Lisa Furlong, director of energy efficiency specialist Green Mole explains how working with innovation experts has helped turn the protype of a new electric vehicle charging system into a potential solution for thousands of homeowners.
Forty-three percent of people don’t have access to off-street parking.
This severely restricts their ability to charge an electric vehicle (EV), yet by 2030 no new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be on sale in the UK. Electric and hybrid vehicles are taking over as part of the UK’s push to become net zero by 2050, but to support this, we need a charging infrastructure that’s fit for purpose.
At the moment, unless people have their own drive, they have to rely on public charging stations, such as bays on public roads, or those in car parks and supermarkets. But these are few and far between. Their only other option is to trail a charging cable from their house across the pavement to their car but this is an obvious trip hazard.
People want to be able to charge from their own home.
Not only is it convenient but it means you can choose what tariff you want to use. Our research has shown that it can be as much as five times more expensive using a third-party facility. It’s also a way of future proofing your home, while councils love the idea because it means people aren’t blocking those community charging points that do exist, or feeding cables through doors and windows to kerbside. Some of our enquiries are from taxi drivers whose job depends on being able to charge, or nurses who don’t want to wait at a community charger in the dark at the end of a shift
Our new charger can solve this problem.
We have been working with the University of Salford and the Growth Hub on a number of projects and have developed an EV charging technology, the Electric Vehicle Charging Channel (EVCC), which can help solve this problem.
It is a charging cable buried under the pavement or driveway in a shallow channel. It takes the lead to the kerbside so you can then charge a vehicle safely, with no cable trailing across the pavement. The channel is very robust and can also be covered with materials that blend in with the footpath.
The EVCC was installed at the University as a demonstration project, but we needed further support from the Growth Hub around communicating about the technology.
We wanted to disrupt the market and needed support developing a commercialisation strategy.
We had a data base of hundreds of potential customers who have been in contact, and also enquiries from local authorities, which is why we needed a real push on the marketing.
We met with one of the Hub’s innovation advisors Karen Dudley and together we came up with a commercialisation strategy for the business and looked at ways in which we could take the product from prototype to launch.
Karen helped us to develop a project brief which covered the type of R&D support we needed and this was circulated to all the Hub’s University partners.
We decided to work with the University of Salford, with whom we already had a good relationship, and met another member of the Hub team, Innovation Development Manager Claire Cornes.
Claire is embedded in the University and was able to help us navigate through all the departments and faculties to find the expertise we needed. It saved us so much time and effort.
As a result, we began working with Studio Salford, which is part of the University, and Karen was instrumental in helping us to successfully apply for an Innovation Voucher, which companies like ours can use to access the expertise we need to innovate and grow.
The key elements of the work were a new digital presence, brand identity and video, which we developed to better align the business with the target market. It gave us the impetus we needed to really kick start our marketing campaign.
It was great to be able to partner with organisations that already have such great track records of working with industry - not just from the practical side, but also because it adds to the credibility of the product.
We officially launched in October 2021.
And we soon had our first orders, installing two new EVCCs with Denbighshire and county councils and we’re now getting daily enquiries - there’s a clear demand for the product.
The biggest stumbling block remains direction from central government about what local government are allowed to do. But we’re confident that things are really going to grow from here, especially as people become more aware of EVs and the general push towards a low carbon economy.