EV Tales #4: When a Charger Becomes Your Local Charger (North-East)
Charging Company Names
They fall into three groups:
First is the 'Primary School DT project'. Marred by linguistic clumsiness these names were born at teatime when budding EV entrepreneurs asked their kids, 'What would be a good name for mummy's new company?' Remember children she's going to make charging points for el-ec-tric vehicles.' Which is why we have Ubitricity, Ecotricity, Ionity and Instavolt (the engineer pedant in me would offer InstaKiloWattHour as a more accurate yet less catchy alternative).
Group two I love. These are the raw say-it-like-it-is ones: EVgo, Charge My Street, Plug in Suffolk, Charge Place Scotland, the comforting SureCharge, the explanatory VendElectric and the borrowed-from-computing PlugnGo. These are stripped-back, minimalist names that edit out corporate spin or functional misunderstanding.
Unlike group three. Group three names seek to shape the world of EV charging and present it as a slick, fuss-free lifestyle option in which emotionally balanced, successful adults have their eco-choices affirmed through language and logo. Here they are then, get ready: Eaton, Life, Liberty Charge, BP Pulse and New Motion. Just saying those names can alter your reality. Do you see the lens flare? Hear the ambient music? Feel the impact of your last yogalates workout?
To invent your own company name, just decide which group your prefer then combine the start of one existing name with end of another:
Ecovolt; Charge My Suffolk and of course, the hipster's choice, LLM: Life-Liberty-Motion.
The rules of capitalism will no doubt drive consolidation, pruning, and distilled clustering of this rainbow of offers, if only to shield us from awkward oral challenges.
Duncan Bannatyne & Charlie Brooker
I snap out of this linguistic reverie. And slip into a visual one - 'Nosedive' - S3E1 of Charlie Brooker's exemplary Black Mirror, in which tech-fused social climber Lacie struggles farcically to travel to a wealthy school friend's wedding. This'll gain her enough status points (from 4.3 to 4.5) to qualify for a mortgage. She's thwarted at all stages of the journey by technical issues and peer ratings, most memorably, a charging lead incompatible with her old-model EV hire. If only she'd had an Onto subscription.
We make it to the North East and find my father in reasonable fettle (condition) for a nonagenarian on oxygen. He'll come for a spin later, but first a quick charge.
Instavolt in Bannatynes health club car park, courtesy of Scotland's hero entrepreneur Duncan Bannatyne.
We're learning that EV charging companies partner with brands: supermarkets, fast food, hotels and healthclubs. Like specialty gins and Fever Tree tonic. Shell Recharge with Waitrose; Ionity with anywhere posh; Genie Point with Aldi; Charge Place Scotland with Scotland; PodPoint with your house (addressing the market for home chargers); Manly Spirits Coastal Citrus Gin with Mediterranean Tonic Water.
Where to charge is as much dictated by the gin as the tonic. It makes finding a charge point easier; look for the brands and assume their charge buddy is there too. Lucy has already located a different Bannatynes for our return journey.
Communist charging must be simpler than this but not as much fun; less variety. Unbridled capitalism has spawned multiple charging companies, partnerships and logos; a diversity of charge station design, touch screen interaction flow and easy ways to pay. Some are fiercely independent, others group and cluster round a parent such as Shell or Zap Map, our very own Onto or the aspirational world-dominator, Bonnet.
Communist chargers would all look the same, be called something that roughly translates as 'Place of Community Electricity Charge for Victorious Citizen Car' and all be out of order in exactly the same way.
I mess up the park in Bannatynes and need to stretch the cable to its max, across the back of the car. A rookie error I'd say. More experienced drivers will see this and chuckle. Or laugh outright. My reason (not excuse) is that this car charges where you'd stick a conventional fossil fuel nozzle, at the back, on the rump - maybe in anticipation of the drive though flash charging of the future. But the cable is shorter than a conventional fuel hose. Gosh, there's so much to learn.
Other EVs plug in at the front. A lovely homage to the first automobiles and their crank handles. Which could break your arm if you timed it wrong. I'm assuming the electrical equivalent would offer a nasty nip too.
It feels 'not quite right' leaving the charge cable hanging from the car, as we walk into town for spot of shopping. As if we've left a pump dispensing petrol and wandered off for a coffee.
The charge to 94% takes 34 minutes and costs £11.34 which I don't pay, having a pre loaded card.
My Elderly father enjoys a quick ride round the lanes. He likes the comfy seat and he’s pleased with how quiet it is. There's a cup holder. His wife who's visually impaired is a convert. She's been worried about the coming dangers, as a visually impaired pedestrian, of not hearing an EV's approach.
She's pleased with how noisy it is.
Dad says, if he wins on the premium bonds (how gambling was sanitised for the masses in 1950s) he'll buy an EV. I look at his own car in the drive. It’s got a couple of month's sheen of dust. He insists he still drives. I feel an intervention coming on.
Later, helping him with paperwork I see a letter informing him of a £25 premium bond win. I sit with him as his portable oxygen concentrator hums and puffs away, easing his breathing through a tube resting just inside his nostrils. It's a clever bit of kit that takes in air from the room and filters out nitrogen. He's been using it more frequently and for longer periods over the last few months. He turns it on when he's running low, needs a boost. I can't help but think of EV charging.
We stay on a couple of days, top up at our local (Duncan's), then set off for West Cumbria.
In EV Tales #5, find out if we can cross the Pennines without charging, meet Oliver from BP Pulse and see what 4 homemade northern biscuits look like.