Phone box as defibrillator

EV charging points could be as ‘iconic’ as red phone boxes

Image credit: Eyevine

The Department for Transport (DfT) is seeking to recruit designers for EV charging points, prompting hopes that they will become icons of British design like red telephone boxes and the London Underground map.

DfT’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles is offering a contract valued at £200,000 for designers for the development of a “iconic, functional public electric vehicle charge point.” The contract will run between 9 August and 29 October this year.

“As the charge point rollout continues to accelerate, there is potential for this design to become a piece of iconic British street furniture. The project will generate excitement of our charge point rollout ambitions and contribute to a sector-wide conversation on good charge point design,” the advertisement said.

The emphasis on iconic design was welcomed by the Conservative former transport minister Sir John Hayes, who said he hoped that the EV charging points could become a “design classic” on British streets similar to the red post box or telephone box.

Sir John, who represents South Holland and the Deepings, told the PA news agency: “We do need to think of something like the Gilbert Scott phone box or the pillar box, something that people can immediately identify and it should be something that itself becomes a design classic.”

“We shouldn’t see this merely as a piece of utility although, of course, it provides a utilitarian purpose. We should see it as something that adds to the street furniture around our towns and cities. That’s why the design becomes critical, not only so that it’s recognisable but also that it’s something people enjoy seeing.”

Sir John has previously proposed a design competition for the charge points, and his enthusiasm for the project led to Karl Turner, a Labour MP, suggesting the charge points should be known as “Hayes hooks”.

Sir John went on: “Using the example of the phone box, I guess at the time it was quite radical but now it’s seen as quite retro. We shouldn’t be frightened of having a design that is of sufficient quality that would look good in all kinds of places – it isn’t just something that is brazenly metropolitan or its opposite.”

“It should be something that can fit in all kinds of places, with necessary slight tweaks or adaptations so if you’re going to put it in Bath it’s probable it might want to look somewhat different to how it might look in Canary Wharf, but it has to be sufficiently recognisable. That’s certainly true of pillar boxes.”

The government has recently accelerated its plans to prohibit the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2035 to 2030, prompting calls to accelerate the rollout of EV infrastructure to support the huge growth of EVs over the next two decades, as a matter of urgency. This will include the installation of millions of fast charging points and potentially the establishment of new manufacturing facilities for EV batteries.

Last month, the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged the need to get the “right charging infrastructure” in place given “range anxiety” concerns among EV owners.

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