Cleantech Disruptors — An interview with EO Charging’s Founder and CEO, Charlie Jardine
Cleantech Disruptors is a series of interviews showcasing innovative cleantech startups, who through the development of disruptive technologies are changing the future.
EO Charging is a British designer and manufacturer of smart electric vehicle charging stations and intelligent software for homes, commercial fleets and destinations. Founded in 2015, they quickly established themselves as a leading name in EV charging.
I chatted to Charlie Jardine, EO’s Founder and CEO and 2019 Forbes 30 under 30 about the backstory, the inspiration for EO, waterproof one-piece suits, how he’s transforming a charging hardware business into a rapidly growing software business, and what’s next for the industry as we move out of the building phase and into optimisation of fleet charging.
What’s the story behind EO?
I went to Leeds University and studied Design & Technology Management — I wanted to do graphics, but they had other ideas. Whilst there I started a business making waterproof one-piece suits for festivals, for which I was awarded a scholarship from Leeds. The market research was great fun! I tried to get the suits made in China and grow the business but it just didn’t work. I then moved to London and got an internship with a men’s clothing brand doing marketing, and then got a telesales job for 6 weeks which was awful.
I was then fortunate to meet Erik Fairbairn, the CEO of POD Point. He asked me what I was doing and said why don’t you come to POD Point? I joined him in sales, then moved into marketing and spent 18 great months there, whilst also concluding that I wanted to work for myself.
And so you did…
Yes, I left in January 2015 with a view to starting a business and after considering a few different ideas I decided to set up EO to make charging points and software behind them. I then got a team together; an Electronic Engineer and friend with a software business. We spent 12 months in my Grandpa’s former pig shed and a portacabin and formally launched in June 2016.
I loaded a car with charge points drove up and down country and started selling them. I walked into Nissan and Renault and almost immediately got dismissed. Yes, it looked beautiful, yes, we had great customer service, but they had no interest because they weren’t selling enough electric cars.
So how did you do it?
We changed strategy and got into the market through partnering with electrical installation businesses who started selling our product to their customers, which was much more successful based on where the market was back then.
We are now in year 5 with 30,000 charge points in 30 countries and just over 70 people working for EO. I love it now, but there have certainly been some major ups and downs along the way!
Can you tell me a bit more about the product offering?
We offer an end to end charging solution for homes and commercial environments. We’ve wrapped everything into a turnkey solution — from hardware to software, all perfected in partnership with industry experts. EO was founded on the premise of making charging simple, an ethos you’ll see in all our product offerings.
Looking at where the business is heading — we’re really excited about the fleet space. If you imagine a depot with 200 electric vans coming back at the same time and plugging in, that’s a lot of power and a complex charging pattern! We’re integrating our software with a wide range of ‘fleet-tech’ companies like Geotab (Fleet Telematics) to better understand when they need to plug in, the state of charge, what time they need to leave and how far they’ll be travelling. Collecting and analysing this data is key to installing the right charging infrastructure. Our new CTO is an AI and ML expert who is integrating machine learning into our platform to use this data and work out the optimal time to charge the fleet.
The world is in a building phase, building the infrastructure to enable the transition to electric. Once this infrastructure is built, the next stage is optimisation, how to make charging the fleet as efficient and cheap as possible, and this is where we are focusing our energy!
How are you disrupting the industry?
Our business has changed a lot during the 5 years. When we first started, we were a hardware company making chargepoints. We focused on doing that well, ensuring they looked great and that they worked !
We are now focused on building a business that sells software and hardware wrapped up in a turnkey solution. If you are a fleet looking to transition to electric there are so many diff challenges; employees taking cars home, vans to depots, charging on the go etc. How do you manage that transition? You need a really good software solution, a lot of different chargepoints in different places and a service which installs and looks after the whole solution.
EO is now about helping fleets transition to electric at scale. That said, our core values haven’t change — we are still focused on making it simple. We can’t expect customers to employ engineering divisions to work out how to implement a solution, so our job is to take away the pain and do it for them.
What’s next for EO?
Well, we’re now seeing some of the world’s largest fleets taking positive action on electrification, this will be a big growth area for us. We are investing heavily in our software — developing a charging hardware agnostic platform, whilst further developing our turnkey charging proposition which we will continue to roll out globally.
We want be the global market leader in fleet, I’ve got age on my side and have the passion to keep it going. In my opinion, we’ve just got to the start line!
Watch EO’s charging made simple video.