Car retail giant Arnold Clark is investing £23 million in electric vehicle (EV) rapid chargers in a bid to create an Arnold Clark Charge network that addresses motorists EV anxiety.
In an exclusive interview with AM, chief executive Eddie Hawthorne revealed that the first delivery of around 560 150kW rapid charge points are due to arrive in the UK ahead of their installation of four-to-eight charge points at 80 dealership locations spanning the UK.
Access to the network will be 24/7, where possible, with charge point sessions booked via the Arnold Clark app and out-of-hours site access granted via a barrier ANPR-activated barrier system.
And while the new venture opens the door to incentives for customers of the AM100 retailer, Hawthorne said the plan was to benefit all EV owners.
“One of the things we have learned from our EV Innovation Centres is that people are becoming more and more educated towards EVs. The current problem for people considering making the switch isn’t range anxiety but charging anxiety,” he said.
“If you have a charger at home or at work that is fine but if you are going any distance then there is the constant worry about whether the charge point will be working, if there will be a lengthy queue and how much it will charge.
“Our USP will be that you will have the security of a booked slot at a well-lit facility where there will be a security presence and help on hand, should you require, it during daytime hours.”
Arnold Clark’s plans will see the Arnold Clark Charge network extend from Inverness to Southampton, but Hawthorne conceded that a charging tariff for its use had yet to be settled upon.
An additional £10m investment in the installation in solar panels at dealerships across the UK will aim to deliver around 30% of the electricity required at various sites for around 6p per kWh.
He suggested that the success of that might have a bearing on the cost of an Arnold Clark Charge.
“We want to undercut the rate offered by charging providers already in the market,” he told AM.
“I look at some providers who charge a £2 connection fee, then 70p/kWh and £40 if you overstay your welcome. I’m not into that. We want to do things differently.”
Acquisition of EV charge point installer
And while the connected charge point hardware that will underpin Arnold Clark Charge is being delivered by KemPower, Hawthorne revealed that Arnold Clark will also be able to extend its EV expertise – which already includes EV Innovation centres in Glasgow and Stafford – thanks to its acquisition of its own charge point installation provider.
Arnold Clark has completed the acquisition of East Kilbride-based start-up Bumblebee for an initial investment of £2.5m and Hawthorne is keen to accelerate the growth of the business to the point where it has nationwide coverage and the scale to install 600 charge points a month.
Central to the Bumblebee offering a BeeCharged app, which can facilitate the installation of community-shared EV charge points in flats and housing developments.
“For car buyers that are hesitant about the prospect of moving to zero emissions transport what this means is that we have the expertise and the resources within Arnold Clark to answer all their questions and fulfil all their needs,” said Hawthorne.
“Our Innovation Centres have been a huge success, but to be able to offer practical solutions to customers that really help them take that step is what this is all about.”
Alluding to the strict new EV sales quotas that are likely to be ushered in by the UK Government’s EV Mandate, which is currently under consultation, he added: “It’s not as though we’re swimming against the tide with any of this.
“If OEMs are going to be compelled to sell 22% of their vehicles as EVs next year then we need to start removing the obstacles customers are facing, and quickly.”