I started making Fully Charged in 2009 off my own bat. I’d been pitching the idea around various TV broadcasters in the UK for a year, they showed interest in me doing something but felt the subject was too ‘obscure.’
‘No one knows about electric cars’ they told me.
I replied as politely as I could, ‘Well, that’s kind of the reason for making the show.’
TV companies, I was informed, are scared of coming over ‘preachy and ‘green’ and would love me to have done a show about cooking. I partly jest, but cooking is safe and don’t challenge the status quo as are singing contests and dropping insects on ‘celebrities.’
So I started making it anyway in a half-baked amateur way. I’d had plenty of experience making Carpool and I felt sure there was an audience for a show that took a close look at electric vehicles and the future of energy.
However, making Carpool is a lot easier. I produced over 80 Carpool episodes myself, although it was complicated to arrange the recordings, many thousands of e-mails, phone calls and texts to my passengers saying ‘I’m right outside.’
Once it was recorded, the editing was fairly straightforward.
I edited the whole thing on an iMac in my office, backed up by some chunky Drobo drives which contain thousands of hours of footage. I then compressed the video and uploaded it to iTunes and YouTube.
6.3 million views later, people are still discovering the series for the first time.
Making Fully Charged was a lot more complicated to do as a one man operation. If nothing else, getting the classic ‘drive by’ shot of an electric car meant driving somewhere, pulling off the road, setting up the camera, driving around the corner, turning round, driving past the camera, turning around, driving back to the camera before anyone swiped it, and moving on to the next location.
Exhausting and slow.
I made some episodes and had fantastic support from a small but growing audience and of course the companies that made the cars. But no actual cash, no budget to pay someone to help me.
Right from the start my online video efforts I have been greatly helped by two lovely young chaps, Wil Harris and Justin Gaynor who run a company called Channel Flip. Last year we started looking for a sponsor for Fully Charged, and eventually found one in British Gas.
For overseas viewers the title ‘British Gas’ can be confusing, clearly from the comments on YouTube some people think it’s a gasoline supply company.
British Gas used to be the only supplier of gas (i.e. the stuff you cook with) in the UK, they have never supplied petrol or gasoline.
After Margaret Thatcher privatised the company in 1986 it has become one of the leading suppliers of electricity and gas in the country.
They are now at the forefront of supplying solar panels and electric car charging points and their support of Fully Charged is a fairly clear sign that they are very committed to supporting renewables and systems to refine the way we use energy.
As with all large corporations there are sure to be reasons to criticise their corporate policy, but on the whole and judging by the people I’ve met at British Gas, they have a very realistic grasp of the problems facing us. We don’t need to find alternatives to burning fossil fuels to be ‘green’ or trendy, we need to do it because they are, by definition, unsustainable.
What their sponsorship means is that I can now make far more shows that cover a far greater variety of topics and I get a bit of help in the process.
When I worked for big broadcasting companies the money that paid for the production came from the advertisers, all sorts of companies I may have very good reason to be critical of.
The sponsorship was indirect, it was hidden from us as creative people and we had no direct relationship with that source of funding.
Now the picture is very different, it’s very new and hasn’t really been tried much before the last couple of years. I do have a direct relationship with British Gas and no one truly knows how these relationships will work in the long run.
I don’t feel restricted by the relationship, I didn’t set out to use Fully Charged as a platform to criticise energy companies, I just wanted to highlight the advantages of being open minded to new technologies, as opposed to sneering and negative as the Clarksonian lobby encourage us all to be.
It is of course a compromise but it’s a compromise for both parties, it’s my job to make sure I am honest and open, transparent if you like about this sponsorship but also follow the original goal of the series.
I hope I’m doing that.