After phone boxes, charging points may become new icon of Britishness

By DPA | 11 June 2021

LONDON: Electric vehicle charge points could join red phone boxes and post boxes as an "iconic" sight on British streets under new design plans.

A contract valued at £200,000 (RM1.2mil) has been advertised by the Department for Transport in an effort to secure a design team for the project.

It explains how officials from the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles want the successful bidder to develop an "iconic, functional public electric vehicle charge point".

The move was welcomed by Conservative former transport minister Sir John Hayes, who said he hopes the charge points will become a "design classic" - similar to the red pillar box or the Gilbert Scott red phone box.

The contract is expected to run between Aug 9 and Oct 29 of this year, with the advertisement stating: "Our aim is for the design to be a guide for local authorities and companies who wish to use it.

"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."

Sir John, MP for 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 of 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 and his enthusiasm for the project led to Labour MP Karl Turner suggesting the charge points should be known as "Hayes hooks" in his honour.

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 British government intends to prohibit the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2030. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, announced in November 2020, made clear his ambition to "accelerate the transition" to electric vehicles.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng last month acknowledged the need to get the "right charging infrastructure" in place given "range anxiety" concerns which exist among electric vehicle owners.