Kerb Charge — No Garage, No Worries

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Rod Walker is the brains and the brawn behind Kerb Charge. He graciously accepted my invitation for an exclusive interview for CleanTechnica. He has been a public accountant for 40 years and was a registered builder for 10 years. He is not the sort of man to eschew the tools and just sit in an office. So, when presented with the challenge 5 years ago of how to charge an electric vehicle without off-street parking, he came up with “Kerb Charge.”

“Not everyone wants to go to a public charge station,” Rod tells me.

A fabricator mate made a retractable, manual prototype structure out of stainless steel. “A cybertruck of a charger,” I quipped. Rod told me it had to be simple — with no electronics, entirely manually operated, with no springs or gas struts. Check out the video showing the operation. I’m happy to report that Kerb Charge is now being trialled in inner city Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, at 10 sites and has even made the news.

Kerb Charge
Kerb Charge in use. Photo courtesy of Rod Walker.

After he formulated the original idea, Rod checked to make sure he wasn’t taking someone else’s idea. He searched on the internet and couldn’t find anything. He then employed a patent attorney. After six weeks, they could find no evidence of an existing patent either. So, Rod’s invention now has a global patent pending. It has been pending for approximately 3 years. Rod expects it will be another 2 years before the specified country patent process is finalised.

He tells me that regardless of the patent, the best protection is “to make a really good product, at a really good price, with good service, that does what it says it’s going to do. If you are selling socks, make sure they fit.” He isn’t frightened of competition — “that’s what makes progress.” Rod’s Kerb Charge company manufactures the units in his home Melbourne suburb, Williamstown. He is employing local tradespeople to both make and install the system. This year is expected to be the year of commercialisation.

Kerb Charge
Kerb Charger retracted into footpath. Photo courtesy of Rod Walker

Eight inner-city councils are currently observing the trial of 10 units fitted across Port Phillip in Melbourne, Victoria. The trial is due to finish at the end of the month. Other states are also looking at the trial. After being featured on the ABC News, Rod was contacted by the authorities in the neighbouring state of New South Wales. The result was a section amendment (2.124B) to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979: State Environmental Planning Policy (Transport and Infrastructure) Amendment (Electric Vehicles) 2023 New South Wales. Section 2.124B reads: “Development permitted with consent — residential premises.”

In summary, any NSW resident can initiate a development application to install a Kerb Charge unit. That council must then consider it. This is unlike in Victoria, where the council must first approve the concept before a resident can initiate a development application.

Kerb Charge
Kerb Charge in nature strip footpath. Photo courtesy of Rod Walker.

This change in NSW state law should mean it is easier to navigate local council rules, regulations, and objections. On the positive side, the local councils appreciate the fact that they don’t have to provide charging infrastructure out of their own budgets. Rod tells me that although a lot of people in local council were generous with their help and advice, “working through the bureaucracy is like wading through concrete.”

Just as well, Rod is pretty determined — a determination he demonstrated when he sailed solo ¾ of the way around the world at the age of 26. This experience gave him a strong connection to the environment. Now, at 69, he finds himself in the midst of a climate emergency and wants to do his part. “This business is a good opportunity to make a difference. The best way to get anything to work is to make it commercially viable. Yes, it’s a business venture, but I got into it for the right reasons.”

Rod gives a lot of credit to the Port Phillip City Council: “they were brave enough to take it on. New things can always be a bit scary. They asked questions, we gave them answers. They allocated the resources to sort through the process across various departments.”

“It’s all about council and government moving out of the way to ensure that we can install infrastructure that our residents are demanding at the moment, which is a good thing,” Former City of Port Phillip Mayor Marcus Pearl said. He added that the council had responsibility to manage footpaths, as they are public land, and so had expedited the red tape around the installation.

Rod’s team excavates the pavement using non-destructive digging techniques. City footpaths conceal lots of utilities and even though you check first, the possibly of hitting some is high. “Dial before you dig. Approximate but best to assume there will be problems. That’s why we dig with high pressure water and suck up the slurry.” The Kerb Charge unit is installed in the ground and sits flush with the kerb when not in use. Unless the car is connected, the line is dead. The system cost is $6,750, which includes a 7.4 kW charger, the Kerb Charge unit, all civil works, government body applications, and a charging cable. The unit has been safety tested and is floodproof.

Kerb Charge is a far simpler solution than moving house, or ripping out your backyard to create rear access for your new EV. Inner-city suburbs with small house blocks will certainly benefit.

While it is similar to other on-street EV charging solutions like chargers on electricity poles, and is a safe and legal alternative to the extension cord out of the kitchen window, its difference is that it is the only legally approved, privately connected on-street EV charging solution out there. And it is an Aussie home-grown invention.

One satisfied kerb charge customer posted on Facebook about her positive experience. She has owned a Tesla Model Y now for 8 months and made the decision to install a kerbside charger since she has no off-street parking at her home. Although she tried using public chargers, she found the experience frustrating — not all chargers were working, and when they were, some people overstayed the charge time. Not only that, but utilising DC chargers all the time was not cost effective.

The total cost came to $7,500. This includes the electrician and the council fees. “Yes it is dearer than a normal connection but for us it makes sense as we will not be moving and now we have made the move to an EV I couldn’t imagine going back to an ICE vehicle. Rod who owns Kerbside Charging unit was fantastic to deal with.”

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David Waterworth

David Waterworth is a retired teacher who divides his time between looking after his grandchildren and trying to make sure they have a planet to live on. He is long on Tesla [NASDAQ:TSLA].

David Waterworth has 750 posts and counting. See all posts by David Waterworth