Charged: 15 questions with... Be.EV
In July 2023, the Electroverse expanded again as the Be.EV charging network joined!
Be.EV chargers are primarily based in the north of England, with all 200 current chargers running on 100% green energy. With plans to reach 1,000 'future-proof' chargers by 2024, we were keen to understand more, so we chatted with Asif Ghafoor (CEO and co-founder of Be.EV) to get the inside scoop.
Let's get plugged in...
(*You can check where your nearest Be.EV charger is by searching the map or using the app filters)
Give us a bit of background - how did Be.EV start?
I’ve got a long career in infrastructure projects but it was always working building new disruptive businesses for other people and I decided I wanted to build something myself. The transition to EV is a once-in-a-lifetime moment - the move to electrification is like the industrial revolution - and I wanted to be part of it.
My co-founder Adrian Fielden-Gray and I are both passionate about the environment and during lockdown, we came up with a business plan for Be.EV and make connections with the community at its heart. I genuinely believe that building a community-focused charging network is an opportunity to change the planet and leave a legacy.
We’re not just building EV charging hubs and reducing emissions, we’re making a positive impact with our infrastructure. If you look at every infrastructure project in the last 20 years, normally the public reaction has been negative. People moaned about headaches when we switched from street lamps to LED bulbs. There are always complaints about the design of a new local school.
When we're rolling out a project, we’re very focused on blending it into the local area so it becomes a part of the community. It’s an important aspect of any type of public infrastructure. We want to make sure we get it right. We’re also creating local jobs, engaging with universities and schools, consulting with the community about their wants and needs, not just building something based on our assumptions.
Unlike other charging providers, Be.EV is employee-owned - how do you think this shapes the Be.EV mission?
When Adrian and I made the decision to make Be.EV employee-owned, we wanted everyone to feel that we trust them with the business. I look at a lot of companies and see the owners sweating the staff to death, and there is no real reward for their efforts.
Business equity is a great incentive - if Adrian and I end up with 20% rather than 50% it doesn't matter. The rest of the team has helped bring the overall value up, and it’s a big prize for everyone involved if we’re successful.
We’ve managed to foster a great workplace culture too. We ring a series of bells and dongs when we close a sale or advance a project. The office feels like a constant celebration, which makes us all really happy
Be.EV has a vision to create a ‘future-proof infrastructure legacy’ - what does this mean?
We are installing charging hubs that local communities will be proud of. We have already seen early EV chargers being replaced but we want something lasting - that will still be here in 20 years time.
We're always looking at the impact on the place when we start a new project - we want our projects to have a positive impact on the local area. We reduce the visual clutter to a minimum and re-introduce extinct tree species back to their native areas. It’s these small things that put us ahead of the competition.
This also means installing rapid and ultra-rapid chargers that can take an EV battery to 80% in under 30 mins. EV battery capacity is only getting larger so we need to build the infrastructure now that will support our vehicle transport for the next 20 years.
We are technology agnostic and will always choose the most appropriate technology for any given site. We’ve got the freedom to choose between EV charger providers, our team constantly reviews the market to ensure we are providing the most advanced equipment available.
One real difference is that being future-proof means it is accessible to everyone. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have space for off-street parking and an at-home charger. We are installing chargers in public places like car parks and retail and leisure destinations where they can be used by the community.
We don’t want chargers scattered everywhere, we want a customer to drive anywhere they want and be assured Be.EV has them covered.
How many chargers does Be.EV now operate? And what does Be.EV prioritise when building a new charging location?
We currently have more than 200 chargers in operation, and 100’s more in planning and installation. Our aim is to reach 1,000 chargers in 2024.
When building new locations we are looking for progressive organisations and land-owners who are wanting to provide a future-proof EV charging solution for their visitors. EV charging needs to become part of our everyday lives so look for areas with high traffic or footfall. We look for areas where there are not many charging options available, especially in areas where off-street charging is not viable.
Be.EV chargers are supplied by Octopus Energy, meaning 100% green energy for EV drivers, which is fantastic! Was a network powered by renewables always the goal?
At Be.EV we take a ‘deep green’ approach to sustainability. It’s more than where our power comes from - it’s about making the most sustainable choices at every level of the business.
All the power we use in our chargers is 100% renewable - from wind, solar and hydro sources. This isn’t the case with all renewable energy providers - depending on grid demand, a ‘green’ energy supplier may actually supply you with electricity generated from fossil fuels if there is not enough renewable supply. But our commitment to being ‘green’ doesn’t start and end with the power running through our chargers.
It informs the decisions we make at every level of the business. From the earliest phase of planning for a new site, we’re looking at how we can best incorporate the local environment. For example, our larger charging hub design is called an ‘oasis’ - they’re built from locally sourced materials, harvest their own rainwater, and contain local wildflower species.
It was interesting to read about the work that Be.EV completed with Dobbies Garden Centres - can you explain a little more about this?
Dobbies are a well-known national chain of garden centres that we are delighted to be working with. They wanted an EV charging solution for their customers but also fully aligned with their own sustainability goals.
The solution is to provide a fully funded solution using the latest rapid and ultra-rapid technology We are mid roll out of a rapid and ultra-rapid charging solution. We are currently working through a phased roll-out across all their sites.
It looks like you work closely with local authorities to increase charger availability - why are these partnerships important?
We are working with a number of local authorities to build out their EV charging infrastructure. This is very much a partnership with aligned goals to meet their environmental objectives and the needs of their residents, businesses and visitors. We listen to them and using AI software we can tell them the best places to put the chargers for maximum impact.
We start by modelling their region, taking into account factors like high-traffic routes, population, availability of off-street parking and points of interest. We then design a solution with agreed aims (e.g. everyone should be no more than a 10-minute walk from a charging hub). The charging hub design will be right sized to cover forecast demand for now plus in-built capacity for future expansion as demand grows.
Once in operation, we provide exemplary service levels with charger availability in excess of 99%. We provide detailed reporting to our partner showing usage and demand. What we provide is fully funded so there’s no cost to the authority. In return, we agree to a contract to run the chargers for 20 years and give the landlord a share of the charge revenue.
This is great for the community as they get EV chargers and via the council proportion of the revenue from the site.
As we know, EV adoption is going to grow massively in the coming years, and with this will come more demand for faster chargers - what does the future look like for faster charging with Be.EV?
The demand for charging is growing, and the capacity of EV batteries is increasing - both of these factors show that demand for speedier charging is rising rapidly. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have off-street parking to charge at home, so the demand for public charging will only increase.
We are meeting this demand by installing charging hubs with rapid and ultra-rapid chargers in the right locations for users to build into their daily lives. An example is the Be.EV Oasis, which will provide the ability to top up your vehicle in 15 mins whilst stopping for your refreshment.
It’s fantastic to see Be.EV as one of the founding members of ChargeUK! Can you tell us more about what ChargeUK promises to deliver; and how Be.EV is going to help accelerate this?
ChargeUK will be the voice of the UK’s EV charging industry – the companies that install and maintain the network of electric charging points necessary to underpin the UK’s transition to electric motoring and Net Zero.
By working together, we can ensure that this vital sector has the strongest possible voice, a voice which helps people in this new area and can have maximum impact in moving towards the clean future that we all want. Between us, we will invest over £6 billion in installing and operating new EV charging infrastructure by 2030.
Collectively we will install tens of thousands of new chargers this year and are aiming to double the size of the network through 2023. The ChargeUK body aims to work constructively with the Government to deliver this ambition, helping to shape the policies and regulations that best allow us to accelerate the availability of world-class charging infrastructure.
We decided to join because of the benefits we believe it will bring to our members and community.
Why are partnerships like Be.EV and Octopus Electroverse crucial to accelerating the public charging infrastructure?
This is a fantastic partnership as it provides simplicity and visibility for all current and future EV drivers. Things that join up and smooth out the customer experience can only be beneficial for everyone.
Asif Ghafoor, CEO and co-founder of Be.EV
What’s your dream electric vehicle?
I actually don’t like driving, can you believe it! But if I had to choose today I would go for the Polestar 2.
What’s the longest journey you’ve completed in an EV - and can you share the total mileage?
I call myself the Roving CEO because I’m always on the move, but usually by public transport, so I can work en route. However, a colleague and I recently took a trip from Manchester to Newcastle and back in a day, which is more than 300 miles.
Do you have an EV life hack to share with the EV community?
Save time by topping up your car to 80% and then moving on. This means you are charging through the fastest range, after 80% things slow right down.
What advice would you give someone looking to use a Be.EV charging location for the first time?
Become one of our 20,000 Be.EV members - you will get access to member events but also a preferential member charge rate.
If you aren’t lucky enough to live near one of our chargers - and don’t worry we will be there soon - you could join Electroverse and use your local public charger as well as Be.EV’s network.
And finally - an EV etiquette question - what would you say is the golden rule to using a public charger?
Don’t be a charge hog. Use chargers with consideration for others and when you’ve finished charging free it for others to use.
Feeling enlightened or do you think something was missing? Let us know by sharing your feedback.
Interested in learning more? Head over to our Electroverse Community area for more electrifying content.