James McKemey

James McKemey

James McKemey, Head of Policy & Public Affairs at Pod Point, shares details of the company’s journey and the challenges ahead for EV charging

The EV charging landscape is one of growth and with new organisations coming into the fold over the years, more recent emphasis on the infrastructure that powers electric cars has driven that growth further. 

Organisations navigated some of the biggest industry challenges over the past few years, including the global pandemic and market pressures, yet electrification still progresses and more and more are coming around to the idea of an entirely electricity-powered transport network somewhere in the future. 

First came the EV, then came the infrastructure to support it—the former evolving rapidly and leaving charging businesses to catch up in order for electrification to seem likely. 

Catching up with one of Sustainability LIVE London’s great speakers, we’re keen to find out what makes a successful EV charging business. Who better to speak to than the Head of Policy & Public Affairs of one of the UK’s ultimate charging providers Pod Point. James McKemey answered some questions about the company, its journey since its founding in 2009, and insights that will help further charging operators and product developers to deliver what the world’s transport needs. 

This conversation follows McKemey’s keynote session at Sustainability LIVE London, ‘Charging Up: The Road to 2030’.

Explain, in a nutshell, Pod Point's growth over the past year.​​​​​​​

The past year or so has posed challenges including post-pandemic vehicle supply issues, inflationary pressures and cost of living crisis—particularly the dramatic spike in the cost of electricity.  However, we are pleased with progress made so far this year which included several high-profile contract wins with large UK housebuilders (Barratt’s and Redrow) and, in particular, the launch of our new Grid Business Unit. Alongside helping customers reduce costs and carbon emissions, the Grid business unit will be developing recurring revenue streams from across Pod Point’s growing network of over 212,000 connected charge points—which remains by far the largest in the UK. We also signed our first commercial grid load management agreement and experienced significant improvements in our supply chain operations and an increase in our recurring revenues.  

What role did disruption play in the success of EVs and, in turn, Pod Point?

Ultimately the EV is a disruptive technology, a better car, a more convenient way of using them (top up charging at your destination vs making trips to refuel), that will disrupt the supremacy of the fossil fuel industry in the coming decades. With the fortunes of the charging sector inextricably linked to the fortunes of the EV, we expect Pod Point’s success will continue to track the success of the EV.

What is the biggest challenge for EV users—public charging or at-home charging? 

Home charging is the most convenient, and usually the most affordable way to charge an EV. Up to 72% of drivers have access to off-street parking at home that will enable most to charge overnight.

For those who can’t charge at home, many will charge very easily at their workplaces, but there are those who will be solely reliant on public charging. There is no single solution, it will be a mix of widespread destination charging, potentially on-street charging and maybe some more regular use of high-powered charging. Either way there is still a lot of work to do to build the charging infrastructure we’ll need to support the mass uptake of electric cars over the next decade, but that work is well underway.

Pod Point’s public network is one of the largest and most used in the UK. Our strategy is to work with commercial partners to fit charging infrastructure into their existing, popular locations, which drivers naturally visit anyway (e.g. supermarkets, station car parks, gyms etc). This has been a success and has proven popular with EV drivers. 

What are the economic benefits to drivers through EVs from a charging perspective? 

Charging an electric car at home is the most convenient and cost-effective way to keep your car fully charged, costing about £17 for a full charge and providing about 200 miles of range. Most drivers will charge their electric car overnight, waking up to a full battery every morning. By switching to a dual-rate electricity tariff designed specifically for EV drivers you could reduce this even further. But it is possible to save money charging in public, versus filling with petrol, with competitive tariffs found on numerous public charging networks.

As well as the “fuel” cost savings, EVs have vastly fewer moving parts and thus have substantially reduced maintenance requirements. EVs have no clutches, exhausts, cam belts, timing belts, head gaskets, etc etc. These reduced requirements mean reduced operating costs.

How is Pod Point leveraging digital to create more convenience for EV users? 

We recently integrated our Pod Point App to the National Grid Carbon Intensity forecast so as to indicate to EV drivers the optimal times to charge to reduce the carbon footprint of their charging, and thus driving.

The success of the Grid Business Unit will depend wholly on leveraging digital capabilities of our charging network to meet the requirements of demand side response markets of different kinds.

How do you expect the charging landscape to evolve in the coming years? 

With the need to move to zero emissions, EVs are going to win. Even without the 2035 ban, they’re the best cars we’ve developed and will soon be cheaper to make and drive than ICE cars. We’re going to need to install a lot of EV charging infrastructure. While the exact proportions across the charging ecosystem may be unclear, we will definitely require millions of home and work chargers, hundreds of thousands of destination chargers, and thousands of en route chargers. With so much scale to come, the future outlook for EV charging infrastructure is undeniably bright.

How will Pod Point respond to those trends?

Pod Point will continue to focus on the needs of EV drivers, aiming to make living with an EV as easy as possible.

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