Welcome to the latest edition of PoGo People Spotlight where we delve into the stories and experiences of the passionate individuals driving PoGo’s mission. In this series, we uncover the driving forces behind PoGo’s commitment to revolutionise the EV charging industry.
Today, we introduce you to Greg Longden, Head of Commercial at PoGo Charge, as he shares his insights, journey and vision for the future of the PoGo network and wider EV industry.
As Head of Commercial I oversee a team with a wide ranging set of responsibilities. These including negotiating and managing our contracts, our main form of contract being the leases we put in place with our landlords, which have to be signed before we can construct and start to operate the EV chargers. We also carry out proactive monitoring and reporting on charger performance, both in terms of reliability and how much the chargers are being utilised. I also manage our energy procurement, making sure that we negotiate the lowest cost for electricity, and set the charger tariffs to remain competitive while also allowing us to continue to invest in expanding the charging network across the UK. Our daily activities are rarely the same, and I very much enjoy the challenge of managing an expanding network, building out our reporting capabilities and interacting with our numerous landlord partners.
I started my career in the energy trading sector, with a FTSE 100 company, where I’ve developed detailed knowledge of electricity markets in Europe including renewable energy deals such as PPAs. I’ve subsequently worked across several roles in energy pricing, commercial analytics and financial planning. My role at PoGo allows me to combine all of my experience so far in my career to build capabilities for PoGo, from developing reporting dashboards, to financial modelling and negotiating renewable energy contracts for our EV chargers. I’ve had over 5 years’ experience of managing teams and look forward to continuing to develop the commercial team here at PoGo, and developing the future talent of the business.
I’ve been lucky to be involved in most of PoGo’s EV charger projects, but two in particular stand out. I was only a few months into my role when I was brought onto negotiations with Kew Green Hotels and was ultimately part of the team that won PoGo our first major strategic partnership for over 40 hotel sites across the country. This not only secured the first major expansion of the PoGo network, but has helped establish PoGo as a leading charge point operator in the hospitality sector. More recently, I was a core part of the PoGo team that negotiated our partnership with LCP Properties, one of the UK’s leading retail park operators. Retail parks represent a core target for PoGo ultra-rapid sites, and the LCP partnership secures the future of PoGo’s growth plans through 2024 with nearly 90 sites and over 300 new ultra-rapid chargers in key locations across the country. This deal was reached extremely quickly thanks to the dedication and level of engagement on both sides of the table and was an extremely exciting opportunity to be part of.
Arguably the most challenging aspect, but also the most exciting, is the constant changes the industry is facing. Changes include the regulations on making new electricity connection applications with regional electricity networks, government regulations on how customers pay for using EV charging points, changes to the ways we are able to procure electricity and the reporting on the various sources of electricity to ensure they come from renewable sources. We need to remain open minded and able to change the ways we operate, as well as growing our network of partners across the industry from construction contractors to energy companies so that we are able to offer the best service to our drivers and to our landlords and service partners.
While PoGo is a new brand, with a relatively new team, we are part of a wider business in SWARCO that has been operating in the EV charging sector for over 13 years. We have been able to develop in-house customer service centres (now award-winning) and engineer support across the UK. We have fantastic equipment and construction contractors to ensure our network will use cutting-edge chargers and built to the highest standards. My team specifically have decades of experience collectively in commercial negotiations, reporting and financial and data analytics. We are also all in this industry because we are passionate about sustainability and helping achieve our collective net zero ambitions for 2050, which filters through into the level of dedication that we put into our jobs.
Passion for EVs
The EV industry was a perfect fit between my experience in the energy and technology industries (initiated during my time at university doing a natural and environmental sciences degree) as well as cars and transportation. I’ve always been passionate about cars, inherited from my Dad who’s had a number of interesting cars over the years. While I considered engineering, I was always more interested in sciences, but developed a keen interest in the environment and renewable energy during my university degree. I moved into the energy sector with Centrica (a FTSE 100 energy and services company) and had several roles across that business, latterly with their Hive smart energy technology division. This was my “foot in the door” with EV charging, but I recognised that for the UK to make the transition to EVs a massive growth in public EV charging was needed. The role at SWARCO was a great fit for me in terms of leveraging my experience but providing the opportunity to join a business at the start of the growth curve and make my mark on a success story.
I drive a BMW I3S (my first experience of EV ownership). I’ve had a number of fun petrol cars in the past, but I hand-on-heart love the BMW EV. The styling isn’t to everyone’s tastes but I really like it, think it still looks fresh even years after the model was released. It’s got a fantastic interior, with loads of space. One of the things I really like about it is the way it’s built, being made out of carbon-fibre reinforced plastics for weight reduction, and having a relatively small 42kWh battery pack, making this one of the lightest electric vehicles on the road. As a result it uses relatively little energy, especially driving around London where I live. It was also made in a factory powered entirely by renewable energy, and is made out of 20% recycled materials, so really is designed with sustainability in mind. It’s also good fun to drive and is extremely quick up to legal speeds, so satisfies the former “petrolhead” (now “volthead” I guess) in me. While I have no plans on swapping the car, if money were no object my dream EV would be an Audi RS E-Tron GT, which is just a sensational bit of car design, and crazy fast.
I recently drove my EV to Cornwall from my home in London, which is by a long way the furthest I’ve driven it in one go. At motorway speeds the range is only around 130 miles, so I needed to stop 3 times for a top-up rapid charge. I worked out afterwards that the 7.5 hours it took to drive the 310 miles was barely longer than it would have been in the equivalent petrol car. We stopped once for dinner for around 30 mins, after which it was fully charged (costing us no additional time). We then had 2 additional stops of around 20 minutes each for a top-up charge, and on a lengthy drive like that we would probably have stopped at least once anyway for a coffee. I had no issues at all on the way out or back with chargers being either fully occupied or out of service. My EV has a relatively short range, so driving a newer EV with a longer range of say 250+ miles, only needing to stop once, would have resulted in no additional time spent for me vs an equivalent petrol car. Clearly we still need to grow the charging network to ensure everyone can have such a seamless experience, but my own charging experiences so far have been almost universally positive showing what steps the industry has already made.
Really the only change you need to make to drive an EV is planning. Even if you don’t have charging at home (which obviously does make life easier) the existing network of chargers across the UK has grown massively over just the past few years. Admittedly in some parts of the country there are fewer chargers, but with most EVs now having longer ranges of at least 200 miles, the gaps between charging stations become less of a concern. Simply planning your route a little in advance will allow you to go via a charger, often giving a couple of options should your preferred option be occupied or out of service (the latter being increasingly rare these days). Going via an ultra-rapid charger like those PoGo is rolling out will give you hundreds of miles of additional range in just a few minutes. You’ll just need to plan a few extra minutes onto your journey.
Biggest challenge in my experience has been securing the amount of electricity capacity that we need to install our preferred number of chargers. The UK’s electricity grid needs significant amounts of reinforcement work in many parts of the country to handle the amount of additional electricity that the chargers need, especially in more remote areas of the grid. In terms of opportunities I think the biggest one for drivers is the opportunities this opens up to recharge their vehicles at times convenient to them as opposed to the traditional petrol stations. You can recharge an EV while out shopping, or watching a movie, or having a coffee, without having to go to a specific location to stand and fill up your car with petrol. For many drivers charging an EV will actually be more convenient in fitting into their lives as opposed to the perception of it being more stressful and inconvenient.
The real game-changer for most customers in making the switch to EV is two-fold, driven by the combination of larger battery capacity and hence driving ranges on a single charge, and the increased charging speeds afforded by ultra-rapid chargers like those PoGo are installing. Our chargers are capable of delivering up to 600kW of output. That would be enough to add hundreds of miles of range in just a few short minutes, as and when vehicle and battery technology allows for it. Presently most new EVs can charge at speeds anywhere between 100kW and 250kW, with batteries allowing for 250 miles or so of range. As we see those metrics increase, customers will realise just how easy owning an EV will be, even without home charging. I’m really excited to see my friends, family and our potential customers getting excited about the EV transition rather than being nervous about it.
We’ve recently installed the first 200kW Touch Plus units which are brand new to the UK, having a high quality 32-inch touchscreen that will revolutionise how customers interact with the charger, and the information that we can display. In terms of building our network, we’ve recently signed a contract with LCP Properties, one of the UK’s leading retail park operators, to construct over 300 of the 200kW Touch Plus units over the next 18 months. Ultimately we aim to be one of the top UK ultra-rapid charging networks both in terms of the size of the network itself as well as customer satisfaction and reliability.
I really get the feeling that we’re all pulling in the same direction and are excited to be part of a relatively new, innovative and sustainable industry. The fact almost everyone drives EVs is testament that we “practise what we preach”. Also having been a reasonably small team in the first year, meant you could really see the output of your efforts.
I’ve previously done a lot of triathlons and still run and cycle every now and again to keep fit(ish). I enjoy a round of golf on the weekends, and visiting friends around the country whenever I can. My passion has always been skiing, so I try and get out to the mountains a couple of times a year.
Fifth gear used to be a car show on Channel 5 but have now moved largely onto YouTube releasing great content specialising in reviewing EVs. The Fully Charged Show lead by Robert Lewellyn (often know for presenting Scrapheap Challenge on Channel 4) is a good podcast who have had some good guests on over the years. YouTube in particular I’ve found to be a huge source of content on EVs, and helped with my own EV purchase decision in terms of finding the right option for my budget.
Stay tuned for future editions of PoGo Spotlight as we continue to unravel the journeys and insights of the PoGo team, bringing you closer to the heart of our mission to redefine EV charging.