If you have a garage with a power socket, an electric car makes an awful lot of sense. If you park on the street, however, the infrastructural challenge of keeping your electron-powered vehicle topped up becomes complicated enough that perhaps sticking to driving on squished dinosaurs makes sense for a while longer. Until Char.gy comes along, that is.
“Seventy-two percent of drivers in London don’t have off-street parking,” says Richard Stobart, CEO of the London-based Char.gy. “If you want an electric car, not being able to charge at home is a major disincentive.”
So, in a world where people want to drive electric cars, cities are trying to clean up the air and car makers want to sell electric cars, how do you take on the not insignificant challenge of charging car batteries in a dense and fast-moving city such as London? You tap into other, already existing infrastructure, of course.
“People want to charge their cars while they are doing something else, preferably when they are parked at home and asleep in their beds,” Stobart points out, and offers a solution. The company has developed charge points that connect to the existing street furniture: Lampposts. Makes sense: The cables are already there, the local government owns them, and once you’ve gone that far, you may as well make the next couple of logical steps.
“Our vision is that there will be several lampposts near your home with a charge-point that you can park near to charge overnight,” Richard explains. “We are developing a platform to manage the charging too, using a business model not dissimilar from mobile phone contracts. Users pay a monthly fee for access to the charge points and a free allocation of charge.”
The early-stage company is running a pilot program with Richmond Council in London, installing a number of units in Barnes and Kew, with the first charging points appearing later this summer.
“We are trying to create a win-win solution for everyone, not least local government,” says Stobart, addressing part of the challenge of building a marketplace with multiple players. “We are making it seamless and effectively free for the councils and solving the problem of half of all public charge points being out of service.”