The world is changing, and a pioneering social enterprise, called Charge My Street, is helping to connect motorists to the future. HEATHER BARRON reports

THERE are two myths that Daniel Heery wants to dispel quickly – that electric cars are expensive, and that there is a lack of charging points nationally.

Daniel is a director with Charge My Street – a social enterprise that was started three years ago, to encourage and enable more people to buy and drive electric vehicles.

He was very keen to have an EV, as they are known, but he lived in a terraced house with only on-street parking. With no charging points near his home, it was a real stumbling block to making the switch. A friend was in the same position, so they decided to canvass local interest on the feasibility of installing charging points themselves.

“Most people who own EVs have a charging point on their driveway or in their garage, so they don’t have to worry about finding a public point,” explains Daniel. “We wanted to do the right thing by cutting carbon emissions, but that infrastructure just wasn’t there for us.”

Daniel put an advert, to gauge interest, in his local weekly newspaper, and had enough of a response to arrange a meeting at a nearby pub.

“A few people came to that meeting, and on the back of their interest, we did a survey, and then held a bigger meeting to feed back the results and outline how we could take it forward,” he says.

Businessiq:

Charge My Street was born from that germ of an idea, as a way of getting charge points installed locally, so that more people could make the switch from diesel or petrol and play a part in reducing national Co2 emissions.

Daniel was working with another social enterprise, called Cybermoor, which acted as a sponsor for the project, enabling them to secure funding from Innovate UK, and allowing them to get the first charge point in the ground.

This also gave them some security for when they went out to raise money from local investment through community shares.

Working across the north of England, the enterprise seeks local interest about where best to install charging points that will benefit the most people. Suggestions include car parks at community centres; hotels; shops; pubs; and local authorities.

Daniel says: “One of the biggest things that we have to get is that agreement to say ‘Yes, you can put a charge point here’. That’s because, while they often want to do their bit for the decarbonisation of transport, and greenhouse gas emissions, at the same time they have to be sensible about parking spaces, and about what happens when the car park’s full. Potentially, people can’t use certain spaces because they’re reserved for electrical vehicle drivers.

“The great thing about our work is that members of the public have come forward and suggested sites, and, through it being on the agendas of parish councils and community centres, we’re stimulating that debate within local organisations about what they should be doing about climate change and facilitating it by using assets that they control.

“And because we’re set up as a social enterprise, we try to keep costs low by working in partnership with the sites.”

Charge My Street encourages private investment by offering people the chance to be shareholders. Two successful share offers have already been launched, with plans to launch another in January.

Businessiq:

“We offer people the opportunity to make a small investment where they are interested in having charging points installed,” says Daniel. “Not only does it encourage the use of EVs, and thereby a reduction in emissions, but the shareholders will get 30 per cent off income tax of whatever they invest. There aren’t many investments that can guaranteed that sort of return.”

Tackling the myths about owning and running an electric car, Daniel says that through monthly leasing arrangements, people will pay what they can afford, in the same way that owners of petrol and diesel cars do now.

And with the price of fossil fuels being a huge issue in rural communities across County Durham and North Yorkshire, EVs effectively break the dependence on fuel price.

“By charging up with electricity at home, or through a public charger, you can save an absolute fortune in the process,” Daniel says.

Daniel is keen to encourage other environmentally friendly companies, so was delighted that Charge My Street sponsored the Environment Award in the inaugural County Durham Together Awards, organised recently by The Northern Echo, in partnership with Durham County Council.

 Having been shortlisted for awards in the past, he knows what it can mean to companies to be in the public spotlight.

“It’s amazing what a lift it can give to the organisations that participate – and actually get shortlisted,” says Daniel. “And the buzz of winning lets them walk a little bit taller.

“This award helps them particularly with their environmental and social objectives, helps bring in funding, and just gives everyone that confidence boost. Having been the beneficiary of these sort of things in the past, we wanted to try and give some of that to those organisations that are doing great work on the environment in Co Durham.”

The world is changing and, as we move closer to the UK ban on new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, Charge My Street is likely to play an increasing role in steering us towards a greener future.