Martin Gurdon

Why you no longer need a driveway to go electric

Why you no longer need a driveway to go electric
Image: ZipCharge
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Entrepreneur Jonathan Carrier reckons more people would drive electric cars if they had portable chargers in their boots. The electrical equivalent of a can of petrol.

So he's launching one. Called the ZipCharge Go, he claims it’s a design world first. There are portable battery packs that work with electric cars. Generally, these are designed for giant American recreational vehicles, some of which have their own solar panels, and if you search YouTube you’ll come across allegedly comic videos of people recharging moribund Teslas with petrol generators, but the Go has been designed from the off to charge vehicles, and has the necessary software to pair up with them.

‘The inspiration was my business partner's brother, who lives in an end of terrace house in Twickenham and bought an EV for personal use. He was always queuing to charge it up, and I thought; ‘there must be a better way,' said Carrier.

You can buy halfway house EV chargers like the ThirdRock Energy Commando Plug, which comes with various electric outputs and plug types, but still needs to be connected to a building or a piece of street furniture before it will charge a car. Carrier’s product, which uses lithium-ion battery cells, and will be sold in three different power outputs (4, 6 and 8kWh), is entirely free standing and portable. Taking a little over half an hour to charge, it provides a claimed range of about twenty miles, so would be suitable for getting you home from work rather than getting across the country.

Carrier is hoping the charger, which is set to be available in the second quarter of 2023, will have a ready market, claiming that 8.5m, or 40 per cent of car owning households in Britain don’t have access to off street parking, so the luxury of a reasonably rapid home charging box is denied them.

Carrier has a background in vehicle engineering, as does Richie Sibal, ZipCharge’s co-founder (the pair have worked for the likes of Lotus, Jaguar and McLaren) and talks about how the Go’s light, space frame aluminium sub structure is a homage to the way some sports cars are built.

It can be charged in a domestic setting using a regular three pin socket (or ‘granny plug,’ as Carrier puts it), and will do this during the cheapest tariff periods.

It’s designed to be used as a household power source as well as a vehicle charger, and its co-creator envisions buyers making use of power saved by the Go during cheaper periods instead of taking juice direct from the grid when it’s more expensive.

Wind and solar power generation have the advantage of producing a lot of electricity with zero emissions when the weather is right, but are relatively useless when it isn’t, and Carrier sees his device as having potential to store some of that energy when it’s being generated, to be used when there’s a lack of wind or sun.

‘When it’s not being used as a charger, our device can be plugged into the home and be used to feed electricity back into the grid,’ said Carrier. ‘We can save people a significant amount of energy, that would pay for EV charging with some surplus.’ Apparently, this ability to discharge both AC and DC current makes the Go ‘bi-directional.’

Electric cars are hefty things thanks to their batteries, and around 25kg for the 4kWh and under 49kg for the 8kWh Go, this box of electric tricks is no lightweight either, although its creator points out that its light enough to be taken on a plane, and being on wheels will help when moving it about.

If it’s left on a street plugged into your car, will they also help nefarious types from making off with it? Carrier doesn’t think so. The cabling locks on, the handle acts as a tether, and it's controlled by a phone app. There are tracking, remote disabling functions and a ‘geo-fencing’ facility that means it will only work in a designated street, should you find your Go has gone. Whether the more gormless thieving practitioners will be deterred from reaching for their bolt cutters remains to be seen.

How much will it cost? The outright purchase price hasn’t been officially announced (think £1,500-£2,000, so not cheap), and the company is also touting a subscription model at around £49 a month.

All this could have been yours now were it not for the component shortage that has resulted in 18-month waiting lists for some electric cars. ‘We have a supply chain problem, with lead times of 52 weeks for some components,’ said Carrier.

But the new technology will surely allay fears from terraced home owners and those living in flats that they will be left behind in the push for more EVs and the phasing out of petrol cars. As more powerful and efficient chargers reach the market, living in these sorts of properties needn't be a barrier to going electric.