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Award-winning Irish start-up Go Eve seeks to revolutionise EV charging points

‘Dock Chain’ system allows multiple parking spaces to be charged from one power source

With the ever-growing demand for electric vehicle (EV) charging points, and the seeming sluggishness of the rollout of a truly nationwide network of such points, little wonder that many car buyers are still holding back from purchasing a battery-powered car. According to a survey by the AA, only 12 per cent of those currently driving a petrol- or diesel-powered car will go for a fully-electric model for their next purchase and the lack of available charging points is regularly given as a reason to avoid battery power.

An Irish start-up, Go Eve, could be about to change that. The start-up, which has been put together jointly by University College Dublin and Imperial College Dublin, is trying to create technology that will allow multiple charging points, which can service several parking bays at once, from just the one power connection.

Hugh Sheehy, chief executive and co-founder of Go Eve, says: "There's still a problem with charging. Availability, reliability and cost are big issues and the world needs millions more charging points. Current technology gives us hard choices – AC chargers are cheap, but they're slow. If you need to charge a vehicle in minutes, rather than hours, then you need a DC charger, but they're expensive, and they'll only usually cover two parking spaces at a time."

So, Go Eve has developed a new “Dock Chain” electric car-charging system, which aims to provide high-power DC charging for a similar cost to slower AC charging. “Dock Chain is actually rather like a domestic charger,” says Sheehy.


“It mimics all of the signals from the vehicle to the charger, so you can have one core unit, and then a ‘daisy chain’ of extra chargers, covering multiple parking spaces, and you can add as many as you like. So now you can have charging at every space, no more queues, never arrive anywhere again to find that there are only two chargers, and they’re both already taken.”

‘Global solution’

The technology, says Sheehy, is ideal for locations with car parks such as offices, hotels, train stations, or business or education campuses. The tech is also useful for companies or institutions with large vehicle fleets – the NHS and car rental companies are quoted as examples – which need to keep those fleets of vehicles on the road as much as possible. “Dock Chain is a global solution,” says Sheehy.

The technology was originally invented by a team of academics and researchers led by Prof Robert Shorten at the UCD School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Shorten subsequently moved to Imperial College London where the technology is being further advanced by him and his team. Go Eve is in the process of spinning out from both universities as well as formalising the required knowledge transfer and intellectual property licence to the start-up. Go Eve was founded by Sheehy, who completed the UCD VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme, John Goodbody, Shorten, Dr Pietro Ferraro and Andrew Cullen.

Go Eve has already won the 2021 Start-Up of the Year Award from UCD, along with a €32,000 prize, and is now looking to raise €3 million in seed funding. “We currently plan to run three pilot programmes with three customers during 2022 and we are now seeking to secure seed investment of €3 million to support these pilot programmes, to support further product development and design and team expansion,” says Sheehy.

Tom Flanagan, director of Enterprise and Commercialisation at NovaUCD (UCD's own start-up and entrepreneurship hub) said: "Each year we support members of our research and entrepreneurial communities who want to accelerate the creation of exciting new start-ups through our VentureLaunch Accelerator Programme. Given the importance of climate action, it is fantastic to see Go Eve which is developing an innovative technological solution in the area of sustainability win this year's programme. We are also delighted to be working in collaboration with our colleagues in Imperial College London to commercialise this exciting Dock Chain technology. It has the potential to make a significant impact on how EVs are charged."

As well as developing the new charging tech, Go Eve also offers car buyers “one-stop-shop” subscription leases for many popular electric car models.

The Go Eve chargers are, potentially, a useful slice of electric car-charging innovation, but the fact is that we'll need more – both more innovation and just physically more chargers. How many chargers will we need? That is up for debate. At the higher end of the postulation curve sits the Society of the Irish Motor Industry (SIMI). SIMI has recently called for as many as 100,000 rapid public chargers to be installed by 2030 to meet growing demand. For reference's sake, Ireland currently has 1,900 public charging points and it would be charitable in the extreme to call all but a handful "rapid". Most are 22kWh curbside chargers, which are fine for a slow top-up, but close to useless if you're in a hurry.

For the best charging experiences, you really need to have fast chargers working at speeds of at least 150kW, or better yet, one of the super-fast 350kW being installed by both the ESB and the IONITY consortium. These aren't cheap to use (as much as 79c per kWh) but they can refill even larger batteries in about 20-25 minutes.


100,000 though? That's a lot. According to Transport & Environment, one of the most influential European environmental think tanks, the figure that Ireland needs to reach is closer to 28,000. Still a lot, but far more achievable. William Todts, executive director at Transport & Environment, said: "If we're serious about global warming we need to go electric fast. To speed up the transition, we need ubiquitous and easy charging not just in Norway and the Netherlands but all across Europe. EV charging targets per country are a great way to make that happen and the [European] Commission should stop dragging its feet over this."

The ESB is starting to roll out ultra-rapid charging hubs, which can charge as many as eight cars at a time. More than 50 locations for such hubs have been identified, and the first one is up and running at junction 17 services on the M7 motorway near Kildare. Tesla, of course, has its own proprietary charging hubs – the “Supercharger” network – which can charge at speeds of up to 270kW. Currently, they’re only open to Tesla owners and users, but there are pilot schemes under way in Norway and the Netherlands to allow any EV to use them on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Across Europe, on average, there are five rapid public charging points for every 100km of major road. The highest concentration is actually in the UK, which can boast almost 20 per 100km, while the Netherlands is just behind on 17 per 100km. Ireland is currently lagging badly behind, on just 3.5 rapid chargers per 100km, putting us on a par with Latvia and ahead of Portugal, but behind the likes of Belgium, France, the Czech Republic and Slovenia. The EU has suggested that chargers need to be rolled out at a rate that ensures a ratio of no more than 10 EVs per public charging point. With 50,000 EVs currently on Irish roads, and 1,900 public chargers, we currently have a ratio of 26 EVs to each charging point.

The electric motoring revolution is already well under way. Data from the European Investment Bank seems to show that Irish sentiment towards hybrids and EVs is actually higher than it is on average in Europe – 71 per cent of Irish car buyers say that their next car will have either electric or hybrid power, whereas 67 per cent of all European buyers said the same.

The move to electric cars isn’t quite perfect, from an environmental point of view, but it’s far, far better than the alternative. Irish consumers prepared to make what one might call the “right choice” need to be shown that both Government and charging providers are prepared to back that choice.

Barry McCall

Barry McCall is a contributor to The Irish Times