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It’s all about the Charlottes,” says Joel Teague, CEO of Co Charger, a new company that claims to have the answer to that rather large elephant in the EV room: how to charge your car at home when you don’t have a charger, never mind a driveway.
According to Co Charger, at least 40% of UK residents live in properties where installing a private charger isn’t an option, such as flats or terraced houses. For them, EV ownership is impossible unless they can charge at work (to where fewer people travel these days) or they have a public charger nearby (that works).
Co Charger addresses this problem by enabling the 200,000 or so people with a parking space and a charger at home to share them with their neighbours who have neither. He calls such people hosts and their customers chargees.
Some chargees might already have an electric car, but Teague says that Co Charger’s main aim is to attract those thousands of people who would have if only they could charge it conveniently, reliably and affordably. The company’s phone app makes this possible, he claims.
“The idea for the service came to me when I took delivery of my first EV, a Renault Zoe, but was having to wait for my home charger to be fitted,” he says. “I asked an EV-owning neighbour if I could borrow his charger for a few quid each time I needed it. It was a light-bulb moment when I thought of all those people who would like an EV but who don’t have a driveway on which to charge it; they could borrow a neighbour’s.”
And that brings us to Charlotte Hancock. She lives near Exeter and is one of those people who Teague thought would benefit from his idea. Previously an EV dreamer without a charger or a driveway, she’s now, thanks to a Co Charger host who has both, on course to get her first EV.
“We had considered buying an electric car, but because we don’t have a driveway on which to charge it, we ruled it out and soldiered on with our Skoda Superb diesel,” she says. “Then we became aware of Co Charger. We downloaded the app and found a host less than half a mile away who would let us use their driveway and charger. We immediately decided to replace our Superb with the new Skoda Enyaq iV electric SUV.”
Hancock reckons the slightly higher charging cost (hosts can set their own minimum price, but around £1.70 per hour is typical) compared with a public charger is more than offset by the convenience and reliability of the private charger.
“I think that those people who are willing to share their driveway and charger will encourage more people like me to make the switch to electric cars,” she says. “It’s a great idea.”
It’s not an original one, though. Jeremy Coulter co-founded BookMyCharge in 2017; like Co Charger, it has an app that enables EV owners to make their driveway and charger available to others. “We had the idea for the company when my partner and I were planning to drive to Dartmouth in our BMW i3 and realised the town had no public charging points,” he says. “We had to abandon the plan, but it got us thinking about how peer-to-peer sharing might have helped us.”
The duo set about developing and launching their app and today, three years later, claim to have signed up 500 charger owners and some 1000 registered users. There would be more, says Coulter, but the pandemic got in the way. Still, BookMyCharge has used the time to develop an hourly booking option to run alongside its existing session model.
Hosts can charge what they like, but a typical four-hour charge costs around £4.50. As EV numbers grow and public chargers become pricier, Coulter expects hosts will charge more, especially in high-demand areas. Chargers are generally of the 7kW variety, although 22kW ones are becoming more common. Hosts are discouraged from offering charging via a domestic socket, because they’re slow and potentially dangerous.
“Predictability is the key attraction for users of BookMyCharge,” says Coulter. “It’s why we emphasise the booking aspect: you book a time slot knowing the charger is available and working. That’s not something you can always say of public chargers.
“For example, we recently drove to Taunton, which is at the limit of our car’s range. To be on the safe side, we decided to stop on the motorway for a top-up. At the two services we tried, the chargers weren’t working. We just managed to limp into Taunton.”
Although on the face of it Co Charger and BookMyCharge appear to offer the same service, they are subtly different. Co Charger is geared towards providing a localised, repeat booking service that aims to encourage people without a driveway and charger to become EV owners, while BookMyCharge is a bookable, destination charging service.
Coulter believes that with nowhere near enough public chargers being installed, BookMyCharge will help to plug gaps in the network, especially in remote, rural places.
Teague, meanwhile, is focusing on neighbours for the simple reason that, he says, for every one public charger, there are six underused home chargers. He hopes to have signed up 6000 hosts by the end of this year and 22,000 by the end of 2022 (like BookMyCharge, Co Charger is free to join but the company takes a cut of the revenue – in its case 12%).
He imagines most hosts will have around four chargees using their charger, earning them from around £470 to £1300 per year, depending on what fee they demand and how much they pay for their electricity.
Teague isn’t precious about his idea. He’s keen that every current or aspiring EV owner signs up not only with his firm but also with BookMyCharge and existing driveway renters, which include JustPark and YourParkingSpace, which are moving into EV charging.
YourParkingSpace claims to have 4000 driveways offering EV charging on its database; JustPark has only 550 hosts, but they all signed up in the six weeks before Christmas.
“By December, we hope to have many thousands of chargees,” says JustPark founder Anthony Eskinazi. “The ability to reserve a charger is a key attraction for our users.”
As it is for all EV owners using private chargers, especially as EV sales increase and the public chargers that do work become overwhelmed.
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EV charger sharing in action
Nas Iqbal recently took a first step into the world of electrified motoring, buying a used Volkswagen Golf GTE plug-in hybrid with an EV range of around 25 miles.
The teacher from Bristol was inspired to make the change when his workplace promised to install chargers. Sadly, that came to nothing, but by then Iqbal, who lives in a terraced house with no driveway, had already researched community charging on Facebook. There he found Shona Sandhagen, a neighbour living 50 metres away, with a driveway and a charger she was happy to lend for a small fee.
“It was a fantastic coincidence,” says Iqbal. “To make booking the charger, calculating my energy consumption and paying for it easier for Shona, I suggested that we sign up to Co Charger, which takes care of all that on the app.”
Sandhagen is equally delighted. Although she’s a tenant, her landlady is happy to let her keep whatever profit she can make from renting out the charger. “It’s so easy,” she says. “I don’t have to be involved. I can accept bookings remotely and the chargee just turns up, hooks up and leaves. I’m paid immediately as the session ends.”
The only person who got all his work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.
Anything i post over three lines long please assume it is an article lol.