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BMW turns streetlights into electric-car charging stations

The German luxury automaker unveils a prototype "Light and Charge" streetlight, and has two already installed at its headquarters in Munich.

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BMW's new electric car, the i3, could get charged up at a local streetlight. BMW

BMW is trying to make it easier to charge an electric car on the go, unveiling a prototype charging station built into a streetlight.

The Munich-based carmaker, maker of the i3 and i8 electric cars, said Friday it created the "Light and Charge" streetlight, which combines LEDs with the company's ChargeNow electric-car charging stations, Reuters reported. BMW plans to run a pilot program in Munich by putting the technology on existing streetlights.

"Seamless charging infrastructure is essential if we want to see more electric vehicles on the road in our cities in the future," said Peter Schwarzenbauer, a BMW board of management member, according to Reuters.

More car manufacturers than ever are building electric vehicles, with BMW, Nissan and General Motors joining in the trend. Such cars have yet to reach the mainstream, though, for a variety of reasons including short traveling distances, long charging times and few charging stations. BMW's effort looks to follow in the footsteps of electric-car maker Tesla, which is already building its own charging-station infrastructure. While Tesla's stations are made specifically for Tesla cars, it appears BMW is working on technology that is open to a variety of vehicles.

Battery technology has been improving, allowing for greater range for electric cars. But, automakers and charging-station manufacturers are still fighting over some of the standards needed for charging stations, which means some public charging stations won't work with certain cars.

Two of BMW's prototype streetlights are already installed in front of the company's headquarters in Munich, and drivers will be able to pay for a charge through a mobile app. Other charging stations will be added to existing streetlights, according to Reuters, and may be used by any vehicle model regardless of electricity provider.

BMW didn't respond to a request for comment.

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