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Discussion Starter #1
Dear EV Owners,

I am an engineering student in London and am interested in pursuing an electric-vehicle related business. I have been thinking of developing a system whereby EV owners could have access to a network of portable charging stations via a fleet of vans or trucks. I am still in the process of figuring out the best method for achieving this network but I would love some of your input.

Firstly, is it be something you would be interested in? To be clear we would offer breakdown cover for when you run out of charge; we would send a van/truck to recharge your battery, ideally about 50% in under an hour.

Secondly, we would offer a recharge anywhere in the country, you just book the time and place and we will have a charging station there for you when you arrive. I am thinking it would give you more flexibility in your journeys.

Please be as critical of this plan as you see fit. I am looking for genuine opinions as to whether this is a service you would pay for? ANY comments would be greatly appreciated, even a YES/NO answer.

Thank you,

Greg
 

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What would those vans be powered with?

I can see a use for them at one off destinations eg festivals but without a mahoosive generator you are going to need a lot of battery power. Then you'll be belching out a load of diesel fumes so a bunch of sandal wearers can recharge their EVs...

What sort of cost would it be to decide I wanted to recharge in the middle of Wales where there are sod all rapid chargers? With brass neck and an portable charger you can get a 10amp charge just about anywhere.

Personally I think it is a duff idea. What might be better might be to have battery storage facilities in remote areas that charge themselves up and offer a faster than 7kw charge at a premium price for those that get stuck somewhere.

Old telephone boxes might be suitable locations as they already have electricity I'm assuming and a phone line so I guess there would be some kind of broadband. Even basic broadband is usually more reliable than wonky mobile data connections.
 

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It's an interesting idea.

Note that Renault customers with leased batteries already have breakdown cover that includes running out of charge - not sure if they try and charge you up again or just take you to somewhere you can charge up again. Not sure if other EV makes have similar.

I guess the pricing would be key - how will the price of this service compare to the (moderate) inconvenience of having to plan a journey around expected range and existing charging infrastructure? You won't really be able to compete on time-to-charge since (assuming someone's journey has some working rapid chargers en route) the limiting factor will be the car.

On longer trips an EV driver would have to stop and charge anyway, and stopping at a motorway services means they'll likely also be able to have something to eat and "use the facilities" while they wait. I suppose in the scenario where a driver is counting on a rapid charger to be available and finds it out of action, you could swoop in and save the day...
 

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The RAC were toying with this at one stage but don't think they took it further than a concept.

The big problem is that as battery sizes/ranges improve and chargers become more prevalent the business would only have a very short lifespan and hardly worth all the trouble/investment.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Interesting responses - but to be clear I would aim to supply rapid charging capability, upwards of 50kW so it could charge 50% in around an hour. My thinking is that when making longer journeys where a stop is needed, it will give people the option to stop anywhere, having to stop at a services for half an hour to an hour is not very fun or interesting and people with petrol cars would rarely stop there for more than 10 minutes. If you could instead stop in a small town or even a big city (or in the middle of nowhere if you so wish) and still have access to essentially a supercharger. You would essentially be able to order a supercharger wherever you want, just set a time and location and it would be there.

As for pricing of course it would have to be reasonable, and that may come with scale. It would most likely start as a very premium and expensive service. But I would aim for costs to be around £20 per month. Thanks for the replies and let me know if you think this has changed your mind.
 

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It's an interesting idea but I would say it would not be economically viable. How many charges are you likely to provide in one day? How much would you be able to charge per charge? Say you were a one man band, the revenue from the charges will have to cover the daily costs of running a van (public liability insurance etc), DC batteries, and a man (you) to drive it around.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
So I'm thinking it would be subscription based, customer pays a certain amount a month, in return can get supercharger level charging wherever they go, they just book a time slot and location and they'll be met there. If it was capable of 50kW it could half charge in about an hour, less depending on the model. So a single van could possibly do three or four charges a day so long as it stayed in the same region.

Picture going online, booking a time slot, saying where you'll be in that slot, and being met there by a supercharger - does that sound any better? It would also cover breakdowns, but thats more obvious and simple.
 

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In cases of running out of battery, Renault assistance just flatbed you to a charger and then you charge up there.

I'm sorry, but I don't think your business model is going to work.
Let's assume you can charge someone satisfactorily in 40 minutes. You need to allow an extra 10 minutes either side of this to cover late customers and packing up. Let's assume you need to travel for 30 minutes between appointment. So that's 1 customer per hour and a half. Cost of employee = £11.25. Cost of electricity - 30kWh @ 15p each = £4.50. Cost of fuel to get into position - 30 minutes driving a diesel = £3 (assume diesel - if electric then you need to build time spent charging your vehicle, depending on your travel distances) .
Total cost per customer = £18.25 + amortization cost of equipment. And that's going to be a hell of a battery to deliver 30kWh 6 times during the day, each day. Then there's tax and whatever else I've left out. And that's the best case scenario - at your 3-4 charges a day that's over £20 per customer plus fixed costs.

Cost of the same charge at a motorway ecotricity point ~£7.
Polar subscription, getting you mostly free charging at thousands of points ~ £9 (after VAT).

The problem with subscription services is that until you have a critical mass of customers, you're just burning cash. I find it hard to believe you can either a) gain a critical mass of subscribers, b) get a backer who will fund the capital start up costs and the years of running at a loss until you hit that critical mass.

Good luck, but if this was dragons den, I'd be out!
 

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What Duncan said.

Also, I'll take issue with
having to stop at a services for half an hour to an hour is not very fun or interesting and people with petrol cars would rarely stop there for more than 10 minutes. If you could instead stop in a small town or even a big city (or in the middle of nowhere if you so wish)
Stopping at a services might not be the most awesome experience, but you can eat, drink, have a pee, maybe grab some stuff such as flowers or other gifts, buy a meal to have at home, all whilst the car is charging.

You also dont have to divert out of your way or fight through traffic to visit a services (in general, obviously). Little of this fits with stopping in a small town or the middle of nowhere, which also gives you the issue of a large number of service people rushing to far flung locations, which is very expensive since they cant service many people s they spend more time traveling between them.

Some people are already taking issue with electricity at 50p a unit, yours would inevitably have to be more costly as you dont have the economies of scale that a supplier at a point multiple people pass through, eg a services, has. You also dont have the reach that a national rescue service does, which i woudld think about 99% of people with a BEV would have as ultimate backup anyway.

I'd say this idea is a non-starter :D
 

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As others have said, I don't think chasing EV drivers around the country with a charging van is going to work financially. Also, over the next 3 years a huge expansion of fixed site rapids is likely to take place, which could destroy your business. I almost setup some community WIFI with a business partner, but we knew as soon as we had a few hundred customers BT would swoop in and offer them FTTC.

Maybe you could focus on event based charging. For example setting up a couple of temporary rapids as Silverstone at a race weekend or at Glastonbury during the festival. These are less attractive to fixed site operators as won't get much businesses other times of year. If you had to be onsite with your charging van, you could also offer valet charging. There will be plenty of Tesla and (in future) Jag and Porsche owners who are "too posh to plug".
 

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Firstly, is it be something you would be interested in? To be clear we would offer breakdown cover for when you run out of charge; we would send a van/truck to recharge your battery, ideally about 50% in under an hour.
In 3 1/2 years of EV driving we've never run out.

TBH I don't think people run out that often. Nissan and several others offer flatbed recovery to a nearby charging station if you do run out.



Have you considered a semi-mobile system to fill holes in the charging network?

The event base idea above is another good one.

For example I want to go to Wales Ralley GB but most of the locations are at or just beyond my round trip range. To make things worse the EH rapid chargers at Bangor and Oswestry are both down.


There are still large parts of the UK that are black spots. Many of them don't have the electrical network capacity for even a single 50kW rapid chargers. Something like a trailer full of batteries powering a couple of rapid chargers might just work.
 

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As well as the Event based options, maybe there would be a business model for offering van based charging at Ecotricity chargers that are broken? Maybe it's even a service you could sell to Ecotricity (or other chargepoint providers) - a sort of high availability "patch". Maybe the B2B side of things would be a more reliable revenue than a B2C setup? At least that way you get paid without having to build a network of subscribers. Hell, you could also use your van as a way of proving demand at given locations - kinda like a trial fit of a rapid. You wouldn't necessarily need a fleet of geographically diverse vans for this business model, but obviously it requires a motivated network to be a good customer (and they might not be thick on the ground).
 

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Picture going online, booking a time slot, saying where you'll be in that slot, and being met there by a supercharger - does that sound any better?
OK.

Would you meet me at
N52 25.812 W3 42.450 at 9AM on October 26th?

And

N52 40.473 W3 42.504 at 8AM on Friday 27th October.


These are the sorts of places I'd be likely to ask for a charge.
 

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The only possible customer base for a mobile charge station would seem to be those without home charging. The stumbling block is quite simply cost.
Have you fully costed a reliable van to carry the expensive self contained charger unit, add on the wages of the operator and other employment costs, add VAT and how much is a KwH delivered ?
If you take the time to read many of the charging discussions on this site you will soon realise that cost is very important to offset the premium costs of EVs.
It might be that you have been reading such sources of information as the recent RAC report on charging, or BBC reports on the National Grid.. May I suggest that you research deeply on the internet to find other articles , some by companies like Nissan , setting out the industries plans for the future of EVs and EV charging. Nissan for one are working on using the self driving feature of future cars to take the car to a nearby charger during the time it is not in use.
Don't be put off by negative comments, we need forward looking engineers in the UK . So good luck.
 

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Dont forget to give a 50kwh charge you will need to put a 50+kwh charge into an on board pack, That will take as much time and effort as giving it out so if a charge to a punter takes 30 mins the recharge will be a bit in excess of that and cost a fair bit . Unless the power is to be provided by an onboard generator, in which case thats going to be one muther of a genny.
I do see an option for a smallrapid charge as a get you home option, but only a small level of charge, and a small level of investment. The pack and kit to do this will be many many thousands £. Thats a lot of usage and power in and out to recover the costs. The heat management is going to be a serious issue. Still no need for a heater in the van.
 

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Many people have done the maths here in various ways and it doesn't work whichever way it is calculated. I did a back of fag packet reality check as well and found it to be a non starter in a few minutes.

Yesterday you proposed £20 pm subs and then a van being able to do 3 or 4 services per day as long as they were close together. A van with driver and admin costs has to be £2500pm.

( Probably a lot more if the capital cost of a huge battery pack has to be factored in )

4 x 50 kWh power per day = 6000 units pm @ 10p = £600. Misc admin and insurance etc £400pm. Total circa £3500pm.

£3500/20 = 175 members required in order to cover costs.

3 to 4 slots per day = circa 100 slots per month.

Meaning that in any one month 75 members have no slot and the other 100 are rationed to one only. And that's assuming that all 100 slots are relatively close to each other. Following month those 75 members who asked for a slot but were denied will leave. The remaining 100 who were rationed to one slot per month now have to pay £35 pm. Most would refuse and its goodnight Vienna.

Sorry but this is basically a non starter as proposed. I'm not even sure if it work as an emergency call out service as an alternative to a flat-bed truck recovery as the costs would be just as prohibitive.
 

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@ greg sheen
Can you can make a towable generator trailer that you could drop off anywhere. This would essentially turn an empty battery EV into a temporary hybrid allowing the user to complete a long journey. You could also pick one up before going on holiday and drive to lands-end on without having to stop.
 

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@ greg sheen
Can you can make a towable generator trailer that you could drop off anywhere. This would essentially turn an empty battery EV into a temporary hybrid allowing the user to complete a long journey. You could also pick one up before going on holiday and drive to lands-end on without having to stop.
A. Its already been done. and 2. You cannot lawfully Tow with a LEAF.
 

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The need for a petrol tanker to meet you somewhere has never existed anywhere in the world. This is no different.

Try again fella cause it ain’t going anywhere and the startup costs will be huge! Also imagine getting one booking in Inverness and one in Cornwall.
 
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