Exclusive interview: Alistair Clarke, Founder and MD, eConnect
eConnect founder Alistair Clarke, a chartered accountant who spent the past 10 years with BG Group, saw how vital it was to apply the right technology and optimal solutions to the challenges we face. In particular in the discovery, distribution and utilisation of energy. He believes that the development in the technology and inherent capabilities of electric vehicles is an excellent example of where we have an opportunity to apply a practical, intelligent approach. He talks to Blue & Green.
In 140 characters or less – what is eConnect Cars?
eConnect cars is pioneering the switch from diesel and hybrid taxis to 100% electric vehicles. We are the only operator in London to offer both a standard (Nissan Leaf) and executive (Tesla Model S) zero emission service.
What was the driver for creating eConnect Cars – what gap did it fill?
London and other major cities are struggling with the challenges of urban growth, congestion and pollution. eConnect cars is investing in a modern business model that provides a zero emission service, integrated with other forms of transport and urban mobility providers. This approach fits with the trend of car owners becoming car users and mobility on demand.
Who does it primarily serve?
eConnect currently focuses on the corporate market and offering bundled services through its arrangement with transport providers such as Great Western Railway. It also works with transport aggregators such as One Transport and platform apps such as Karhoo.
What difference does eConnect Cars want to make?
eConnect wants to drive the shift towards more sustainable transport and be part of the solution towards cleaner air. Pollution in London currently cost the lives of approximately 9,000 people per year.
What are the barriers to making that difference?
The technology to auto dispatch taxis, taking into account battery status is not available. In addition, rapid charging infrastructure in London is currently insufficient to support the large scale deployment of commercial electric vehicle fleets.
Who’s helping you overcome those barriers?
eConnect has secured a grant from Innovate UK to undertake a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with London Metropolitan University. This project will create the technology needed to manage not only our own fleet but can also be licensed to other logistics operators globally. With respect to rapid charging infrastructure, the Government has allocated the budget but this now needs to be allocated and spent to increase the number of rapid chargers available.
Is government and automotive industry action commensurate with the air pollution issues we face?
Through the Ultra-Low City Scheme, I believe the Government is encouraging action although my concern is that the response from the Local councils etc. is not ambitious enough. The same can be said for the ULEZ in London which is a great idea in practice but has been watered down through the consultation rounds in response to lobbying by large business. As a result, we may lose an excellent opportunity to make a real difference. As a result, I expect it will be people who will demand the change that will see businesses react and government then follow with supportive legislation.
Any comment on Volkswagen and Dieselgate?
I think that people have known for a while that the emissions and performance tests do not provide a reliable guide to real world conditions but could be used to compare one diesel vehicle against another. With the revelations around VW and the availability of alternative drivetrains, a more robust scorecard needs to be introduced to better inform consumers as to the pros and cons of the choices they face. In terms of the impact on our health of the NOx emissions, I think we are only just getting to grips with this and having watched the BBC panorama show the other night, I have my doubts that VW will be the only manufacturer having to answer difficult questions.
Give a choice Tesla or Nissan?
If money was no object – Tesla.
How can people – individuals and organisations – find out more about eConnect Cars?
If they wish to give our service a try in either a Leaf or a Tesla a try – just call 0203 002 5544 and book a cash or credit card job (no account required).
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