In 2017, Scotland's electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure was in its infancy and it left many wondering if the transition would ever happen. Five years on, one entrepreneur who saw the potential and was encouraged by a few friends who already drove EVs, took the proverbial leap of faith and has made an impressive impact in his native country's all-electric ambitions. In an interview, I sopke to founder and CEO of Edinburgh-based FOR:EV.
FOR:EV has emerged as one of the key players in the fast-growing market of EV charge point companies operating throughout Scotland. It now plays 'a vital part of Scotland's transition to net zero'. Among its current clients are Forth Ports Scotland, United Auctions, Glasgow Quay, Port Edgar, Anntonine Shopping Centre, Westside Plaza Shopping Centre and both Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian Football Clubs.
FOR:EV boss, Lindsay Wallace, speaks candidly about the industry and his company's vital role in ensuring that EV drivers, whether fleet or private, have the ultimate charging facilities at their disposal.
NH: When and why did you start this business? Has it been all your own funding or are there partners?
A few friends made the very early transition to EVs but the resounding message was that they would only use their EVs for inner city driving, keeping a petrol or diesel car for long-distance journeys. I was aware that people were genuinely worried about the EV range and charging facilities across the country, and so I commissioned Business Gateway to conduct a survey across the Nordic countries and across the UK. It became massively apparent how far Scotland was behind on EV infrastructure charging and the future requirements associated with benefits to the EV driver.
I subsequently formed FOR:EV in 2017 to help tackle the lack of EV charging infrastructure in Scotland. A funding strategy was in place but Covid-19 set us back a couple of years. However, we secure seed funding from the Scottish National Investment Bank in July 2021 – they shared our vision of providing much-needed public EV charging – and further funding in October this year to accelerate our growth plans.
There are some big players in your sector, what is your company's USP?
FOR:EV offers fully-funded EV charging solutions to our clients. As we roll out sustainable and cost-effective EV infrastructure to support urban areas, destinations, commercial areas and the public sectors, it will allow drivers to charge their EVs away from home.
Our full end-to-end process allows businesses to focus on what they do best while allowing us to provide their site with a future-proofed infrastructure. We provide bespoke solutions for each of our partners and understand the complexities not only of the products and the technology behind them, but also positive and negative consumer perceptions that exist.
EV drivers want to have a quick, convenient and secure way to pay at charge points, and that is exactly what we provide by allowing them to use a contactless card or mobile device.
Experience and reliability are key for all our stakeholders and we always strive to make sure every touchpoint with FOR:EV is a positive experience. Unique is our solution for fleets across the UK, providing a fully managed service and a future-proof solution for operators to manage their footprint and EV fleet that offers a one-stop or turnkey solution for our partners. Large-scale fleet operators can have a managed solution that includes an all-inclusive kilowatt (kW) cost that's based on a fleet operator's annual mileage that's bespoke to their business needs, providing the ultimate supportive solution when transitioning to electric and net zero. This process and service option significantly reduces business administration, with multiple other benefits too.
NH: Is Scotland your prime/only target market?
FOR:EV's headquarters is in Edinburgh and we're proud of our Scottish roots. Our network is expanding across the country with a number of large-scale projects in the pipeline that will see us expand across the UK and Europe.
NH: Are you targeting Scotland's local authorities?
We understand the challenges faced by all local authorities and we are in a position to assist them with their infrastructure requirements. Currently, we're working with two of them providing bespoke, fit-for-purpose charging infrastructure and community hubs, while supporting them in achieving their ESG reporting on the journey to net zero. With the tightening of public spending, we are also able to generate guaranteed revenue for local authorities from each site.
NH: What's your biggest project to date?
FOR:EV operate Edinburgh's first two all-vehicle 100kWh EV charging points at Newhaven Harbour and Westside Plaza which allow rapid charging in under 20 minutes. We have a number of large-scale infrastructures planned across Scotland, the UK and Europe that will range in size and scale to meet the demands of our clients.
NH: What's the next strategic move at FOR:EV? Where do you go from here – particularly over the next 12 months?
We're a vital part of Scotland's transition to net zero. Our strategy for 2023 will see us install over 300 connectors for the general public, along with two pilot schemes for full turnkey solutions.
With 74% of current UK EV drivers not believing that the UK's EV charging infrastructure is fit for purpose, we're committed to rectifying that and are driven to create better-connected communities for a greener future.
Norrie Hunter is
a motoring journalist and is currently advising Electric Vehicle Association Scotland on press and media communications