FeatureThe EV Powered Interview

The EV Powered Interview: David Martell, there’s no place like home

Back in 2008, David Martell revolutionized the electric vehicle industry when he created Chargemaster, the UK’s largest EV charging network.

Following BP’s acquisition of Chargemaster in 2018, David turned his attention to the home charging market as he launched EVIOS PLC, a premium EV home charging brand which also acquired Andersen EV in October last year.

In this exclusive interview, David shares the story behind EVIOS and his plans for the future, whilst also discussing the role of home charging in the UK’s transition to EVs.

What is the story behind EVIOS?

My journey started a long time ago. I was already involved in the motor industry, I started a company called Trafficmaster, which was one of the first telematics companies around and sold that out. In 2008, we recognised that EV’s were going to be one of the biggest changes in motor industry technology for 100 years and it was something that we felt we’d like to be interested in. Secondly, we felt that there were some business opportunities. In 2009, we started Chargemaster, and we started building charging points both for public use, for home use and for workplace use. That developed pretty quickly. We had a factory in Luton and grew over the following eight years to being the biggest manufacturer and operator of charging points in the UK. In 2018, we sold out to BP for £132,000,000 and I was asked to stay for three years running the company, because BP acknowledged that they didn’t know an awful lot about the EV market or the charging market. I found after 12 months that, to be quite honest, working for a multinational petrochemical company wasn’t my forte, and so I agreed with them that I would leave.

I went off and recognised that the EV market was only just starting. I’ve driven EV’s for ten years. I think I’ve done probably close to half a million miles, and I could see that there was still a very interesting business opportunity. As the technology was becoming more and more mainstream and as we move towards the situation in 2030 where all cars are going to have to have plugs on, I formed EVIOS PLC.

Some 70% of people charge their car purely at home. I’m not saying that public charging isn’t important, but I always make the point that running an EV is much more like charging your mobile phone than the conventional thing of going and queuing up at a petrol station and getting your hands dirty. If you can charge at home, it makes an awful lot of sense to charge at home. It was clear that it’s going to become more and more important to have an intelligent charging point that was easy to use and attractive to look at. That was our design brief. We looked at other players in the market and we thought we could do something better. We designed a unit with a colour screen, a PIN number so you could have multiple users. You can have multiple locations, a state-of-the-art app. We launched this in April last year, started shipping to customers last summer, and that’s gone very well and been very received.

We then had an opportunist twist to our journey in October. I noticed that Andersen EV had gone into administration. We knew Andersen well, in a product point of view – a high-end, attractive looking product with a choice of 96 different styles with a clever arrangement with the cable being hidden. We also knew they had existing arrangements with Jaguar Land Rover and Porsche. I thought it was an interesting opportunity so I phoned the administrator, put a bid in and by the following Tuesday we were told we were the preferred bidder, and a week later we had completed.

Do you have plans to target the destination charging sector?

We have plans to launch the EVIOS 2 which will be a workplace market product that will be for people who want to fit an intelligent charging point outside their office or factory, and we’ve moved the launch of that back a few months because the acquisition of Andersen. One of our key focuses was to ensure that some of the potential shortcomings on some of the production processes of the Andersen unit were sorted out. That has been our focus and we’re delighted that we’ve already made a number of improvements that will ensure reliability is enhanced going forward. The EVIOS 2 will be coming out in due course, and I think the workplace market is important, but we do see the biggest growth in home charging. Currently, there’s something like 250-300,000 units a year sold and, when you think by the end of this decade there’s going to be close to 2,000,000 cars sold with plugs on, the markets going to grow at least five times in the next five or six years. We also plan to expand into Europe where we’ve got market opportunities in places like Benelux, Germany, parts of Scandinavia and we’ve had inquiries, particularly for the Andersen product in other parts of the world.

Is there too much emphasis on the role of public charging infrastructure in the UK’s transition to electric vehicles?

There is a lot of discussion, particularly in the mainstream media, about there not being enough public charging, high-speed charging, and I personally feel that there’s too much emphasis on that. The average EV these days has a range of 200 miles plus, some with much more than that, and if you have 200 miles range, it’s very rare in a day that most people go more than that. If you’ve got off-street parking, and I appreciate that’s not everybody, but 70% of people have got night-time parking, that’s by far the most cost-effective way to run your EV. The cost can be half the cost of high-speed charging. The cost saving of charging at home is huge. Increasingly, with nighttime rates and the use of solar, that becomes greater, so if you could run your car from electricity at home, you’ve got it much, much cheaper, and it’s much more convenient. People often ask me how long does it take to charge? And I say it takes me three minutes because I get home, I plug it in, I go in, have my tea and go to bed, and I come out in the morning and it’s charged. There is a role for high-speed charging, but it’s for emergency use only. I do typically 15,000 miles a year but in the last year I’ve only used high-speed charging twice.

What trends do you see coming into the EV home charging space?

Solar comes into play because if you’re not in a hurry – some people will have their car parked for two or three days – you can get a meaningful amount of energy from your solar panels and our units. Our technology enables you to take advantage of that and that is close to free energy, which is great if you could do that and if you’ve got battery storage as well. On my home installation, I’ve got an EVIOS unit with solar and a battery, so I can charge very cost effectively. One of the things that we’ve done with the EVIOS unit is try to make it very user friendly. We’ve got a database that shows the efficiency of each car and when we show the customer through the app how many miles they’ve added rather than how many kilowatt hours they’ve added, it’s really useful to be able to see that I’ve added 100 miles, 120 miles to their car and also what it’s cost. We do think the technology that we’ve got enables people to use their charging point more effectively, manage cost more effectively and to understand what it’s doing.

Inductive charging – It’s very nice. It’s a bit like charging your mobile phone inductively. A lot of people do that already, but it took probably ten years of mobile phones before there was any wireless charging. It’s got two challenges: it’s a bit chicken and egg. You’ve got to have the equipment on the car and you’ve got to have the infrastructure, and both are very expensive. We work with BMW who put it on the plug-in hybrid 5 Series with an option of having a wireless charging pad that you could have at home and it was very expensive. It’s nice that you get home at night, you go over the pad and you don’t have to get the plug out and you don’t have to plug it in, which is obviously very convenient. I think that evolution will come, maybe in a couple of years’ time, but EVIOS will be there.

What’s next for EVIOS and Andersen?

We’re very excited. We’ve got two great products, the EVIOS One and the Andersen A2 where we’ve got a product enhancement map for both of them and we’ll be moving into the workplace charging area. In the short term, we’ve got a number of new styles coming out on the Andersen unit. We’ve got a high-profile marketing campaign. Before we took Andersen over, they spent typically about £60,000 a year on marketing. We’re now spending one and a half times that every month. We’re not intending to go at the low end, the cheap and cheerful market. Clearly there’s a market, but we’re going for the style and the high capability unit, for the premium customer. If you buy a mid-range to upper-range car, when you order it you could typically spend several thousands of pounds on extras, like carbon fibre trim or different colours, different wheels, different audio systems, so we believe it’s going to be the norm for people to spend a little bit more money to have a charging point that is attractive to look at but also has features so they can save money on the running cost of their car.

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