One of the biggest problems facing promoters of electric cars is a lack of charging stations, but in some respects the basis for an expanded network is already in place.
There's already electric infrastructure in place to power buildings, lights, and nearly everything else in a modern city, and BMW hopes to leverage that with a prototype street light that incorporates electric car charging sockets.
The German carmaker has installed two of these "Light and Charge" units in front of its headquarters in Munich as part of a pilot program. They aren't free to use, but drivers will be able to plug in and pay using a phone app, whether they own a BMW electric car or not.
The lights combine hardware from BMW's own ChargeNow charging stations with LED elements for maximum efficiency. BMW says they can be easily added to the existing municipal infrastructure.
That ease of installation could make the Light and Charge stations more attractive to other municipalities, assuming BMW decides to make them widely available. The easier it is to install a charging station, the more there are likely to be.
If nothing else, these street light charging stations could also appeal to people who habitually park under street lights to avoid car theft or vandalism. It's also the latest attempt by BMW to help spur the proliferation of charging stations.
The company has tried to broaden the appeal of its i3 electric car and i8 plug-in hybrid with projects like a solar-powered carport and its ChargeNow DC fast-charging station, all of which is intended to make owning a plug-in car more convenient, and thus more attractive to buyers.