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Charging for Fully Charged
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.
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Claude Christophi's profile photoKathryn K's profile photoLee Brookes's profile photoRob Townley's profile photo
I one day hope you do their green energy ads Robert. I bloody do.
Glad you got sponsorship +Robert Llewellyn. Have you considered getting funding through something like Kickstarter?
+Steve Mayne I have thought about it, in fact my book, News from Gardenia is through a kind of Kickstarter style, crowd sourced publishing venture called Unbound.
I think it works well for a one off project, but for a series of 20 weeks of shows... well, maybe I should try.
Damn, you've got me thinking now :-)
Congratz on the sponsorship...well deserved and as you maintain full editorial control, even better.

Got to say, when thinking green, the last thing that comes to mind is BG...So kudos to them for showing enterprise...
Tim Box
Fantastic read, I wish all the success in the future.
You are both honourable and eloquent. That is a story I'm glad I read (following) and will shortly follow up by watching the results of your labour. You cool guy you! :-)
Of course broadcasters don't want to show "preachy" stuff, but Channel 4 has a history of broadcasting vile, twisted, anti-environmental propaganda "documentaries", such as "The Great Global Warming Swindle", "What the Green Movement Got Wrong", and in 1997 "Against Nature". (And if you think I'm exaggerating, just check out some of the critical media coverage.)
Interesting to read a bit more about the show, and congratulations to the sponsorship. Keep up the good work!
Your hard work is an inspiration, Robert. You're one of the good guys, of that there's no doubt.
Oh, you have Sponsors now. Good stuff. :) Sad to say I've not been following, if only for reasons of bandwidth usage. Maybe once I get this unlimited usage upgrade...
Thanks! .. I have been scared of battery powered cars when I started looking at Hybrids/Electric earlier in the year. The cost of replacing the batteries that one manufacturer stated 'They last 5 years and cost £7000 to replace' .. the whole car cost £21000. I dont know if that was a truthful comment, but it put me off battery for the next few years.. let the technology mature.

Programs like yours are brilliant at giving the information that humans can use (and not too techie!)
British Gas is one of more enlightened energy companies, having solar, micro combined heat and power and fuel cell trials and installations. So, not a bad sponsor at all in my opinion.
Very cool. The ultimate problem is how to pay for all of this. Finding a sponsor who's interests align closely to the goals of the production is a great way to address that problem. This seems like a pretty reasonable alignment.

Criticism has value. But at some point, one either sits back and picks apart problems all day or rolls up their sleeves, make some choices, and gets things done. Thanks for getting things done, +Robert Llewellyn.
In " #StarTrek: First Contact" Lily Sloane (I think (long time since watching)) comments to Picard on seeing the inside of the Enterprise, "Who pays for all this?". Picard looks kind of bemused, then says calmly, "No one pays for it. We do it because it's the right thing to do."
Well +Robert Llewellyn one thing I've gathered from being on Google+ is that it's a good place to source volunteer help. Designers and photographers especially (both of which I dabble :D ), so maybe you could save money on some of the production aspects by gathering free help from people who'd be glad to put something like this in a portfolio or a cv given the opportunity.
+Fred Gandt Star Trek also exists in a universe with replicators and no scarcity economy. ;)
"A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." ;-) Think big and flap hard, maybe you'll take off. It works for the bumblebee! Sure, slow motion footage and a lot of sore fingers have shown that the previously thought to be un-aerodynamic BB knew something we didn't, but the principle is still worth a thought. If at first you don't succeed, give up and join in with the mainstream. NO THANKS. We live in a golden age. Shiny!
+Fred Gandt I'm with you. The fiat-money, fractional-reserve-banking "economic" system that currently is the only thing that counts has long since lost more than a nodding acquaintance with reality; the Trek episode you mention is pretty right on for how we should be doing things. The only thing you need to make a wind generator is some workers (human or mechanical), some metals and some plastics. But still for some "mysterious" reason we subsidize oil but not alternatives and then claim that alternatives are "more expensive". +Paul Hosking I submit that scarcities are in the main artificially created... and even worse, a money-based social system is wholly dependent on the many scarcities. Just look at what happened when workers ceased to be scarce... Greece is practically destroyed and the rest of the nations in Europe are about to follow.
Sure - dream big. Work the big problems. Don't fall in line with the status quo. But also look at reality and deal with it. Solve the real, complex problems that get in the way of high ideals. Bridge reality with that idealism. Work the logistics. Work the science. Build the technology. And build the systems that will harness infinite energy and the technology to apply that energy to undermine scarcity.

If ideals and dreams were enough, the world would be a very different place.
The description of how the electrons simply have no choice but to travel back down the wire to re-unite with the protons to make water - was a really good way of making hydrogen to electricity conversion simple to understand.
Aweswome stuff. Thank you. It's wonderful hearing some of the inside story. I keep thinking that you might want to do a little of what Felicia Day is up to in making her own YouTube video network.
I think British Gas are the winners in this deal, they gain a great deal of green PR from sponsoring you.
I don't see that British Gas can fail with this. The publicity they are getting by 'supporting' your information and your views on green energy can only be good for them. Well done to them for taking such a step forward.
Ironic that the word 'gas' in their name should cause confusion in some other countries, since it is not that kind of 'gas' to which it refers.
+Paul Hosking Obviously. But the first and most important change we have to make is to deep-six money, before it does it to us. Accepting that we're literally destroying the world because that's the cheapest way isn't being practical, it's being a laissez-faire jackass, and I refuse to do that.

Of course we have to build tech and do the practical things as well, and right now our societal organization is hampering that massively; the math already proves that we could run the world on wind alone, and we have many other options like solar and geothermal to pick just a few.

Either way, great to see that the show got sponsorship.
John E
I'm sorry to tell you, but regardless of how cool and trendy the grads they've shipped in to head up their "climate change and all that bullshit" department and pay lip service to "green" issues are, british gas are an evil energy conglomerate just like the rest of them.

You could learn a lot from Lewis CK. With a little bit of fame and a rabid online following (check, check), you can put up videos for a nominal fee per download and make plenty of money without getting your hands dirty by taking sponsorship from a multinational energy company.

I'm sure people would pay a quid to download this stuff.
+John E As long as British Gas doesn't demand editorial input, having some logos on the program is hardly a big deal. I have a lot of faith in Robert to have integrity enough to not turn into some corporate talking head suddenly along the way. At least some of the energy conglomerate money goes to something worthwhile and positive.
John E
I suppose, let's not kid ourselves that Birtish Gas actually give a flying fuck about sustainable energy though, eh?

Every major Oil and Gas company sponsors some sort of token eco-thing. BP sponsor some kind of solar car race, Exxon sponsor some kind of "ecobot challenge", etc etc.

They didn't get to be some of the richest companies in the world by ignoring their public image.
British Gas has a vested interest - increased use of electric vehicles means increased use of their utilities. Not a bad fit for the show at all.
I'm not sure what one has to do with the other. If they are willing to sponsor a great show that brings awareness about the issues surrounding energy and transportation as we move forward then that's a net win. It's not like refusing sponsorship would somehow hurt British Gas or that Robert taking the money somehow invalidates the great subject matter.

Regardless of how large or small the fee to watch, that still is a barrier to entry. It's much better if the show is available free to all on the Interwebs and that the info gets spread as far and wide as possible.

We can then continue to work at making any kind of fossil fuel burning go away before we flush our planet down the toilet quite separately from any sponsorship of Fully Charged by British Gas.
John E
So you're basically saying the ends justify the means. Sure, it promotes an evil energy giant and Rob can no longer criticise that company in public, but more people get to see the programme. So that's a "net win". I'm not so sure.

I can understand the benefit of it being free and the "barrier to entry", as you put it, of people not wanting to pay to download. However, the options are not so black and white.

We should be prepared to challenge the normal distribution models of either Black: Fixed price recordings, digital rights management, copyright, IFPI, ACTA, all that shit... or White: Free to view / download, but paid for by subscription and / or advertising from corporate sponsors (or BBC license fee). There is a third way.

Lewis CK did not make his download available for free, rather he took no steps whatsoever to stop people pirating it. People did pirate it, so it was out there for free, but enough people bought it to make it a very worthwhile venture.

The British band Radiohead used a more left-field way of approaching the issue of money. They released an album in 2006 on a "Pay what you like" basis, and it did very well indeed, with fans opting to pay an average of £4, even though the option was there to download it without paying anything.

This might not be the exact right way for this particular programme, perhaps Rob doesn't quite have the worldwide fame that Radiohead do, but I can't help thinking it's a shame not to even try it.

As you so ably point out, British Gas are hardly an appropriate sponsor for someone who wants to stop burning all fossil fuels. I wonder how that fits with their business model.
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