With petrol and diesel prices recently reaching a record high, it’s little wonder that more and more people – fed up with being held over an oil barrel – are turning to EVs.
September was the best month for new battery-electric vehicles, grabbing a market share of 15.2 per cent with 32,721 sales, according to the SMMT. And with the impending 2030 ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars, that’s a figure that is only going to increase.
Helping dealers to get the edge with EV customers is Rightcharge – the comparison site for chargers and tariffs.
Established in 2019 by Charlie Cook, its strategy is to build partnerships with showrooms, dealership groups and leasing companies as well as car manufacturers – and it’s been paying dividends for retailers ever since.
Such is Rightcharge’s standing in the sector that industry giants Lookers (one of the UK’s largest car retailers) and Leasing.com (the UK’s biggest car leasing comparison site) recently came on board to join others choosing it as their recommended partner for EV charging.
Cook, who is Rightcharge’s chief executive, told Car Dealer: ‘Ultimately, what we really want to do is provide a customer experience that helps dealerships sell more electric vehicles and to make going electric easier for their customers.
‘There is a financial benefit that we offer our partners, but I’d say probably the biggest reason that our partners choose us is because of the reputation that gives them in the market, because they’re now able to offer the driver a recommendation on the charger that’s right for them, a quick and easy installation experience, and savings on both the up-front cost of their charger as well as their ongoing energy bills.’
Rightcharge looks at a customer’s lifestyle, including whether they might buy more chargers in future, as well as their home situation.
Based on that, it can recommend not just the best charger but also the most economical tariff – a service woefully lacking elsewhere.
Rightcharge shows drivers a selection of home chargers and EV-friendly tariffs that are ranked on their suitability for the driver based on their home, car and driving habits.
Drivers are offered the best installation rates from a panel of more than 50 vetted charge point installation companies – giving Rightcharge one of the biggest installation networks in the UK.
Any particular region – from Land’s End to the Orkneys – is covered by anywhere from three to 20 different installation companies.
‘It all goes into making sure that when customers make their first choice on a charge point, they’re choosing something that they’re not going to come back and want to replace in a couple of years because they realise that something else might have been a better option for them,’ said Cook.
‘I experienced drivers being offered a single brand of charger at the dealership point of sale and then going online, spending 12 months looking at Facebook groups and then subsequently learning that actually they should have invested in something more suitable that would have saved them money.
‘So they have ended up spending another five, six, seven hundred pounds on a replacement charge point, and that could have been avoided.
‘And that’s a pretty negative association for the person who sold you your car if you feel like that’s information that you should have had up front.
‘However, I’m definitely seeing a shift today. Dealerships want to give an informed choice so that they demonstrate their expertise, build trust and win repeat business.
‘They’re much more likely to want to come back, as they’ll have faith that the same sales executive will give them the right support for their next vehicle too.
‘The big benefit is the ability to sell more cars, which is obviously something all of our partners are interested in.’
So, the customer is happy but are there more immediate benefits for a dealership? Indeed there are.
‘The secondary benefit is we work on a revenue share model, whereby we offer a commission to the dealership for each charge point that’s installed, and that can be reinvested into the business or it can be offered to sales executives as an incentive to support customers with smart-charging,’ said Cook.
So the reassurance that dealers can give via Rightcharge, by making it as easy as possible for customers to understand the sometimes bewildering EV world of chargers and tariffs, is a win-win.
‘Because what isn’t possibly widely known is that when people charge their cars, they can make a difference to their bank balance as well as the environment,’ said Cook.
‘Using Rightcharge can not only help save the average driver more than £150 a year in energy costs, but it can also cut carbon emissions by 25 per cent by incentivising drivers to smart-charge overnight to access off-peak electricity rates.
‘Our electricity is actually cleaner overnight than it is during the evening.
‘Essentially, power overnight comes mostly from clean sources like wind, whereas during the evening when everyone gets home and switches their oven, TV and kettle on, that’s when the electricity demand peaks.
‘To meet that demand, gas turbines across the country are turned up.
‘And so, the average emissions mix of the grid is at its dirtiest, if you like, although the technical way of saying that is the grid carbon intensity is highest during the evening and lowest overnight.
‘It’s basically a perfect scenario for a customer, because not only is the cheapest time to use the electricity in the early hours of the morning, it’s also the cleanest time.
‘And from the dealership’s perspective, they’ve got the ability to provide a simple solution that gives that extra USP – they can discuss those financial savings that are available, so they can bring down the total cost of ownership in that conversation with the customer.’
Cook continued: ‘We want to try to make smart-charging the norm and not the exception.
‘A recent Ofgem report* revealed that buying an electric vehicle hadn’t changed what consumers look for in a home energy tariff or how they use their energy.
‘This shows a lack of awareness of smart energy tariffs and their benefits for the consumer. I think every driver is going to appreciate that sort of insight from the company they buy their car from.’
As touched on earlier, the fuel crisis has acted as a kind of wake-up call, with Rightcharge seeing a 40 per cent increase in business from August to September alone.
‘The rise in fuel prices has definitely made people think electric could be the answer because they can refuel at home. How much easier is that? To be able to just plug in like I plug my phone in and not have to worry about having to rush out to a petrol station ever again?’ said Cook.
What’s more, that £150-plus saving mentioned earlier is only going to increase.
‘That number was £580 a year up until about a month ago, so the saving has been cut, but the big thing for dealers to point out to their customers is that savings still exist – EV drivers are one of the only kind of energy customer that can actually save by switching.
‘And when the energy market returns to some form of normality, which of course it will – hopefully in the next six, if not 12, months – then the savings opportunities are going to go back to the multiple hundreds of pounds: £300, £400, £500. There are only rosier days ahead for EV drivers.
‘It’s a very positive outlook, and one that I think auto retailers can really use to pleasantly surprise their customers.’
Supply bottlenecks eliminated in sector
The Rightcharge network approach means that drivers can access quick installations even as demand scales rapidly over the next few years.
Recruitment is expanding as well, so these are truly exciting times for the forward-thinking company.
‘It operates on a network model, meaning we operate one of the largest installation networks in the UK,’ said Cook.
‘I think the massive advantage of that is we can grow by bringing in the most customer-focused installation businesses out there.
‘There are 6,000 registered installers in the UK and we’re currently working with the best 50.
‘So, we see that network model as a silver bullet for being able to offer amazing customer experience at scale – if one installer in our network gets busy, they remove themselves from the customer’s results and that driver goes to an installer who’s ready to respond quickly.
‘One of the challenges I think the sector suffers from is that we tend to see bottlenecks in the largest national installers.
‘But because we can bring on a new installation company in a couple of days, carry out our due diligence and bring them on board, we can scale at a rate that means we can always deliver as this market continues to grow and grow over the coming years.’