Charge My Street is working with businesses and communities to provide charging hubs across the county

With the price of fuel seemingly on an endless skywards trajectory, it is no surprise that electric vehicles are becoming increasingly popular.

Since 2018 a Cumbrian community benefit society has been working with businesses and communities in the county - and beyond - to install electric vehicle charging points to meet the growing demand.

Charge My Street, which is based in Alston but also has an office in Lancaster, has more than 120 charging points around the county, making it the second biggest public charging network in Cumbria.

Its stated aim is to try and ensure every home is within a five-minute walk of a charger as the Government pledges to ban the sale of all new fossil fuel vehicles in 2030.

One of its most recent installations was a charging hub at Staveley Mill Yard, which runs off solar panels already in place at the site.

Daniel Heery, one of Charge my Street’s six directors, says people can go onto the organisation’s website to suggest locations where they think chargers should be installed.

Charge My Street will then carry out an appraisal to see if the suggestion fits their social and commercial objectives.

It will then lease space off the property owner to create EV charging bays and install the equipment.

"We've had an amazing response," says Daniel.

"Over the last three years we've had probably about 700 people getting in touch.”

As well as in Cumbria, Charge My Street has also installed equipment in Essex and the South West.

The company’s Charge While You Sleep initiative, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, is run in collaboration with Friends of the Lake District and focuses on installing chargers

at overnight accommodation.

"It's for people who maybe drive up to the Lakes and want to charge their vehicle overnight using fast charging so it's ready for them to use the next day," says Daniel.

The company focuses on installing fast chargers, which take three to four hours to charge a small electric car, as these timings work best for tourists who can leave their vehicle and then go off for a walk or visit an attraction.

The installation costs - which average around £8,150 - are funded by a

combination of community investment and any grants which Charge My Street can access.

It usually looks for local people to invest 25 per cent or more of the cost of the project and they are then repaid their investment with interest over a number of years, with money raised from people paying to use the chargers.

Prior to starting the business, Daniel was already running Cybermoor, a social enterprise also based in Alston, which lays fibre cables and installs dishes to provide rural broadband.

Like Charge My Street, this activity is funded by local shareholders and grant money.

Although Cybermoor, of which Daniel is a director, is still very much active and working on projects, he felt it was important to prioritise EV chargers by starting Charge My Street.

"I felt that probably the climate emergency was more pressing than the requirements to get broadband into places so I wanted to focus more of my energy on the EV charging," he says.

"We took the same business model from broadband and transposed it into EV charging. Rather than putting a broadband transmitter on the side of a village pub we're putting an EV charger on the side of the pub and providing the service for the local people.

"We felt that we could really add some value by working in places, particularly in Cumbria, where they’re not going to get a rapid charger installed by one of the big companies.

"We're doing this for the benefit of the broader community to aid the switch to electrification of transport across Cumbria and Lancashire. Any money that's made is going to go straight into supporting the extension of the network, so we can build more and improve the level of services available.”

The organisation, which employs five people, has recently installed a set of chargers at Rydal Hall, powered by its hydroelectric turbine.

In the future Daniel says the aim is to run more of the charging points from renewable energy projects in a similar way.

"Let's get all this renewable energy being generated within the county and making some money for people in the county and use Charge My Street to sell that to the drivers and generate that circular economy,” he says.

“This will support the growth of renewables and help businesses to make that transition and support people and give them a really good charging experience. In the same way that people will buy a bit of Herdwick lamb when they're sat down in a pub at the end of the long day's walk they can fill their car with Cumbrian electricity as well."