Bruce Galliford is slightly abashed to admit he drives a brand new Mercedes EQS, at £110,000 one of the big beasts of electric motoring. His second car is a £50,000 Polestar. He is in the electric car game but as he admits: “It’s a bit flash.”
But it’s not so much the status symbolism of the EQS that worries him, more the questions that it asks of his company’s business model.
Galliford, 53, is the chief executive of RAW Charging, one of a cluster of electric vehicle (EV) recharging infrastructure contractors jockeying to build a sizeable share of a market that the industry thinks needs to spawn 350,000 public charging points by 2030.
Whereas the giants of the industry such as BP, Shell and Total are banking on electric motorists not changing their habits and wanting to recharge at converted service stations on main roads, Raw reckons money can be made installing charging points at “destinations”: shopping parks or hotels or pubs where drivers will dwell and recharge their cars while they do something more useful.
The point is that recharging business plans are based on the driving range for most EVs on a single charge; ie, not much more than 200 miles. The superior battery-laden EQS is a window into the future, a vehicle whose A to B range is 420 miles.
In Galliford’s case, a trip from his home in Oxfordshire to the company headquarters in Yorkshire in his Polestar needs a couple of recharging stops. In his EQS he can get there and back on a single charge.
“This is the next stage for battery electrics. I am curious to see how that changes people’s lives if they only have to charge half as much as previously,” he says, citing his own lifestyle of 40,000 zero-emission miles a year. If people are driving longer range EVs, he muses, “where will people charge, at home, at destinations, does en route become more important?”
It is probably a bit late to be getting second thoughts. Having foregone plans for a flotation because of choppy markets, this summer RAW took £250 million of funding from Antin, a French private equity firm, in return for a 60 per cent stake. Galliford and his team retain a 20 per cent stake with the rest in the hands of Bayford, a mini-conglomerate in Yorkshire that RAW was already working with.
That has given RAW £1 million a week for the next five years, with the company installing 1,000 points by the turn of this year and on a target trajectory of 40,000 to 50,000 by 2030, when the sale of new cars with engines will be banned in the UK. That would mean RAW accounting for between one in seven and one in eight of all the expected public chargers around the country. A £1 million investment gets you eight ultrafast superchargers in one location or dozens of smaller, slower chargers.
The name may be vaguely familiar. Galliford is the son of Peter Galliford, still going strong at 93, the founder, former chief executive and long-retired chairman of the listed construction company Galliford Try.
Galliford fils was steered away from the firm and chose the City, “because it looked like a lot of fun”, first with Rothschild Asset Management then in broking. The life was not satisfying and he joined the 1990s dotcom boom with Corsellis-Montford, which as iCollector became one of the first quoted internet stocks.
An aggregator of auction house catalogues — an idea well ahead of its time — the shares soared but were ultimately consumed in the bonfire of the dotcom stocks. “I was the oldest person in the company. It funded an amazing lifestyle and I learnt a lot but I didn’t get out in time. I didn’t end up with much,” he says.
He spent the next decade in various roles then followed the money into the sustainability agenda, co-founding a renewables business called Real Asset Wealth. Maybe not a zeitgeisty name for an environmental firm but when the founders later split the business between its renewables projects and the idea to set up an EV charging network, Galliford took the initials and RAW Charging was born.
His experience in renewables taught him the basics of “sorting the electricity connections, finding sites, planning, negotiating with landlords, doing leases and contracts”. And institutional money was becoming available for the right recharging projects if you could demonstrate the returns over 25 years.
Then Covid struck. The lockdowns were a commercial disaster for many, but they gave RAW a headstart.
The energy majors wanting to stitch up the sector were used to big boardroom schmoozing and were stumped. “They weren’t used to doing business from their bedrooms,” says Galliford, whose small team around the country had been communicating among themselves and with clients by Zoom for 18 months prior.
The real estate investment funds of Aviva with their shopping centres and commercial properties approached RAW wanting a view on what they should do about EV charging at 550 of their locations. By the end of the first lockdowns, RAW had built them a plan of action.
Other big estate owners followed such as Segro, Greene King the pubco, Bespoke Hotels, and McArthurGlen’s shopping outlets.
The electricity providers get their money and RAW and the landlords share the margin made on what the motorist pays. “The model is to make a small amount on every kilowatt we sell because we want to start competitive and stay competitive,” he says. “We are not making money at the moment because there is not enough [EV] penetration or utilisation yet. In two or three years time it will be completely different. By 2030 it will be a really strong business.”
One unexpected twist has been working with Abrdn and its portfolio of properties. It found scraps of land that could not be redeveloped. One, on a street corner in Slough, has been turned into the first RAW Charge Yard with eight rapid chargers. A dozen more pieces of dead acreage in urban centres around the country will go through the same process.
As a young fellow Galliford says he and his two older brothers could not help but be immersed in the building game, spending school holidays working on construction sites and most weekends being hauled around by their father to see how sites were progressing. “Like my father, I think our people need to know what we are doing and that we are doing it right.”
“He pushed us away [from joining the family company] for all the best reasons, a case of making our own way.
“My father built something big but he was an ethical and selfless person. He’d be horrified to hear me say it but that sits over you and there is a need [for me] to stand up and show that [I] can do the same sort of thing.”
He adds: “His best advice was only do things that in ten, twenty or thirty years you won’t regret. That changes the way you act. If you can sleep at night you are lucky.”
Who is your mentor? My father
Who do you most admire? Sebastian Vettel, his work ethic, engineering obsession and using his influence for good on climate change
What was the most important event in your working life? Investment by Bayford Group, it facilitated the big step to where we are now
What does leadership mean to you? Leading by example and nurturing young talent
Does money motivate you? Money facilitates positive change but it is not a daily motivation
What is your favourite television programme? Top Gear, The Grand Tour
How do you relax? Walking the dog with my wife, and I have just rediscovered sailing with the family
Education Oundle School; University of Buckingham, BSc Hons business administration
Career 1991-93 dealer Rothschild Asset Management; 1993-94 principal dealer Guernsey Capital Management (Apax Bank & Trust); 1995-99 corporate development for iCollector (was Corsellis-Montford); 1999–2011 various roles in start-ups and consultancies; 2011–14 founder EWF Energy; 2014–20 co-founder RAW Energy; 2018– RAW Charging
Family Married with three children