‘Solar Tree’ EV Charging Stations to Launch in UK

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

A fledgling company is ready to begin commercial production of ‘solar trees’ to serve as clean energy charging stations for electric cars.

SolarBotanic Trees, founded last year, is developing two sizes of the tree – one at 5.5 metres tall and another at 3.5 metres tall. The first installations are planned for early 2024 in Oxford.

The number of electric vehicle charging stations in the UK has increased by a third in the last twelve months in an effort to keep pace with the growing demand.

According to data from electric vehicle mapping service Zapmap, there are now more than 25,000 locations as of May 2023, though this is still well short of the 325,000 charging points that the UK’s Climate Change Committee claims will be necessary by 2032.

SolarBotanic already has deals in place with electric vehicle infrastructure suppliers to build trees for several sites in the UK, said Chris Shelley, CEO of SolarBotanic, including an order of 200 trees from the Raw Charging Group: “The idea is to put solar panels on a domed surface like the canopy of a tree, and then place a battery storage system into the trunk.”

“Putting solar cells and batteries into the same structure is very practical, as it allows them to store excess energy without having to solely rely on its backup grid supply.”

The initial idea was to create a structure capable of harvesting both solar and wind energy, using photovoltaic leaves that flutter in the wind to generate additional power.

Preliminary research found that wind harvesting via this method is not sufficiently advanced at present to be commercially viable in the near term, so SolarBotanic’s focus is on entering production later this year to deliver the solar trees at the start of 2024.

From there, the company plans to enter other markets, including Europe and the US, as well as develop customisable structures to suit other applications.

These include large trees with integrated seating underneath to be used in town squares or pub gardens, with people able to charge their phones or even warm themselves up from inbuilt infrared heating fixtures.

“There are quite a lot of variations on the core theme,” Mr Shelley said. “Off grid versions that don’t need to meet the electricity demands of an electric vehicle could serve as work or social areas in town squares with telephone and laptop charging, seating, and shelter.

“Beyond commercial and municipal uses, the trees could go in people’s gardens to supplement rooftop solar panel setups, or several of them could even meet the annual electrical requirement of a medium-sized house.”