October 20th, 2020 by Jacek Fior
“I want it fast and I want it free” would probably be the best summary of how I feel about EV charging. Some of you will say it’s naive and some will say it doesn’t reflect market principles — and I will repeat that I want it fast and I want it free.
As a reminder, I will say that I live in Poland, where e-mobility is mostly growing in political statements while real progress is slow and unimpressive. This is not to say that Polish people don’t like it, or that we rebel against it more than other nations. A simple fact is that most of us can’t afford it. We are the homeland of second-hand cars. Even in this sector, an average age of an imported second-hand car is above 11 years. Most of us calculate the here and now — what matters is low price, while total cost of ownership (TCO) remains a mystery to most*. With a limited market for second-hand EVs, and their high residual value, the game changer is, or could be, low charging costs.
(*Editor’s note: While TCO articles are very popular among CleanTechnica writers and readers, I think it’s the case that TCO is seldom considered anywhere outside of fleets.)
This is where ChargePolska steps in and says: check! And by doing so makes me and many other EV advocates happy. Similar to what Volta Charging is doing, and inspired by Volta, ChargePolska has just launched its pilot free charging service. The network is planned as an advertising platform offering brands a targeted audience and an opportunity for companies to deliver on their sustainability goals. The person behind the project is Matt Tymowski, whom we first met at our Cleantech Tour conference back in 2017 and interviewed right before the event. Matt’s viewpoint on rising charging rates is quite clear and aligns with what I believe:
“We [ChargePolska] don’t think that’s fair for drivers looking to make the move to clean, electric transport. Low alternative fuel costs have definitely been a pull-factor for prospective EV owners. Taking that away from the equation will have a negative effect on the ICE to EV conversion rate for Poland.”
All EV owners in Poland are still early adopters, and as such, they do it for the right reasons — climate-change awareness, clean air, and, of course … the fun of driving). That also means that we are still faced with the higher costs of this new technology and anything that diminishes the burden is most welcome.
We don’t enjoy big, fat cash incentives here, nor are we spoilt with ubiquitous charging stations. What ChargePolska is trying to do could seriously help people make the move towards an electrified vehicle (yes, PHEV included), as the numbers will add up. My own decision to buy a PHEV coincided with launching my solar PV roof installation to make sure that I have clean and free energy at hand to offset the higher cost of the car itself.
The breakthrough for ChargePolska was a partnership with ride-hailing giant Bolt, who decided to get involved and test the capabilities of the project. The deal is quite simple – EV owners receive free charging in exchange for being exposed to smart advertising and possibly some more benefits, such as discounts, promotional codes, etc.
Remembering that making money on pay-per-kWh is still a challenge, especially in places like Poland, this approach seems to be a no-brainer and ChargePolska will simple pave the way for others to follow.
Investing a lot of money in the infrastructure and selling kWh to very few asks for creativity (or ample EU funding), which doesn’t end with advertising. What other services are we going to see around charging stations? Time will tell. I have a few ideas myself, which I’ll share another day.
As for ChargePolska, I do hope it will be able to attract good sustainable advertising, stay away from greenwashing, and promote good behavior. That, of course, won’t be easy, and I’m open to being very understanding even if they accept advertising from Toyota. At the end of the day, the end justifies the means, and the end here is more electrified vehicles on our roads.
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