‘We’ve copped some hate’: The Melbourne tradies battling EV charging woes - SUV VEHICLE

‘We’ve copped some hate’: The Melbourne tradies battling EV charging woes

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The owners of one of Australia’s first mobile EV charging businesses have revealed the real reason electric car owners get stuck on the side of the road – and the struggles they faced in building their brand.

As electricians, Daniel Henry and Toby Batters-Holding were spending their days travelling around Melbourne when they started noticing more and more electric vehicles stuck on the side of the road with little to no help.

“Where we are down the [Mornington] Peninsula, we started seeing so many Teslas and all EV makes occasionally getting towed and we thought what’s happening here? Are they breaking down?” Mr Batters-Holding tells Drive.

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“We just noticed EVs were going flat and they needed [roadside] service. It just sparked an idea within ourselves to try and eliminate that.”

In 2023, the pair invested in a diesel truck, converting it to carry a 60kW DC charger that can recharge an electric car’s battery to 80 per cent in 45 minutes.

The business operates 24/7 around Melbourne and its surrounds, and customers can choose a subscription service that starts from $5.50 a week and covers two free emergency charges a year (plus scheduled charging depending on the subscription) or pay for a one-off emergency charge for $380.

While mobile EV charging is not a new concept, Australia’s EV industry is currently in its infancy, leaving room for the two 20-somethings to lead the charge in addressing range anxiety and the relative lack of roadside fast-charging services.

Interestingly, while the pair originally started their business – Mobile EV Charging – with the sole purpose of rescuing EV owners with flat batteries, a lot of their customers have simply been drivers unwilling to wait in long lines at public charging stations.

“We’ve had people wanting to skip the lines, they just don’t want to wait an hour or so, we just come and charge [their vehicles] and send them on their way,” Mr Henry says.

Though critics of Australia’s public charging network often point to a lack of infrastructure in remote locations, the co-owners say they are often called out to Melbourne’s CBD where there is a large concentration of public chargers.

“We’ve had a few cases where a charger is faulty and the car is flat and there’s no other way to get it out. We’re able to go in there and give them enough range,” he adds.

“A lot of [our calls] are in the city, more specifically [at] car parks. It’s people that live close by and that might be their closest charger [but it’s not available].”

Unsurprisingly, Tesla Model 3s are the most common vehicle the pair sees on call-outs due to the electric car maker’s overwhelming popularity in Australia.

Being an early adopter often leads to public scrutiny, and Mobile EV Charging has faced criticism for its use of diesel trucks, something the two owners are well aware of.

“At this point, our trucks are still standard diesel trucks, but [converting to electric] is something we’re definitely looking at when it becomes more feasible,” Mr Batters-Holding says.

“We did look at the JAC electric truck [that has] a 200km range, [but] for what we’re doing when it’s those callouts that might be three hours away, it’s just not [realistic] at the moment,” he adds.

“If [manufacturers] can bring a truck [to Australia] that has a $100,000 price point [and] has 600km of range, that’s the point where we’d say we need to make the change.”

The two entrepreneurs don’t hesitate to share their personal opinions on the environmental debate around electric car production and its supply-chain impacts.

“We’ve copped some hate from not having electric trucks, but we noticed the production of batteries and the building of the car, [the EV industry] is obviously not as environmentally friendly as everyone says it is,” Mr Henry says.

“[The] people that have those environmental concerns, realistically their only other alternative is a tow truck and that’s going to be a much larger truck,” Mr-Batters Holding explains.

“Even if you are charging off the grid that’s certainly not green power, they’re still burning coal.”

“We understand we’re not as environmentally friendly as we can be. It’s not really feasible for us to use battery [powered-cars at the moment],” Mr Henry clarifies.

“But we’re excited about the uptake in EVs, and we just want to contribute [by helping out] those cars that are stuck on the side of the road.”

Like all new businesses, some roadblocks were hard to overcome, and for Mobile EV Charging building the truck and finding an insurer proved difficult.

“Building the truck itself was the biggest challenge. We both have full-time jobs ourselves [and] on our days off we’d work on [the truck] all day every day,” Mr Henry explains.

“Trying to find insurance was really hard too. Because no one [in Victoria] has done it, it was extremely hard to find an insurer to insure our business … we spent a week-and-a-half on phone calls every day trying to find someone that will insure us,” he adds.

“There’s no box to tick,” Mr Batters-Holding says.

The two electricians plan to expand their business to cater to more customers across Victoria and eventually other Australian states.

“The focus is Victoria at the moment … we want more vehicles on the road. We are trying to partner with a number of existing companies that offer roadside assistance,” Mr Batters-Holding says.

“Hopefully in the future, we get to a point where anyone calls from anywhere [and] we can be there within the hour.”

“Down the track, we believe that maybe our services [will be required] by ambulances, police cars … we want to set up a vehicle for that,” Mr Henry adds.

“There are no limits, we are interested in [expanding to] NSW, South Australia, Queensland and all those places.”

Taking the leap of faith from a stable job to investing in your own business can be daunting, but for the pair, the opportunity to spearhead a new industry was too good to pass on.

“It’s exciting growing something new. We can see Australia is heading that way when it comes to EVs, the government is pushing for it, if we can be the first ones [to provide an EV roadside charging service] then let’s go,” Mr Henry emphasises.

“When an idea’s in your head it’s safe, it’s never going to fail. Equally, it’s never going to go anywhere either,” Mr Batters-Holding adds.

“I think that point where you go ‘Right, this is the idea and we think it’s good’, you just have to keep telling yourself that and run with it.”

The post ‘We’ve copped some hate’: The Melbourne tradies battling EV charging woes appeared first on Drive.



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