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. Several variations have also emerged for renting a car, tools, in the pool

So why not its electric car charging station? This is the vein on which, since Saclas, in Essonne, WattPark, directed by Bertrand Lepage. The idea first germinated in the heads of his father, Marc, and his partner, David Leguide, very early converted to electric mobility. “From 2014, at a time when public terminals were rare and the models only had a hundred kilometers of autonomy,” says Bertrand Lepage. It was therefore often necessary to recharge during the day near their offices. There were many local residents who agreed that they would do it since taking over their garage, but they still had to be at their home, during the day, to open it to them.

A terminal to keep for yourself or to rent

In short, not practical. From 2017, Marc Lepage and David Leguide are working on a charging station that its owner could keep for his exclusive use or, on the contrary, make it accessible from the outside and rent it at the times and prices he wishes, via a smartphone app. Three years of research and development later and a fundraising of 1.5 million euros, announced last November, and here is Wattepark ready, since the beginning of the year, to market its solution.

The start-up has already installed around a hundred of its terminals*, with a power of 3.7 kW, allowing it to recharge 20 km per hour. To date, they are mainly 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 available slots, either immediately or in the future, explains Lucas Berchadsky, Wattpark operations manager. Then, all you have to do is get there at the appointed time, connect your smartphone to the Bluetooth terminal, and 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 pediment of his garage, on the Coudray Montceaux (Essonne).

Recharge while at the stadium

The computer specialist, also deputy mayor of his municipality in charge of the environment, did not hesitate long before opting for Wattpark at the same time as he bought an electric vehicle. “At Coudray, we are in the midst of thinking about how to build a network of charging points that meets growing demand,” he begins. This will involve the installation of one or several ultra-fast charging stationsnear the A6 which runs along the town, and which allow you to “refuel” 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 do not have one to recharge, and others to take advantage of long parking to gain a few percentage points of battery , continues Baptiste Ollivon. A municipality can take care of it, but this option has its administrative burdens. So why not encourage individuals or companies to open their terminals to others? »

Since this winter, Baptiste Ollivon’s terminal has only been booked twice. “The service is just developing and needs to make itself known,” said the IT specialist, who remains confident. Especially since he does not intend his terminal only for his neighbors. “Sometimes I 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’s not just individuals, but also companies or hotels who want to monetize their terminals and offer a ‘plus’ to their employees and customers”, specifies Bertrand Lepage. He also cites this man from Lille, owner of three parking spaces near the city’s football stadium, who has equipped two of them with Wattpark terminals, thus offering the possibility to those who reserve them, especially on match nights, to make the full.

A need to speed up at charging stations

The general manager of Wattpark estimates between 20 and 30 euros the monthly profits that manage to make the owners of the most requested terminals. A figure that should increase as 100% electric cars become more numerous. What is no longer in doubt, even less as the EU prepares to ban the sale of new thermal vehicles from 2035. “575,000 100% electric vehicles are currently in circulation in France, and around 15,000 are added each month”, slips Cécile Goubet, general manager of the National Association for the Development of Electric Mobility (Avere). A dazzling progression. “The market share of electric and plug-in hybrids [sur le nombre de véhicules neufs vendus] has increased from 3% in 2019 to 18% today, and should be between 70 and 90% around 2030”, continues Cécile Goubet. Opposite, it is necessary to set limits. However, the pace of installation is lagging behind, in France, on that of sales, has regularly alerted Avere. “It’s a little better today, France is now even one of the good European students with 60,000 terminals open to the public on the territory, tempers Cécile Goubet. Nevertheless, this figure will have to be doubled by 2025 and doubled again by 2030.

Wattpark ready to step up a gear

In this context, creating an “Airbnb of charging is not too much”. Cécile Goubet ranks the concept, “that Wattpark is not the only one to develop”, among the good ideas. “Like everything that helps to expand and improve the electric charging offer,” she says.

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