7 February 2018 Issue 21 Feb/Mar

Getting in early with electric vehicle charging

Pod Point is trying to get in early with electric vehicle charging. Has it got its timing right?

While huge companies from Tesla to VW are frantically trying to design and manufacture battery-powered cars, several startups are getting into the business of charging. According to some estimates, the UK will need a network of one million charging points by 2020.

London-based Pod Point wants to spray the country with chargers ahead of that in a bid to be the first and fastest mover. But has it gone too early?

Big companies

Pod’s primary source of revenue will come from selling chargers to car-owners. However, as just 1.9% of new cars sold are currently electric vehicles (EVs), the company has also persuaded several corporate clients, including Sainsbury’s and Nestlé, to offer EV charge points to their customers and employees.

‘Vehicle charging attracts wealthy customers to their store,’ explains James McKemey, Pod’s head of insights, in the same way that petrol stations currently draw people in and drive grocery sales. He adds that most supermarkets even offer car charging for free.

EV charge points will soon be ‘a benefit you expect’ at hotels, shopping centres and workplace carparks, says McKemey.

First-mover advantage

Pod now needs take-up of battery-powered cars to happen quickly to make its investment pay off. In the next few years the company is aiming to get as many long-term corporate partnerships as possible to protect itself from competitors such as Chargemaster.

‘Intangibles such as your brand can become critical,’ McKemey says, especially for  winning corporate contracts. Persuading consumers is less important in the short term, as they will prioritise convenience. McKemey says: ‘We’d be naive at this stage to think people would hunt out Pod Points.’

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