putting a parking printer sticker in the middle of the block which you pay for and walk back and stick to your windshield. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to pay for TIME on a certain numbered street light pole.

        So on either side of the street, we could have 10 cars charging at a time (60 amps @ 240 volts – every other street light pole is effectively in series with its mate) so that in 50 spaces we could have up to 20 cars charging on both sides of the street total, which is just the number of light poles we happen to have anyway, and the block itself allows charging for 40% of the spaces at a time. So total loads are 14.4 kw per side or 28.8 kw for both sides total. The streetlights, if night time are 70 watt sodium vapors so they’d add another 1500-1600 watts on to the 28,800 so a grand total of around 31,000 watts total, or 14.4 kw additional load per side. No facilities, wiring, nor pole transformers would have to be changed to implement such a relatively small increase.

    2. Lindsay Patten says:

      If you watch the video you’ll see that the whole point of this setup is that the billing is handled in the charging cable.