Getting an EV Drivers Association in the UK?

There has been a lot of activity in the UK EV marketplace recently. OLEV is dishing out lots of cash to county and city councils for charging infrastructure. A lot of rapid chargers are being installed supporting a long-range charging network. New models have launched and are launching soon. All in all, things are picking up and this has to be great news.

OLEV talks, constantly it seems to me, to the main market players. The charging infrastructure companies are installing chargers where they think they are needed or where they can do so taking into account their commercial objectives. Manufacturers are designing cars. However, in all this there is one party that seems to be pretty much forgotten about, or at least seems to be considered often as an after-thought… the driver!

It seems to me that the EV driver is very much an after thought in most EV activity. Manufacturers hold focus groups then seem to ignore what is said. Charging infrastructure networks are hearing everyday from drivers that charge bays must be kept clear of non-EVs so they are available for EV use and yet no one does anything to keep them clear. The councils get all this cash from OLEV yet there is no real consultation with drivers as to where they should install the chargers. I could go on…

May people say that what we need in the UK is an organisation that can represent the needs, wishes and interests of EV drivers to the industry, to the media and the non-EV public. I agree.

In fact, one has been started – Electric Vehicle Drivers Association (UK) or EVDA-UK.

This is a group of EV drivers that agree, as I do, that we need representation. The thing about the EVDA-UK though is that in spite of their obvious good intentions and hard work in getting it off the ground it is fatally flawed in its current form in my opinion.

See here – http://www.evda-uk.org/

It is an association with a committee structure. Now committees can work very well indeed but this organisation needs to get up and runniong quickly and then have credibility with the major market players and for that I believe an association run by committee is not the right approach. With no individual at the head of the ship, setting the direction and pushing actions through, then a committee structure will not get things done quickly enough. Committees need consensus and compromise, all good things IMO, but that typically takes time and often results in decisons that don’t fully work for anyone. We need EVDA-UK to be function now… early in the EV development cycle while all the decisions are being made. If we wait 2 or 3 years while EVDA-UK gets members and an income stream, so it has funds to be active, then they would have missed the boat for these early decisions that will set the EV landscape for years to come.

I suggest another approach.

I suggest that EVDA-UK not be an association by committee. It needs to be able to act in a professional manner in a difficult commercial and political environment when dealing with OLEV, local government and the big commercial players. So I propose that it is set up from the start in a commercial and business-like way – as a limited company. There are many different ways to incorporate but ultimately I am proposing a company setup. How many directors there are and what the shareholder structure might be is open to debate and discussion. However, if EVDA-UK (or whatever it ends up being called) is to stand any chance of becoming effective in a sensible time frame (months, not years) then it must be properly funded now and share capital seems like the only sensible way to me.

I have investigated the options. I can think of no better way than as a company in some form. Other options are available but for me the key issue is that there is should be a single person driving it forward. Most commercial organisations have a Chief Executive Office that sets the broad framework and direction of the company. He can be removed by the board but doesn’t need to go cap-in-hand to the board for every decision. EVDA-UK needs a similar figure. Someone in charge. Someone who can lead from the front and that can push things along.

The real issue for the EVDA-UK as I see it though, and as Matt Beard, Chair & Membership Secretary agreed in a recent Twitter discussion, is that the committee of the EVDA-UK are volunteers, they have limited time available to promote the association to grow the membership, they have limited funds as they do not charge a membership fee so there is no money to employ someone or to even pay for expenses when doing work for the group. They need two things it seems : Someone working full time and some funding. Without that it will be a long, slow and hard road to success.

So where is this coming from? It has been suggested that they can fund raise through promotional activities, donations, eventually membership fees. Well, with current membership of about 50 that won’t bring in much and that assumes that people will pay even there is no real benefit to joining just yet. Even trebling the members and charging a modest £10pa would only bring in £1500. That wouldn’t pay for a small stand an any of the major shows! I wouldn’t be surprised if it took £10k or even £20k or more to get things to the point where it might be self-sustaining. That is a lot of fund raising!

It seems like I am on a downer on the EVDA-UK and yet nothing could be further from the truth. I am 100% behind the concept. I applaud (trying not to sound patronising here) the current members and committee in getting this far against the odds. But in my opinion, as it stands, I don’t think it is going anywhere right now and I certainly don’t think it is going to be taken serious as a representative of  UK EV drivers until it is much more organised, more professional, properly funded and many, many more members.

So, EVDA-UK… perhaps you need to get yourself a patron that is willing to properly fund your activities and EV drivers interests might then stand a chance of being represented at the table.

What do you think?

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