Business ideas for 2017: Electric charge point installer

The electric vehicles market is set to truly explode in the next decade. Could you capitalise by helping to build the UK's network of charge points?

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Do you drive a diesel? Unleaded? By 2025 your vehicle may be as good as obsolete.

Hard to believe the pace of change will lead us to such a scenario in just eight years, but all the signals are pointing to electric vehicles (EV) dominating the market in the next decade.

And electric vehicles will need charging, so expect to see the appearance of charge points all over the UK – in your friends and families’ homes, your workplaces, the supermarket, and street corners.

This will inevitably lead to peripheral business opportunities in the automotive market, in this case an army of people capable of building the supporting network of charging points.

So, back to the promise of market dominance and why we’re so confident this is a strong business opportunity.

Accountancy giant KPMG published its annual global automotive executive survey at the start of the year. It surveyed over 1,000 executives across 42 countries and found that nine out of 10 of them expect battery electric vehicles to dominate the marketplace by 2025.

There seems no doubt now the electric vehicle market is at something of a tipping point. The vision of oft-cited entrepreneurial hero, Tesla Motors co-founder Elon Musk, is becoming a reality, with Tesla planning to build 500,000 electric vehicles a year from 2018. Audi, BMW, VW, Nissan and all the major manufacturers are now putting their electric plans front and centre.

Governments are acting too. Norway, has been leading the way, with reports mid-2016 that petrol-powered cars would be banned entirely by 2025. Around a quarter of the Scandinavian nation’s cars already run on electricity, with Norway a huge producer of renewable energy. While there remains a modicum of resistance, the country has turbo-charged uptake by introducing a series of tax incentives.

Driven by the need to cut CO2 emissions by at least 80% by 2050, the UK is beginning to follow suit. In his first and last Autumn Statement, chancellor Philip Hammond announced workplace charging grants and 100% first year capital allowances for workplace charging.

Starting an electric vehicle charging installer business: Why it’s a good business idea

In just three years it is forecast that electric vehicles will make up to 10% of all new car sales. Last year over 35,000 plug-in vehicles were registered in the UK according to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). This compares with little over 1,000 in 2011, a five-year growth rate of almost 3,000%.

And the perception of white van drivers may also be set to change to that of a more environmentally conscious band. The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) and SMMT reported that by the end of last year, some 85,000 Plug-in Car and Van Grant scheme claims had been made.

So, with this being so, the UK still needs the infrastructure to support such take-up. But we’re not suggesting you start manufacturing charging points.

Others, such as POD Point (which has sold over 27,000 charging points), Rolec, Chargemaster, Elektromotive, Schneider Electric, Evolt, and EV-Box, have stolen a march there and the barriers and costs of entry are almost certainly prohibitive for all but the most innovative or deep-pocketed entrepreneurs. Instead, qualified electricians looking to set up on their own and make their new business stand out will be well-placed if they make electric vehicle charging installation a central part of their plan.

You won’t be the first to have such an idea, but that doesn’t make it a bad one. The government has helpfully published a list of authorised installers and not all will make the most of selling their specialist knowledge effectively.

Electric vehicle business opportunities

With demand set to multiply faster than gremlins from a mogwai taking a swim, there is likely to be a lot of work to go round.

In London, a fifth of new development car parking spaces require charging points. And if you’re located in or near Bristol, Nottingham, or Milton Keynes too, all the better. Together with London, each one has been awarded a share of £40m to promote green vehicle technology.

But as an electric vehicle charging point installer, you’re not going to be limited to ‘smarter’ cities. Supermarkets, retail parks, hotels, service stations, shopping malls will all have charging points UK-wide. Workplaces that manage fleets and serviced offices will roll out the the option. And before long it won’t just be a novelty in residential areas.

Make yourself an expert on the differences between the various manufacturers’ products, gain the required training and authorisation, and you could share your knowledge to gain a reputation in a fast-growing market.

The Electric Vehicle Charge Point Installation (C&G 2919) course or the C&G 2919-01 Electric Car / Vehicle Charging Point Installers Course through Tradeskills4u are good places to start.

Insider opinion

Rajiv Bhatia, founder of Alternergy, a leading wholesaler and distributor within the solar energy market, is one who has recognised the scale of the opportunity, with his company offering a comprehensive guide and training in some of the EV charging manufacturers’ solutions. He said:

“The growth of the electric vehicle market in the last two years has been phenomenal and is expected to continue growing exponentially. This will require an extensive charging network, both domestic and commercial.

“The EV charging sector is a hugely interesting market for installers and we are very excited about the long term prospects for this industry. For businesses already installing PV, electric vehicle charging offers a perfect complement as the customer often require both.”

David Bushnell, product manager – mobility, of fleet car management company Alphabet UK commented on the rising use of electric vehicles among businesses:

“Following the chancellor’s recent announcement during the Autumn Statement that ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs) will be exempt from new proposed salary sacrifice changes – as well as the investment of £390m in electric vehicles (EVs) and connected vehicles, plus new workplace charging grants and 100% first year capital allowances for workplace charging – 2017 will hopefully see fleet managers across the UK begin to take ULEVs and the benefits they offer to both the business and its employees more seriously.

“There is a concern that the tax changes proposed in 2016 could put a brake onto ULEV adoption until 2020, but fleet decision makers need to be putting into place now their plans to adapt to the connected ULEV future.”

“With the huge leaps forward taking place in lithium-ion battery technology and induction charging, I expect 2017 to be the year when affordable, 200-mile range plus Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) step out of the shadow of plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) and really start to take hold in the heartland of company car fleets for the first time.”

Published Jan 2017

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