Electric vehicle (EV) charging app Bonnet is aiming to expand its chargepoint offering and partnerships with network operators following a £920,000 equity financing round led by Ascension Ventures.
Founded in 2019, Bonnet has aggregated charging points in 1,400 locations across the UK, with the company aiming to have integrated with 70% of UK chargepoints by the end of this year.
Current± caught up with co-founder and CEO Patrick Reich to discuss what sets the app apart from other EV charging platforms and how the company is tackling discrepancies between home and public charging for urban drivers.
How does Bonnet's EV platform work?
It's software that essentially goes on top of any form of hardware, so any charger is compatible with it, and that gets displayed on a single app, allowing users to use all types of different chargers. We're starting off with a heavy focus on public chargers, so we're aggregating all the public charging networks, but equally, we'll be expanding very soon to semi-public and private charges as well.
What sets Bonnet's app apart from other EV charging platforms?
One, I think, is the flexibility which we have. It's not like we're stuck with working with only one type of network or one type of chargepoint; it's anything from a large 1,000 chargepoint network to just a home charger in your driveway.
Two, I think it's the user experience we're building on both the demand side and the supply side. A lot of companies in this industry do things because they essentially have a foot in the game and they're creating different products because they can or have to, whereas we are very close to our users and are only putting things that they actually want and need in, both for chargepoint owners and the demand side user.
What are the key problems you're trying to address?
We put a lot of emphasis on reliability. Equally, pricing is all over the place. Different networks have different prices, you have plug-in fees, overstay fees, etc. With us, we actually provide one fixed fee across all of our chargers.
The other thing is the whole product is actually tailored to democratising public charging for users because if you have a home charger, it's all good and dandy - you have a 10p/kWh rate for your electricity charge overnight, for example, and you're set. If you don't have a home chargepoint, and you're forced to use a public chargepoint, you overpay because that's your only option. Then you have the whole VAT situation, which was [confirmed as] 20% by HMRC, which we think is ridiculous. The whole aim is to actually bring the prices down for users as much as possible, so not only do we have a fixed price point for our chargers, but it's also significantly cheaper than anything else in the market.
Bonnet has a particular focus on urban drivers. Why is this an area you’re looking at specifically?
In urban areas there's the highest concentration of people who are not enabled to install home chargepoints, and yet they have the most incentives to own EVs such as the ultra low emission zones and the congestion charges. They're incentivised to get an EV but then have this charging problem, and we don't think that they should be treated unfairly and overpay for their electricity simply because the house that they have doesn't have a driveway or garage. We're really fighting their corner for this, trying to bring the prices down and make the whole experience actually as close as possible to what you would have with a home charger.
Our goal is not to just stay urban, it's just how naturally things developed because this is where niche customers were, where our networks were, the companies we work with etc. But we have chargers all over the country, and equally it's not like we say, just because you're not in London, you can't be on the platform. It's just naturally occurred that because of where we started, London grew really quickly. I'd say in the very short term future, it's going to be more parts of the UK, for sure.
What are your scaling up ambitions?
We just closed a round of funding, and now we're going all guns blazing to get to 70% coverage of the UK public charging networks by the end of this year. We already have a lot of great partners, companies like ESB, char.gy, Shell Recharge etc, and a lot of new good partners coming up as well, including some big names. We do have a big, big list of rollout of features, and our tech team is working really hard to implement all of these. There are a couple of big projects that are happening that we'll be rolling out closer towards the end of the year.