Modern Fleet talks embalming room electrics, heavy duty EVs and a passion for cricket with Mer’s Giles Benbow
Favourite holiday destination?
Anywhere my family is and there are things we can do together, that’s why we’re buying a camper van to use as a holiday base and keep everyone happy. Saying that, as a massive cricket fan. My dream is to watch England play test cricket somewhere warm in the southern hemisphere, at the MCG in Australia or Newlands in South Africa, or New Zealand… pretty much anywhere in fact.
What car do you drive?
I have driven EVs since 2012 and have a nine-year old Tesla Model S. It’s one of the original, Teslas and one of the first to come off the ship in the UK. It’s a performance version and apparently, rather rare. A future classic.
How and when did you get into this industry?
I trained as an electrician and set up an electrical contracting business when I was nineteen. Around 2011, I qualified as a solar installer and installed solar power at residential properties. This really took off and I was installing two PV systems a day, and went into commercial PV, biomass and air source installations. In 2012, I was travelling to Ecobuild in the back of a big old diesel Volkswagen Sharan, and it struck me that electric vehicles would be the natural next step for an electrician with a love of cars and an interest in sustainability. I borrowed a Mitsubishi i-MiEV from a local dealership, who basically couldn’t have been more pleased as they’d had zero interest in them. And I absolutely fell in love with it and bought one. I went on to set up an EV charging business off the back of it. I arranged a track day and invited people to drive these fancy EVs around an airfield in Devon. The rest, you can guess at.
How can we encourage more people into the industry?
I think we’re starting to see signs of that already happening as the EV charging industry matures and people are coming into companies from different industries. It’s not a case of only hiring EV specialists anymore. EV charging is becoming more mainstream so a procurement professional, for example, can move across from another industry quite easily. It helps when that person has a natural curiosity because they tend to want to find out more about the ins and outs of EV charging. And you know what happens when people discover EVs, they become passionate about the possibilities. People want to believe that they are contributing, doing good in the world and for the planet. Joining the EV industry to use their skills makes that a reality. There is something for everyone in this industry, everyone can contribute and make a difference.
What are your industry predictions for the next 12 months?
My direct focus at the moment is heavy duty vehicles. I think we’ll see an acceleration of medium duty, fixed axle vehicles like refuse lorries and larger vans converting to EVs in the nearer term before the heavy-duty vehicles. This does raise the inevitable chicken and egg situation of infrastructure or vehicles first.
A continuing decrease in supply chain constraints and price of vehicles would be ideal to drive demand for better infrastructure. I would also hope that the energy markets start to recover and reflect the reduction in the wholesale price.
What is the strangest or most challenging job you have done?
Strangest job would be an electrical installation, I forget what of, in an embalming room while work carried on around me. That was in my first weeks as an apprentice electrician and not something you forget.
A memorable job for a cricket fan like me was installing a charging station at Kevin Pietersen’s house. Shortly afterwards I was quite unwell – completely unconnected – and Kevin and his wife Jessica sent me a ‘Get Well Soon’ package that included two signed shirts.
If you had your time again, would you have followed the same career path?
Undoubtedly! My “career path” has always been a case of just trying to do the best I can on any given day. I give my full focus to what I am doing and don’t worry about long-term ambitions. I do my job well and give it my best and the rest takes care of itself.
If you had been reincarnated, who or what do you think you were in a past life?
I do have certain leadership traits and enjoy being head of the pack. I’m excitable and energetic as well as being enthusiastic and loyal … so I think I was probably a dog in a past life. Plus, I have a cold nose!
If you could invite four people to a dinner party – living or dead – who would they be – and why?
- Elon Musk, as a pioneer of EVs. I’d like to pick his brains about the industry, I think he would be interesting and hilarious.
- Lance Armstrong was an amazing champion and put his body through things nobody else would in his cycling career. As a keen cyclist I’d like to talk to him about his Tour De France wins. The vilification he received was harsh, I think he deserves respect and recognition.
- Nikola Tesla would be fascinating. He changed the world, and I would love to get his view of how it is now, and how it might look in the future.
- Now we get into trouble as I’d love to sit down with Kevin Pietersen as a true cricketing visionary. Also, Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne as someone who encapsulates the 90s to me – a really fun time in my life. And Andrew Strauss, another cricketer who I hold in very high regard.
I think we’d need a bigger table or decamp to the pub.
What are your passions outside the workplace?
I have an amazing family; my wife and two children are the centre of my life. I get involved in my local community in practical ways that use my skills. I’m on the committee of our local cricket club and installed the electrics in the pavilion. I also coach young players’ cricket and football teams and contribute locally where I can.
If they made a film about your life who would play you?
Jason Statham, because that’s the person my wife would say. He’s kind of her crush, after me, of course.
Describe yourself in five words?
Energetic. Mindful. Motivated. Diligent. Empathetic.