Charging while doing
UK destination charge point operator aims to win through offering public solutions that fit lifestyles
It may be a truism that public charging will or should be the option of last resort for EV drivers with off-street parking. But that does not apply to the 35pc of UK homes that, according to data from transport policy and research organisation the RAC Foundation, do not have that capability.
And, until there are scalable developments in home-to-pavement or community charging solutions, that leaves these potential EV customers reliant on public charging options. That could be on-street charging, or charging at existing liquid fuel hubs — both highway services and neighbourhood filling stations enabled to provide EV charging. Or it could be so-called destination charging — at retail, places of work, and leisure or tourist sites, either accommodation or attraction.
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And it is in this latter space that UK-headqartered RAW Charging largely plays. CEO Jason Simpson calls it “lifestyle charging”. It works with several entertainment companies, including pub chain Greene King, heritage body National Trust and theme park heavyweight Merlin Entertainments, on the basis that an EV owner can recharge their vehicle whilst they enjoy the destination.
“At the local level, lifestyle charging is where you build in the charge because you are going to the gym a couple of times a week, or you go to Sainsbury’s or Tesco on a weekend, or you take the kids to McDonald's or KFC,” he says. The aim is to integrate the charging process into a person’s daily experience, so it is no longer an inconvenience.
Simpson emphasises that “at RAW, we take lifestyle charging a step further and focus on ‘go-to’ destinations”. This means places “where drivers have driven a decent distance and will be staying for a reasonable length of time, so they both have the need for a charge and the time to get a charge whilst they are busy living their lives”.
This could be at a designer outlet, entertainment park or a hotel where they are staying the night. “Giving EV drivers the confidence that the charging will fit into their lifestyle, rather than them having to make their lifestyle adapt to the charging, is, I think, really, really important,” Simpson continues.
Many of RAW’s type of stations also allow for an alternative to rapid or ultra-rapid charging that are increasingly used at charging hubs established alongside motorways. And that can offer a benefit as super-fast charging can degrade the battery quicker in terms of performance and durability — as well as being typically much more expensive.
According to South Korean OEM Kia, rapid DC charging versus fast AC charging will result in a 10pc reduction in battery life over 8 years. In a similar vein, US EV maker Tesla also recommends home charging over rapid charging.
“Your battery is the highest value element in your car. It might represent two-thirds of the value of your car today, so you want to protect it,” Simpson explains.
RAW has also partnered with a hotel chain, Exclusive Collection, having already installed EV chargers at five of their hotel venues across the UK, allowing customers to charge at a regular speed overnight. “In time this should also allow drivers to benefit from night-time, tariffs which will be much cheaper than rapid alternatives,” Simpson adds.
“Overnight is also the greenest [option], especially in a North European context like we are, because early to mid-morning is when all the wind is blowing, so therefore that is when the renewables are highest on the grid, and the grid itself has the least load on it,” he continues.
While the benefits of night-time charging will largely not apply to the stations RAW is planning to install at UK themes parks Legoland, Alton Towers, Thorpe Park and its most recent venture, a McArthur Glen designer outlet in Paris-Giverny, the ability to charge in a place a customer was already planning on being may prove preferable, and cheaper, to roadside charging.
But Simpson also stresses that destination charging is part of an all-of-the-above solution. “In the meantime, there is a lot more infrastructure that needs to get deployed in all segments,” he says.