In the chicken-and-egg
scenario surrounding electric cars and charging locations, there’s a company right at the heart of the action. And it’s British.
Chargemaster is going about its business fairly quietly at the moment, but it lays claim to the title of the biggest manufacturer of charging points - ‘certainly in Europe, there are no worldwide figures that we know of’, to paraphrase a spokesman.
The company sells to a dozen EU markets with designs on getting into 10 more in the near future.
In almost every nation where the tax laws aren’t quite offering enough of an incentive to buyers, electric cars face the same obstacles.
Electric cars can’t and won’t properly take off until the public sees there is a useful network of charging points in place, including locations convenient to them. It’s no use buying an electric car if the nearest charging point is 30 miles away.
Chargemaster is slowly making headway into the country’s road network by striking deals with forward-thinking companies such as The Jockey Club.
The largest commercial group in British horse racing will have electric vehicle (EV) charging points at each of its 14 racecourses by the end of 2012.
At 95p per full charge, the points will allow people to run their cars with an equivalent financial efficiency of a petrol car capable of more than 500mpg.
And no, that’s not a typo. We’re genuinely talking 10 times cheaper to run than an average efficient internal combustion-fuelled hatchback.
Seeing is believing, and as we the public start to see charging points on our daily travels, the idea of a viable electric car will grow.
This is the good work Chargemaster is doing behind the scenes, but there are still a few hurdles in the way.
For example, there are a number of different charging connection types. It’s massively frustrating to pull up at a charging bay only to find the wall-mounted socket isn’t compatible with your car’s lead, so Chargemaster is rather sensibly pushing for standardisation.
With the growth of a chunky new seven-pin standard called ‘Type 2’, there will also be a radical update in preparation for the hoped-for surge in electric car sales.
At present EVs cannot communicate with the power source, but that’s changing. Type 2 connections allow the car and power source to identify how much power the car can draw and how much the source can give, establishing the fastest safe transfer of power in the process.
The Nissan Leaf, for example, which is a superb car if you can afford it, can take 50kW of direct current (DC) for a 30-minute charge.
The Renault Zoe, due for release later this year, can take 43kW of alternating current (AC) for a similarly rapid charge.
This is a trend we’ll see more and more over the coming years, and it’ll render the current (forgive the pun) charging points obsolete.
Chargemaster is working with manufacturers to try to ensure a continuing standard and to make sure it is ahead of the market.
The idea is to have charging solutions in place before a compatible car is ever sold, to ensure the market doesn’t stagnate.
In that way these British innovators will make sure that Britain isn’t left behind in the new technological era.
It’s offering ideal charging solutions and selling them across the world, and we should be proud of that.
It seems certain that as time goes on and electric car sales explode, which they inevitably will unless tax system changes stall the growth, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Chargemaster.