Wattpark, the French startup that dreams of becoming the Airbnb of the charging station

Renting your accommodation to individuals for a weekend or for several weeks of vacation… We no longer need to present the concept of Airbnb and similar platforms, as they have entered our daily lives. There have also been several variations to rent your car, your tools, your pool…

So why not your electric car charging station? This is the vein in which he launched, from Saclas, in Essonne, WattPark, directed by Bertrand Lepage. The idea first germinated in the minds of his father, Marc, and his partner, David Leguide, who converted to electric mobility at an early age. “Starting in 2014, at a time when public terminals were rare and models had only 100 kilometers of autonomy”, says Bertrand Lepage. Therefore, it was often necessary to recharge during the day near their offices. There have been many locals who have agreed to do so since they took over the garage, but they still needed to be in their homes during the day to open it.

A terminal to keep for yourself or to rent

In short, it’s not practical. As of 2017, Marc Lepage and David Leguide are working on a charging station that the owner will be able to keep for his exclusive use or, on the contrary, make it accessible from outside and rent it at the times and prices he wants, through of a smartphone application. Three years of research and development later and a €1.5 million fundraising announced last November, Wattepark is now ready, since the beginning of the year, to commercialize its solution.

The start-up has already installed about a hundred of its terminals*, with a power of 3.7 kW, allowing charging at 20 km per hour. So far they are mostly in Essonne and are displayed on the map that welcomes you when you open the app. “Just click on the terminal that interests you and book it, depending on the slots available, immediately or in the future,” explains Lucas Berchadsky, Wattpark’s operations manager. Then, just go there at the appointed time, connect your smartphone to the Bluetooth terminal, select the socket that corresponds to your vehicle. This is how, in a few seconds, you connect to a private charging point. Like that of Baptiste Ollivon, installed on the front of his garage, in Coudray Montceaux (Essonne).

Recharge while in the stadium

The computer specialist, also deputy mayor of his municipality responsible for the environment, did not hesitate long before opting for Wattpark while buying an electric vehicle. “At Coudray, we’re thinking about how to build a network of charging points that meets the growing demand,” he begins. This will involve the installation of one or more ultra-fast charging stations, close to the A6 that runs through the city, which allow you to “charge” in a few tens of minutes.

“At the same time, it is also useful to have more traditional terminals, in slow charge, which allow those who don’t have one to recharge, and others to take advantage of the long parking lot to gain some battery percentage points , continues Baptiste Olivon. A municipality can take care of this, but this option has its administrative burdens. So why not encourage individuals or companies to open their terminals to others? »

Since this winter, the Baptiste Ollivon terminal has only been booked twice. “The service is just developing and needs to make itself known,” said the IT expert, who remains confident. Especially since he doesn’t intend his terminal just for his neighbors. “I sometimes do seasonal rentals through Airbnb,” he says. This possibility of recharging at home is an additional service that I can offer my guests, even if it means charging for this energy only at its cost price. “. A calculation made by other owners of the first Wattpark terminals. “It is not just individuals, but also companies or hotels that want to make their terminals profitable and offer a ‘plus’ to their employees and customers”, specifies Bertrand Lepage. also mentions this man from Lille, owner of three parking spaces close to the city’s football stadium, who equipped two of them with Wattpark terminals, thus offering the possibility for those who book them, especially on game nights, to fill up.

A need to speed up at charging stations

Wattpark’s general manager estimates between 20 and 30 euros the monthly profits that the owners of the most sought-after terminals manage to earn. A number that is set to rise as 100% electric cars become more numerous. This is no longer in doubt, much less when the EU prepares to ban the sale of new internal combustion vehicles from 2035. “575,000 100% electric vehicles are currently in circulation in France, and there are “about 15,000 to each month”, slides Cécile Goubet, general manager of the National Association for the Development of Electric Mobility (Avere). A stunning progression. “The market share of electric and plug-in hybrids [sur le nombre de véhicules neufs vendus] went from 3% in 2019 to 18% today, and should be between 70 and 90% by 2030”, continues Cécile Goubet. On the contrary, it is necessary to set limits. However, the pace of installation in France is lagging behind sales, Avere regularly warned. “Today it is a little better, France is already one of the good European students with 60,000 terminals open to the public in the territory”, tempers Cécile Goubet. However, that number will have to double by 2025 and then double again by 2030.”

Wattpark ready to accelerate

In this context, creating a “Billing Airbnb is no big deal”. Cécile Goubet classifies the concept, “which Wattpark is not the only one to develop”, among the good ideas. “Like everything it helps to expand and improve the electric charging offering,” she says.

Either way, Wattpark is ready to up the gear. In a few days, the company will take possession of its new production plant near Saumur in Maine-et-Loire. “This will allow us to move to production on an industrial scale, while remaining 100% French”, slips Bertrand Lepage. Wattpark says it already has 1,000 pre-orders and expects to sell 6,000 by the end of the year.

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