No Driveway? You Can Still Have an Electric Car
Posted by Roseanne: Jun 01, 2021 • 5 min read
Pod Point Head of Insights, James McKemey, takes a look at the EV charging ecosystem and how those without off-street parking can top up their battery.
Currently, if you don’t have your own driveway, charging your EV remains a bit of a challenge. However, it’s certainly not impossible and I myself live without a home charger!
Thankfully the majority (roughly 60:40) of UK dwellings have off street parking. Even more, those who don’t drive cars are over-represented in the dwellings with no car parking. PWC estimated that a chunky 72% of UK drivers have access to off-street parking at home. So this is absolutely not, in any way, a blocker to the mass adoption of EVs in the UK (say ~30% of sales). Ace! Still, we want to get to all drivers, so... how?
First, some personal news - I lost my Pod Point home charger in late 2019. So I am now the fabled driver who doesn’t have a home, or workplace charger. So, is my life a living hell? Do I spend my days watching my car charge at a rapid charger? Nope. The bulk of our charging is done at a gym with a destination charger, and it doesn’t get much easier than that. During lockdown this option went, however, instead I can park once a week in the local station long stay car park and walk home, collecting the car later on, often the following day - no waiting, just a nice walk. Otherwise we regularly top up, particularly at Tesco, target car parks with chargers when visiting a town and favour a few pubs that offer chargers too.
NB: I use DC predominantly for long distance driving, but it has bailed me out over lockdown on one or two occasions when I’ve needed to go out again that day. Otherwise I try to avoid it, because it is costly and involves waiting. That said, when you need it, nothing else will do.
What the experience has taught me is that destination charging is really very useful indeed. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to use a fancy gym, but occasional local destination charging in under-utilised, longer stay car parks overnight is my preferred solution to the whole no driveway issue. Scaling AC provision is always easier (cheaper) than scaling DC, the challenging bit is providing secure parking - but there’s a whole heap of that going unused overnight everywhere. Yet, while this is my preference, it’s spoken of less frequently than rapid hub “refuelling”.
The Pod Point Commercial team continues to work with car park operators, and provision continues to grow, but I believe there is significant scope for these operators to carry much more of the charging burden than they currently expect - and profit from doing so. Our Tesco-Volkswagen EV charging rollout has provided free 7kW EV charging at nearly 400 stores, with another 200 to go.
That said, it too doesn’t work for all; there are plenty who aren’t walking distance from a suitable car park, and there are areas with insufficient car parking, which means we still need the alternatives.
We think we should still take our cue from Rihanna and consider charging at Work ~Work Work Work Work~. Even with the result of the pandemic (didn’t see that one coming in 2018), the workplace remains a very common destination for drivers and one where they remain parked for many hours at a time. Both make it an ideal environment for charging cars.
Pod Point has significantly expanded the number of installed Workplace chargepoints and what solutions are available. From individual chargepoints, to substantial arrays of load managed charging solutions and even some DC provision where quick fleet turnaround is a factor - we’ve been working hard.
While there are more lamppost chargers, a number more trials have taken place and more are ongoing, there’s not been a ton of progress in scalable on street charging solutions just yet. And, of course, even here there isn’t a one size fits all solution. Some would be well served with a cable gulley and conventional home charger, others would need a roadside connection. It remains a challenging environment to deploy infrastructure into from a planning and administrative point of view. So at Pod Point we are currently trying to tackle lower hanging fruit.
Rapid Charging Hubs
Pod Point has expanded its own DC offering into retail spaces, like Lidl - and mighty convenient a location they are too for a paid-for faster charge - somewhere you are going anyway to shop (avoiding the dreaded watching your car charge). This provision helps add flexibility to all users, and we need more. But concerns remain over them being a more costly option (even at Pod Point’s very competitive pricing) if they are the only way you get your charging done.
Elsewhere, notably Scotland and Essex, substantial high-powered charging hubs have appeared. These impressive facilities look absolutely ideal for en route charging, though their locations suggest that’s not their sole purpose. So it will be interesting to see how popular they are in time.
While autonomous features could be the ultimate solution, there hasn’t been much progress in the last few years. Massive potential, enthusiasts ever more enthusiastic, sceptics ever more sceptical. But either way no sign of it coming to rescue us from our driveway-less challenges in the near future.