Co Charger’s mission to tackle fleet charging pain points

Community charging app Co Charger has bold plans to be the biggest EV charging network in the UK within a year. Ahead of his talk at this year’s Great British Fleet Event, CEO Joel Teague speaks to Natalie Middleton about how fleets will be integral to this.

Co Charger CEO Joel Teague

The saying ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ is one that particularly rings true for Joel Teague – as it’s what prompted him to set up a business described as the UK’s #1 community charging app.

A former project manager at the Met Office, Teague says that “nothing quite makes you realise the urgency of all things green until you speak directly to 600 scientists who give it to you straight between the eyes.”

It was this, combined with the fact that he’s a self-confessed petrolhead and car nut, that led to him buying his first electric car back in 2016 – a great moment for eco consciousness and drive appeal but not so great when it came to charging.

Teague picks up: “What happened was that I was living in a small village in Devon, and I was talking to a friend who had just got into electric cars – seven years ago when it was very early – and he convinced me to buy one as well, as they were at ridiculously cheap at the time. And it arrived with a note saying, ‘your home charger will be another six weeks.’ And there was no granny cable, no way to plug it in. The nearest public charger back then hadn’t worked for 18 months and was six miles away. I basically had a car I couldn’t drive.

“I arranged a solution with my friend whereby I’d stop at his once a week on the way home, plug into his charge point and put a £5 note through the door and the next morning I would pick it up and drive to work.

“And it worked beautifully for about two weeks. It got a little fraught because there was the question of whether a fiver was too much or too little depending on how many miles I’ve done. But it worked in principle.”

This led to discussions over ways to help the many EV drivers who can’t have a charger installed at all – findings vary but it’s roughly about half if you include people without driveways and those renting or not able to control power supply.

And in early 2020, Co Charger was born. Based in Exeter, and affiliated with car sharing firm Co Cars, it was launched to create the first community charging platform for electric vehicles (EVs).

The premise is simple: to enable people with EV chargers (aka ‘Hosts’) to share them with neighbours, so they can swap to an electric vehicle.

By doing so, not only can the platform help drivers who’ve already made the switch to EVs but it can also help persuade those drivers who want to go electric but don’t want to bother with public chargers.

And it can help those with chargers make money too – the app is free to use and Co Charger simply takes 12% (10% plus VAT) of any charging costs levied on users.

Despite launching just two weeks before the pandemic struck, which Teague says led to “plans being thrown out the window”, the company is now the third biggest charging network of any kind – it has more than 4,000 users and has been growing at over 40% per month since launch.

He continues: “We compare ourselves to the public networks because it’s a good yardstick, even though we don’t build any hardware. Instead, we provide a platform that facilitates an arrangement between neighbours. It lets them book sessions, sends out reminders, runs the session, does the numbers and sorts the money to avoid any awkwardness about it.”

A key tool in the mass fleet shift to EVs

The platform has already shown it can help make the difference in persuading private drivers to buy an electric car, rather than an internal combustion engine.

But Co Charger wanted to tackle other pain points in the switch to EVs, which led it to two new sectors: taxi drivers and fleets – in particular van drivers. In a nutshell, professional drivers who are public charge point dependent.

“The vast majority of return-to-home fleet drivers don’t go home to a driveway,” Teague explains. “Depending on whose fleet it is, it’s anything from 60 to 85%. Those fleets are paying people to sit at public chargers every day. And logistics goes to pot too because those drivers are charging, not out at appointments. It’s just an absolute nightmare because companies are under pressure to go electric but it’s a major problem.”

The solution, according to the company, is the fast-growing number of Hosts on its platform with chargers.

For the fleet driver, it means they can use a neighbour’s charger on a regular, bookable, dependable and low-cost basis and without the uncertainty of using public charging.

“For the Host, it’s dreamland too,” Teague continues, “because instead of dealing with three or four neighbours, they get one professional driver who’s reliable, charges four times a week and they’ll make plenty of money and they will get a horrible diesel off the road. So, it really works.”

Not only that, but it’s free to sign up, with an immediate and simple-to-use process. All the operator has to do is send Co Charger the postcodes of the drivers who are not able to have a home charge point and the company will tell them which ones live close to a Co Charger Host.

Teague says it’s a no-brainer: “You’re not paying drivers to wait while they charge and they’re not missing out on the working day and they’re not working late to make up the difference. It also costs a heck of a lot less in most cases. It doesn’t even cost anything to set up, we do it for you. We can even help onboard the drivers if you want.”

Fleets also benefit from a simple usage model. Teague outlines: “There’s no subscriptions. There are no charges for doing anything, except once you’ve charged the vehicle, we take 12% of what’s paid. That’s it.”

And as well as helping existing EV drivers, it can also support fleets with insights on which drivers they can easily switch to electric vehicles next – the so-called ‘low hanging fruit’.

In fact, Teague says the biggest challenge for fleets isn’t finding the Hosts to charge their next batch of EVs, it’s actually sourcing the EVs themselves.

“What I’ve said to a few people is give me your first few drivers and then I reckon we can get you Hosts faster than you can buy vans.”

It’s already been tested with Motability – as Teague explains, why not start out with the biggest fleet? Co Charger is also signing up other fleets now, including larger operators, and says it’s working with some of the big fleet leasing companies and consultancies. It’s also involved in various other partnerships – such as the ZoomEV benefits bundle.

Plans for tenfold expansion

Such expansion is also helping Teague’s plans to become the UK’s biggest charging network – growing from 4,000 to 40,000 charge points on its platform, of which fleet drivers are likely to be the biggest users.

The firm’s also starting work on version two of the platform, which will have added fleet management tools and interfaces for existing systems.

Co Charger is also adding options to the pricing model for fleets – basically implementing reverse pricing where it’s not the Host who sets the price, it’s the operator, enabling extra control measures and certainty for businesses.

An international deal is also on the cards, drawing on the established platform and taking it into new markets, with more details to be announced soon.

Teague also says that while the company is plugging away to become the UK’s biggest charging network, it’s a claim that won’t offend the public charger firms.

“As far as they’re concerned, we create customers for their charge points. Because the awkward truth in the industry is that there’s been this assumption of ‘Oh, the other half of drivers who don’t have driveways will just have to use public charge points when the industry goes fully electric.’ No, the other half will still be in an eight-year-old diesel in 2038.

“So, companies such as Gridserve – which does brilliant work – recognise Co Charger as the people that can help the other half of the market go electric. And these drivers will then stop at their Braintree Electric Forecourt to charge when they’re out.”

He finishes: “Most people in this industry collaborate because we all recognise none of us can solve the whole charging problem. It does need a sort of patchwork of solutions, but we think we’re an important element. I think we’re the only one that can actually prove we can get people without driveways into EVs.”



  • Joel Teague will be speaking about Co Charger’s work to tackle fleet charging issues at this year’s Fleet World Great British Fleet Event. Taking place on 25 April 2023 at Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes, the event gives a unique ‘3-in-1’ format of conferences, exhibition and a gala awards dinner. Registrations for a free ticket for GBFE 2023 are now open HERE.


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