Ask the fleet expert: Tom Callow, Director of Communications and Strategy BP Chargemaster
Tell us about your company, BP Chargemaster.
We are the UK’s leading provider of EV charging infrastructure, having supplied over 50,000 home, workplace and public charging points. We also operate Polar, the UK’s largest vehicle public charging network.
Is the market for electric vehicles (EVs) set to grow significantly?
Despite being small, the EV market is fast-growing. It currently makes up around 3% of new car sales in the UK, with a total of just over 200,000 plug-in cars on the roads. Just under 60,000 new EVs were registered in 2018, and we would hope that around 100,000 are sold this year.
By 2023 our projections show there would be around 1 million EVs on UK roads by 2023, accounting for 1 in every 10 new cars sold. Choice will be the biggest driver of this growth, with perhaps 150 different vehicle models to choose from. Charging networks will grow to support the EV parc, with an expected population of well over 50,000 charging points, with 10-20% or more of these being rapid chargers.
Is the grid able to cope with the demand?
Our home, workplace and public charge points have been used over 20 million times, and over 150 million kWh of energy has passed through our charging points. National Grid doesn’t foresee a long-term problem with the overall energy supply, providing charging is managed smartly, and we would agree with their assessment.
We often hear ‘charging anxiety’ is replacing ‘range anxiety’ – what are your thoughts?
We operate a total of more than 6,500 public charging points across the UK and our public charging network operates with an uptime of more than 99%. Unlike many years ago, the reality today is that you are probably never that far away from a charging point, and current utilisation means that there is plenty of capacity for more electric vehicles to use the network.
When it comes to charging an electric vehicle – how fast is fast?
We have the UK’s largest rapid charging network, with over 400 rapid chargers that provide a 50kW rate of charge. Destination charging provides a slow rate of charge where vehicles are parked for longer, for example at a cinema or shopping centre. From 2019, we will be deploying 150kW ultra-rapid chargers on BP forecourts, which we expect to deliver a range of between 500 and 600 miles per hour of charge – so as much as 100 miles in just 10 minutes.
Do you drive an electric vehicle? What’s your favourite EV?
The first thing to understand is that not all cars that people call electric are really that electric at all… For example, some people refer to standard hybrids as electric, but the reality is that they only have a range of about 0.5 miles when powered by electricity alone.
We define electric vehicles as those you can charge externally, with useful electric range that can do the average daily commute, for example. Pure electric cars (or BEVs – battery electric vehicles) are powered only by electricity, for example a Nissan LEAF or Renault ZOE, while plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) like the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV combine an electric range of typically around 30 miles with an internal combustion engine. A range-extender like the BMW i3 REX is more like a pure electric car than a plug-in hybrid, with a typical electric range of 80 miles or more, with a much smaller engine that acts as a generator to power the electric drive.
I have driven thousands of miles in electric cars, driving virtually every available model, and am a big fan of the BMW i3. If I had the money, I would plump for an I-PACE or perhaps the forthcoming Polestar 2, which looks incredibly exciting.
What would you advice be to someone switching to an electric car or van?
For most people, the way you charge an electric car will be completely different from the way you fuel a petrol or diesel car. For starters, most people will be able to do most of their charging at home, and probably overnight, so you’re not waiting for the car to charge, but in your home, most likely having dinner, relaxing, or sleeping!
For those who can’t charge at home, charging might be more like how they fuel their car today, for example with ultra-rapid chargers on BP forecourts that could deliver a range of around 100 miles in just 10 minutes – enough time to pop in to buy that night’s dinner from the M&S shop or a quick coffee and a snack. Otherwise, charging at other locations such as workplaces, retail and leisure sites will be very common.
What would you say to a business offering electric vehicles to their company car drivers?
If you are going to provide electric vehicles to company car drivers, you need to make it as easy as possible for those drivers to charge them. You wouldn’t think twice about reimbursing business mileage for petrol and diesel cars, or providing a fuel card, so the same thinking needs to be applied to electric cars. For example, if the most common place a driver could charge is their home, then a business may consider funding the cost of an installed Homecharge unit (around £300-400 after the available government grant), which they may even be able to ask the employee to pay back via a form of salary sacrifice if needed.
For out-of-home charging, our subscription model with one monthly bill makes complete sense for fleet managers. Lots of people talk about the importance of pay-as-you-go charging, but, this could be a bit of a nightmare for a business to reconcile, as charging costs vary significantly, and fleet managers could face thousands of receipts for public charging every month!
and finally, what are the grants or savings available?
Today, there is a workplace charging grant of up to £500 per socket off the cost of an installed workplace charge point, up to a maximum of 20 sockets, so businesses could benefit from up to £10,000 off the cost of a charge point installation at their premises.
Charging infrastructure also benefits from a 100% first-year capital write-down allowance and there is no Benefit-in-Kind taxation levied on employees charging at work. Companies can set the tariffs that they charge for workplace units, so they are not out of pocket for the electricity, either.
For employees’ Homecharge units, the government also offers up to £500 off the cost of an installed unit, bringing it down to a cost of around £300-400, depending on the specification of the charger.
Of course, the biggest savings available are for the fuel. Typically, we find that drivers are seeing fuel cost sayings of between 50% and 75%, which for businesses with larger fleets, could easily equate to thousands of pounds every month.
Tom Callow is Director of Communications and Strategy BP Chargemaster and is a motor industry and car enthusiast. A self-proclaimed ‘EV advocate’ Tom drives 30,000 electric miles a year.