Octopus Electric Vehicles – right company, right time


Mrs Fiona Haworth, CEO Octopus EVs

Seldom has a such a relatively new business made such a positive impression on our motoring man, Iain Robertson, who considers that its ‘for the greater good’ mission is significantly more than ‘marketing-speak’, not just in the car scene.

Hopping onto bandwagons has been a remit for countless new-starts in the UK. Many of them are an inevitability of corporate reshuffles and general disharmony, let alone a demand for Millennial jobs during a period of significant governmental ‘fudge’, in respect of the nation’s unemployment figures. While ‘new-tech’ is an attraction, it is also a major cash drain that demands judicious funding not always by conventional means.

Octopus Group commenced trading in 2000 and was founded jointly by Chris Hulatt and Simon Rogerson, both former employees of Mercury Asset Management. From the outset, the company’s remit was determinedly ethical. Currently managing British funds of around £8.6bn, the ventures arm of Octopus has already invested in excess of £2.7bn in renewable assets across Europe, while backing UK success stories like Zoopla, Depop, Secret Escapes and SwiftKey.

Saying ‘No!’ to the old

The word ‘renewable’ is key to its strength. Since the outset, it has invested in its people, concepts and industries that can help to change the world. One of its member companies is Octopus Energy, which was launched in April 2016 and already supplies 100% renewable energy to over 450,000 UK homes. In fact, it is the only Which? Recommended Energy Supplier and has been so for the past couple of years. Its services are far from conventional, as the company redefines the consumer offering by engaging with both technology and data to deliver the ideal scenario of best products, readily achieved, with the best consumer experience.

As recently as 2018, Octopus Energy assessed its position in the market and how it might improve mobility options, by creating another start-up operation, Octopus Electric Vehicles. As might be expected, it is a business that thrives on boundless enthusiasm, one might even call it a passion for renewable energy. However, this is not airy-fairy stuff, because, unless we ALL start to look very carefully at the amount of natural resources that we are squandering like water through a sieve, they will have to be meted out to us, probably using ‘ration cards’!

Personally, having put the suggestion to a number of environmental scientists that our continuously growing demands on oil, coal and gas, which demand both on and off-shore farming, may be leading to tectonic plate-shifts, which might cause some of the extraordinary climatic events that our world has been experiencing, none of them pooh-poohed it. Yet, using a combination of other natural resources, such as sunshine, water and air, a renewable resource results. Octopus Energy is harnessing it, so that the Electric Vehicles division can deliver ‘fuel’ to its customers at 5p/kWh, rather than a National Grid price at least four times the rate.

Mobility solution

Heading up the EVs operation is CEO Fiona Howarth, a former Oxford University engineering graduate, who spent her business formative years at Dyson and BMW. Her latter experience with efficient engineering and hydrogen power led to a period of working with some major energy firms and even the government, before developing Hive, a British Gas initiative, and taking it from a technological pilot to a household brand.

In asking about her motivation, she responded: “It is reported by the Royal College of Physicians that around 40,000 deaths occur annually in Great Britain as a direct result of air pollution, caused as much by buildings, as it is by transport. In fact, around 59% of UK inhabitants live in areas where pollution is at illegal levels. Treating patients with chronic diseases arising from air pollution costs our NHS in excess of £20bn every year. Every premature death is one too many for any ethical organisation to tolerate. We can only hope to reduce those figures by addressing transport requirements and I can think of no better means than those extolled by Octopus Electric Vehicles.”

Naturally, as a woman in a (largely) man’s world, I wondered how that impacted on her daily life and she stated: “I am an engineer but I am also a mother. I want my children to survive and not become statistics. However, I believe vehemently that there is a better way. My employer works to those standards at every level of its business operation. It is my role to reflect those ethics but, being a woman, has nothing to do with my effectiveness.”

Octopus EVs aims to help its customers change the way they drive. The company can prove how easy it is to live with the latest crop of EVs, regardless of location. Its business proposition provides help with obtaining government grants and ‘refuelling’ for around a ‘fiver’. Its people are enthusiastic and recognise the value of personal transport.

Perceived as a total service provider, Octopus EVs works with both corporate and private clients. On business contract hire, taking maintenance charges, rental rates and both employer’s NI and employee’s BIK into account, a 30,000-mile typical annual lease programme on an EV can be reduced by almost 50% over an equivalent midfield petrol car. Under the terms of salary sacrifice, the annual costs to the end-user and the employer are also reduced significantly. It is a ‘win:win’ situation.

In being non-brand dependent, as a specialist leasing company, Octopus EVs provides unbiased and knowledgeable information to its customers and ensures that they can address almost all of their energy requirements in the most painless ways. As Fiona highlighted: “We are not in the car business but we can manage energy in the most efficacious and money-saving manner and, if that keeps our customers mobile and happy, then we have served our purpose.”