Innovation: Driving electric

12th August 2021

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From a degree in chemistry to Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder of Diode Group, Tristan Dodson is forging the future for electric vehicles.

There are a lot of EV myths circulating, so it is critical that drivers have the right answers to questions like how far can it really go, and how often do I really need to charge so that they can make an informed decision about whether to go fully electric or not.

Tristan Dodson

  • Tristan Dodson (Chemistry, 2009)

    Tristan Dodson (Chemistry, 2009) 

Government plans to phase out sales of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 have left many businesses wondering how and when to make the switch to electric

With help from a government backed Innovate UK grant, Tristan (Chemistry, 2009) and colleagues at Diode have developed a software platform to help assess electric vehicle suitability for businesses, estimate charging needs across workplaces & employee homes, then manage the charging infrastructure procurement process.

 So whether they need a detailed electrification recommendation, or just need to source charge points, Diode can help.  

Tristan joined Diode in 2020, coming from low carbon consultancy, Element Energy, where he led their work in EV consumer and charging behaviour modelling for the likes of National Grid, the Department for Transport and Transport for London.

After branching out on his own to develop an app to assess people’s electric vehicle suitability, he met his now co-founder at Diode, Jon Horsfield, who persuaded him to join the start-up. (An improved version of the app will be integrated into the Diode platform in the future).

Moving to electric vehicle technology is something that a lot of drivers might find difficult to grapple with; it is a different way of owning and driving a vehicle. 

Tristan Dodson

Tristan has always been fascinated by science, joining a sustainable energy investment fund after Wadham. Completing his Masters in Chemical Engineering he gained specific interest in energy and sustainability.

Diode is intended as a partner for existing companies, providing expertise to their customers that traditionally they would not have. “Moving to electric vehicle technology is something that a lot of drivers might find difficult to grapple with; it is a different way of owning and driving a vehicle. It is the same with some motor vehicle manufacturers, vehicle leasers and dealerships where EV expertise might be concentrated in a very small team. The idea is that Diode is a tool that these companies can use with their own customers to help them make the transition to electric,” he says.

Diode received funding from the government agency Innovate UK in order to develop its complex prototype tool which will come into operation later this year. “Our expectation is that vehicle leasing companies have a lot of their own customers ready to go through this system. It is incredibly exciting that there is a lot of demand and enthusiasm for what we are doing,” he adds.

At the moment, over 50 percent of new cars are bought by businesses which can get favourable tax incentives for buying electric vehicles however it is often difficult for them to assess employee needs. To increase EV adoption, it is important to look at the life cycle of the vehicles. Businesses are critical for widespread adoption, because they tend to only keep vehicles for 2-3 years before replacing them, providing a major supply of EVs into the second-hand market, he comments.

“Owning an electric car is not like having a petrol vehicle which relies on a network of petrol stations. The vast majority of charging takes place at home with about three quarters of car owners having access to a driveway to charge their car. For those without access to home charging, the workplace is a really important private charging location, as well as the growing network of publicly available charging points at motorway service stations, supermarkets etc.”

So should we be buying all-electric or are hybrids the answer for those who lack confidence in the charging infrastructure?

“The most important thing is that people at least consider getting a fully electric vehicle,” says Tristan. The danger with a plug-in hybrid is the temptation to use traditional fuelling and never charge it. “There are a lot of EV myths circulating, so it is critical that drivers have the right answers to questions like how far can it really go, and how often do I really need to charge so that they can make an informed decision about whether to go fully electric or not.”

Diode will provide each user with a personalised EV readiness report, which show you how an EV would fit into your lifestyle. It outlines your level of access to home, work and public charging, how often you would need to charge based on your driving habits, how often you would need to rapid charge when driving long distances, how much money you would save in running costs, how much CO2 could you save, tax benefits and more. The company will also manage the charging infrastructure procurement process.

So what advice does Tristan have for those thinking of going electric?

“Make sure you are getting accurate information about what it is like to own an electric vehicle – there are a lot of myths out there. Do your research and make an informed decision. And take a test drive. EVs are great fun to drive, can save money and be hugely convenient. And once you make the switch, it’s actually a nice thing to be sitting in a traffic jam thinking ‘I don’t have an engine churning out fumes’.”

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