• Dan Eyre

Diode Spotlight: James Jean-Louis, CCO, Zoom

James and I had a long chat about the joy he gets from his Tesla Model S, an honest discussion about his charging experiences, the benefits of Zoom and busted some myths. So if you’re on the fence with electric vehicles, but interested in hearing about James’ experiences, keep reading.

James is well-known in the automotive industry, particularly for championing electric vehicles in the early days and defying the naysayers. He later built one of the UK’s first charging businesses - eventually acquired by Chargemaster -  and now he’s driving forward Zoom’s business development as their Chief Commercial Officer.

Here’s a round-up of what we talked about…

Let’s kick off with an overview of Zoom - what’s it all about?

Our fantastic proposition helps people get into electric vehicles. Firstly, if you want to rent an EV for the weekend or just give one a go, we have our very own community car-sharing platform for EVs, enabling you to book your neighbour's electric car, or even your local EV dealer’s stock car. And then secondly, for EV drivers, we have put together all the essential services - such as home charging, public charging, EV home energy tariffs and parking, to create one great value Drivers Benefits Bundle that saves our customers loads of money. We also offer an EV specific insurance service.

Tell me about your personal EV journey so far?

From 2014 until I left Chargemaster last year, I had plug-in hybrids - primarily Mitsubishi Outlanders.

However, late in 2016, I was at an EV event in Edinburgh and decided to put a deposit down on a brand-new Model 3. I got to drive the Model S quite regularly at work, so I had my heart set on getting a Tesla. I was ready to go fully electric and, at the time, I also wanted to come off the company car scheme for tax reasons.

I waited 2 years and heard nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not even a call to say I could configure my car.  As you can imagine, I became fed up with waiting, so I decided to ask for my deposit back at the end of 2018. And then shortly after, Tesla announced that you could configure your Model 3! I enquired about getting back on the waiting list, but you guessed it, I would have been right at the bottom of the list - and I’m sure the deposit was much, much higher too!

Then my luck started to change.

I was at the Fully Charged event last summer and I got talking with some members of the owners’ club. They tipped me off that there was a second-hand Model S coming on to the market, which I am pleased to say I managed to get my hands on.

So you’ve got a Model S - nice! What’s it like to drive?

I have driven Mercedes, Porsche and Range Rovers in my life - but I can honestly say that my Tesla is the best car I have had so far. Not just because it’s amazing to drive, but because it’s environmentally friendly, technologically advanced and the charging package I have with this vehicle is fantastic.

It’s extremely comfortable, long distance driving is effortless. It always puts a smile on my face and makes me feel proud every time someone gets in the passenger seat.

What’s your charging experience been like so far?

It’s brilliant - first class! My Model S was one of the last that qualified for free charging, so I get free use of Tesla’s supercharger network. The nearest place for me to go is Warwick services, which isn’t very far from my house. My car is instantly recognised when I plug in and charging starts straight away - no hassle.

There are a couple of areas in the UK where the Tesla network doesn’t cover - for example, on the M1 around Leicester Forest East services.

I spend a lot of my time on the road - Monday I am in Lincoln, then I am off to Manchester, then back to Stratford, so I actually do around 90% of my charging on the go.

I plan my meetings and journeys around where chargers are! Some Tesla charge points are in lovely locations, so most of the time, I can have a nice coffee, get wi-fi, do my emails and have calls like this - all while my car is charging up.

I do have a charger at home, but it’s only really for topping up.

So how long does it take you to top up?

At home? 2 minutes. I plug it in and go to sleep!

On the go? 15-20 mins on a supercharger, generally gives me an extra 100 miles.

Other than Tesla superchargers, do you use any others? What’s your experience been like?

I have a Polar and PodPoint account, just in case there’s no Tesla supercharger on my journey - but that’s rare.

I’ll be honest, I have had a couple of connection issues with PodPoint which meant that I ended up only adding 2 miles worth of charge for an entire day. Bit frustrating, but not the end of the world because I was only topping up.

You’re on the road a lot. Is charging ever an inconvenience?

Not at all. I top it up, go about my businesses and carry on. I don’t sit and wait for it to charge.

Did you know on average you’re in the supermarket 1 hour 10 mins to do your big shop? Depending on the size of your battery and speed of charger, you can easily put 25 extra miles on while you’re doing your weekly shop.

Also, free parking and free charging in town centres is becoming more common - for example, Milton Keynes and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Do you frequently do 100-200 miles?

Yes, I think nothing of it. A bit of planning. I’d happily drive down to Lands End.

Have you ever been caught short?

No, never.

Any intentions of swapping your Model S?

No, I love my Model S. I would have a model X one day, but it would need the free charge benefit. I do really like the new Jaguar iPace and the Porsche Taycan though - beautiful cars!

Any reservations before you bought your first pure EV?

None at all. It was a natural progression for me from my Mitsubishi Outlander.

What would you say to someone on the fence about switching to EV?

Borrow a car. Give it a go! There are lots of ways to get into an EV - book a test drive or rent your neighbour’s EV for the weekend via Zoom.

What would you say are the biggest blockers to mass adoption of EV’s?

Whilst infrastructure is excellent for the Tesla community, we need more public charge points.

That said, more cars are coming to the market with much longer ranges. But I still think we need more infrastructure for that trip down to Cornwall.

Companies want to install more charge points, but the cost to upgrade the power with the network provider can be too much - six or seven figures maybe. We really need the government to provide more support and investment.

So you must meet a lot of EV drivers? Have you ever met anyone who hates their EV?

Honestly, I have yet to meet an EV driver who hates it.

Well, actually, I met one guy who hated it.

I met a CEO recently who was trying a Model 3 Tesla and who didn’t plan his trip, drove past a Tesla supercharger, plugged into a standard charger at his meeting place, didn’t have enough charge to get home and then threw the keys back the following day.

The switch is a challenge, yes. You just need to adjust slightly.

Finally, what’s the wildest myth you have heard about EVs?

That you can’t drive them in the rain and through puddles!

Thank you for your time, James!


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