Proximus and the city of Mechelen have joined forces to start a four-month pilot project in which charging stations for electric vehicles are connected to street cabinets with telecom equipment of Proximus.
Flemish Minister for Home Affairs Bart Somers: “This technological innovation is a first in Belgium. If the results of this trial prove positive and the necessary partners can be found, several thousand new public charging stations could be created in different cities and municipalities in the near future.”
Mechelen underlines pioneering role in charging infrastructure
The rise of electric vehicles is accelerating spectacularly. The most recent forecasts point to an increase in the number of electric cars in Belgium to 1.5 to 2 million by 2030. The Flemish Climate Plan that was recently approved, foresees that all newly purchased cars must be electric from 2029.
The gradual electrification of the vehicle fleet is essential to achieve the carbon reduction objectives by 2030. According to figures compiled by BloombergNEF, by 2026/2027 the average purchase price of an electric car will be at the same level or even lower than that of its fossil counterpart. Looking at the total cost of ownership, an electric car will be cheaper from 2025 onwards. But this also implies an increasing need for charging stations.
Bart Somers, Flemish Minister of Home Affairs, said, “If we want to achieve the climate objectives, we will all have to do our bit. With the Local Energy and Climate Pact that has been signed by 294 Flemish cities and municipalities, we are going for at least one charging unit per 100 inhabitants by 2030. The local authorities can cooperate with companies, citizens and associations to achieve the targets. This pilot project with Proximus is a good example of how we can find innovative and creative solutions to tackle these challenges. If we can roll out this project to the rest of Flanders, this would result in the creation of 7,000 additional charging units, which comes down to doubling the number of existing charging units and accounts for more than 10% of the target set in the Local Energy and Climate Pact.”
With 139 (semi-)public charging stations Mechelen already has the most charging poles per inhabitant. Since almost every pole has at least two charging points, this amounts to 278 charging units. In order to meet its target, the city must have 870 units by 2030, meaning that on average 6 units must be added per month. Bart Somers: “We know what we have to do in Mechelen and in the rest of Flanders. Recently the Malinas shopping centre was opened with 10 charging stations, good for at least 20 charging units. Now we have this project with Proximus, where we are talking about the first station today, but planning to expand this to 8 locations in the near future. If the project is successful, we could even consider a possible extension to 35 locations in our city, good for some 70 charging units. If we continue in this way, we will certainly achieve the target.”
Proximus infrastructure on street corners offers enormous potential
As a socially responsible company, Proximus wants to lend a helping hand to achieve this objective. It is therefore looking into ways to convert part of its network of more than 28,000 street cabinets into power points for charging electric vehicles. Now that the roll-out of the fiber network is reaching cruising speed, fiber technology will replace the copper network in more and more places, freeing up space in street cabinets. With limited technical intervention, this space can be used to create additional charging infrastructure in a fairly simple way. Similar initiatives have already been launched in Germany, the United Kingdom and Austria.
Proximus’ street cabinets have some interesting assets when it comes to creating new charging units for electric vehicles. Firstly, they are often located in key places in city centers, where there is a great need for public charging points and where part of the population lacks easy access to charging infrastructure. In addition, permit applications are handled collectively and therefore more efficiently, thanks to close cooperation with cities and municipalities. Finally, making maximum use of existing infrastructure can accelerate the deployment; the street cabinets are already powered by an electrical supply, which means that minimal excavation works are required.
Over the next four months, Proximus and the city of Mechelen, with support from Fluvius, will connect eight charging poles for electric vehicles to Proximus street cabinets. At each of these stations, always at strategic locations in the city, two vehicles will be able to charge simultaneously (11KVa per connector). The first location, on Raghenoplein, came into use today.
If the results of this trial are positive and the necessary partners are found, this solution could also be rolled out in other cities in the future. In Flanders alone, Proximus estimates that there is a potential to transform 3,500 of its street cabinets into connection points for charging infrastructure.
I would like to thank the city of Mechelen for participating in this pilot project. On the one hand, it highlights our openness to innovation, as we are the first telecom operator in Belgium to launch such an initiative. On the other hand, it shows that Proximus takes its social responsibility seriously by actively contributing to greener mobility and the reduction of carbon emissions. Moreover, the reuse of our street cabinets is in itself a form of circular economy, as we can simultaneously recoup part of our investment in technical installations and give the sites a new purpose. This is one of the steps in our plan to make Proximus a truly circular company by 2030,” said, Guillaume Boutin, CEO of the Proximus Group.
Alexander Vandersmissen, Acting Mayor of Mechelen, commented, “Electric mobility is the future, which is why in Mechelen we make a firm choice for infrastructure that facilitates this change. Today we are already leading in terms of charging stations in Flanders, but that does not make us any less ambitious – quite the contrary. As mayor, I am therefore very pleased that we are joining forces with the various partners in this pilot project in order to achieve the important objectives of the Local Energy and Climate Pact!”
Koen Wouters, Regional Manager Mechelen at Fluvius, said, “Owners of electric cars should always be able to recharge it: at home or in the neighbourhood, at work or on the road. Managing the Flemish electricity grid, we ensure through monitoring and targeted investments that this is and remains technically possible. In our approach to electric mobility, pilot projects with partners are important. Together with the City of Mechelen and Proximus, we are looking at how street cabinets of telecom operators can supply electricity to new charging stations. All partners learn from this, which will benefit electric car drivers.”