Fastned: Giving freedom to electric cars

53°N interviewed Kathleen Rademan, INSEAD alum and Head of European Network Strategy at Fastned.

Kathleen Rademan recently joined Fastned, a company at the forefront of rapid electric car charging in the Netherlands. With a background in finance, Kathleen committed herself to a rigorous search for a role in a start-up company. It was however the chance encounter of sitting next to the CEO of Fastned at an INSEAD rugby game that first sparked her interest in the company. She spoke to us about what Fastned does, where they are going, and what it’s like working at a start-up!

What is Fastned?

When considering the demise of combustion engines our imaginations spring to the exciting horizons of Elon Musk’s Tesla Model 3 or the more modest Nissan Leaf. However, whether you are a millionaire or a conscientious consumer you aren’t going anywhere without fuel. This is the problem Fastned is tackling by building rapid charging electric stations.

Fastned’s mission is to “give freedom to electric cars.” Despite consistent advancements in electric tech, lowering prices and increasing speeds, there is still one key barrier to crossing the chasm to mass market – people’s fear of breaking down and not being able to refuel.

Fastned stations are designed to look and feel like petrol stations, but on closer inspection you’ll notice a few differences. Instead of petrol pumps you’ll find plugs, instead of roofing tiles you’ll see solar panels, and the entire structure is created to be sustainably minded with responsibly sourced wood, and an ecological design.

The clincher however is that it takes only 20 minutes to fully-charge your car using ‘rapid’ charging technology. This is a significant improvement on ‘fast,’ which clocks in at 4 hours and ‘slow’ which takes a full night of around 8 hours.

Aside from solar energy, the bulk of their energy is bought off the grid from green suppliers predominantly using wind farms common to the area.

How did it get started?

European governments’ ambitious targets to reduce carbon emission over the next three decades have given rise to a developing ecosystem in sustainable energy.

Fastned’s CEO Michiel Langezaal and his investor partner Bart Lubbers saw this movement as an opportunity and approached the Dutch government five years ago to discuss the future of electric car fuelling stations. Their request? Land tenders across Dutch highways similar to those of petrol stations. After a lengthy process, Fastned was eventually awarded 210 plots and so the company was born.

This model works for governments who would rather outsource than invest in costly infrastructure required to build a station – it has been the ignition for Fastned’s growth across Europe. They recently won a subsidy in Germany for €4.1 m, and were selected to be one of the UK’s Transport for London’s (TfL) five trusted vendors for electric charging. As a result, Fastned’s pipeline is filling up with over 20 new stations due for completion across four countries in the upcoming year.

With a wide distribution of 74 operating stations in the Netherlands, they are proving that it is possible to normalise the use of electric energy – there are even signs that Fastned has helped increase sales in electric car sales.

What is it like working in a fast-scaling infrastructure business?

For Kathleen there is no looking back, saying that there is nothing like being in a company that is “really at the forefront of tech in its industry.” She reflects on the benefit of being empowered daily to make decisions that have a real impact – a theme we have picked up on often from the start-up community. When asked about the downside? She jokingly talks about dealing with cultural nuances of a scaling team and the challenge to implement organisational structure as the company moves into the scale-up phase. Most importantly she says that working at Fastned really is like being a part of a family.

Where to in the future

To enable continued growth, Fastned requires three key elements:  i) increased opportunity to secure suitable land(through private sector or public tenders), ii) additional funding to enabling more rapid roll out of infrastructure, iii) furthered awareness and education of key stakeholders on the importance and need to implement this type of charging infrastructure. The latter may be the most challenging, however, Fastned is working hard to counter this with their ‘Rapid charging roadshows,’ and other educational seminars for the public sector.

Demanding government targets mean education is critical – the UK alone is set to ban all diesel and petrol vehicles by 2040. With ambitions like these, it is inevitable that the future is in sustainable energy, and right now Fastned is well positioned for success!

Interested?

For our INSEAD readers, Fastned are hiring! Some top tips from Kathleen when interviewing at a start-up;

  • It’s not always going to be a case-study interview – it’s a fit and a passion interview. (unless the hiring manager is an ex-consultant)
  • You have to be generally yourself, and you really do have to be interested in the business.
  • Be ready for your job to become a more integral part of your life – entrepreneurial companies treat their employees like family members.

And finally, our two wacky questions..

If Fastned was an animal what would it be? “A lion cub – strong and determined … with a lot to look forward to in the future! ”

And if you could hire anyone in the world to work at Fastned who would it be? “Richard Branson, … formidable passion for entrepreneurship and an executor of note!”

 

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