A unique device for EV charging breaks new ground ….Norrie Hunter of EVA Scotland interviews geography teacher turned innovator and entrepreneur Benjamin Macdonald, co-founder of NODUM

4th May 2022

A unique device for EV charging breaks new ground ….Norrie Hunter of EVA Scotland interviews geography  teacher turned innovator and entrepreneur  Benjamin Macdonald, co-founder of NODUM

Interest from various quarters, including the UK’s local Authorities, makes this latest EV charging concept yet another possible winner as the transition to all electric transportation accelerates across the country.

NH: How did this idea start?

B M: The inception of the project came about when we wanted to purchase a second hand Nissan Leaf in 2016 to replace our ageing Fiat Cinquecento. Given that we lived on a terraced house in a conservation area and the public charging infrastructure was rather limited back then I began making a collapsible boom arm that could span the footpath. Unfortunately there were a few too many issues to surmount and I ended up putting it to one side. A year or so later I decided to work part time on the project and came up with a solution that fitted our scenario. I filed a patent and began working with another fellow Kiwi who is a graduate in product design from the Royal College of Arts.

NH: What’s unique about the device?

BM: The movement of the mechanism is key. We have designed it so the arc of the movement is as limited as possible to avoid conflicting with existing infrastructure and street trees. We also wanted to design the mechanism in a way that the cable is managed effectively. I have an elderly neighbour who was wanting to get an EV but was concerned about having to move the cables with his mobility scooter. As the carriage moves down the vertical surface it ‘peels’ the cable and moves it through the boom. The EV plug then moves out the boom at the end and presents about the height of the EV charge port.

NH: Was there a prototype?

BM: We made one up in our back yard - it wasn’t that elegant but did a good job of testing the key principles of the design and some rudimentary load testing. We have subsequently re-engineered it, making it more reliable and with a slimmer profile.

NH: When will it come on to the market?

BM: We still have some work to do (and investments to make) in order to bring the product to market. A key element of this is creating the custom aluminium extrusions that we will need to ensure that it is suitable to be used in conservation areas. In the final iteration the boom arm is housed in a fully functioning drainage pipe making it all but invisible when not in use.

We have developed models for different solutions including one that could be used at the end of a garden for people who perhaps have a larger span from the front of the house to the kerbside. Also,

we’ve considered a piece of public charging infrastructure using our mechanism. Many Local Authorities have moved their street lighting to the curtilage side of the footpath.

NH: Can you explain further?

BM: Well, this made sense twenty years ago given the improvements in lighting for pedestrians and the removal of clutter on the pavements. However given the rise in charging infrastructure that scavenges off the lighting circuits this is now an issue for these LAs. It may make sense to maintain the street lighting at the curtilage side of the footpath as the cost of the groundworks would be considerable and the benefits from having street lighting away from the kerb still exist.

We aim to have a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) I(what’s this??) in the market in limited numbers in early 2023. We are adopting an iterative approach to the design in order to iron out issues and ensure that the product is fit for purpose. LAs have been very keen to consider this solution as it could help alleviate some of the stress and cost associated with either managing or providing the public charging infrastructure.

NH: What’s next for NODUM?

BM: We are in the process of raising money…have been a little let down by a couple of promising investors…hence my shout-out on Linkedin. We are only two people and a few advisors so can maintain a very lean ship for the next few months. We have agreed terms on a development and testing centre in Lewisham that will allow us to complete small batch production. Obviously when we start to scale our manufacturing we would look to move somewhere else. A few LAs have offered to conduct trials in the later half of this year which will help us improve the product and bring it to market as quickly as possible.



Comments

Truly an innovative product that has tremendous possibilities.

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