An Interview with our Director

Tuesday, 7 December 2021  |  Craig

Today we are sitting down with our Director, Paul Ballard, who worked in engineering before starting 12 Volt Planet Ltd in 2013. In this interview, we asked a number of questions before asking our customers if they had any questions for Paul. 

12 Volt Planet Director

Q. 12 Volt Planet: Hello Paul and thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down with us today. Firstly, let's start with what made you start 12 Volt Planet?

Paul: I bought a panel van in 2008 and it was during the conversion to a campervan that I realised just how difficult it was to source parts and knowledge for the electrical side of the build. Various retailers tended to have some but not all of the items needed and the vast majority seemed unwilling or unable to provide detailed technical information on the products or how to use them. Internet forums tended to be the place to go for information but were a bit of a lottery when it came to getting accurate and reliable advice as everybody seems to be an expert …
So, I saw an opportunity for a retailer that could be a one-stop-shop for 12V electrical projects and, alongside the products themselves, offer a wealth of knowledge, advice and detailed information to help guide customers through the process of specifying and selecting parts. 

Q. 12 Volt Planet: What has running 12 Volt Planet taught you?

Paul: I have learnt a huge amount in the time 12 Volt Planet has been running so this could be a very long list, but if there’s one standout lesson it would be ‘learning to let go’. As a business grows it is impossible for you to remain in control of every single aspect and at some point, you have to transfer the responsibility to your team,  so trust is key here. Surround yourself with a good team and empower them to make decisions.

Q. 12 Volt Planet: What aspect of the business are you most proud of?

Paul: The business was founded on sharing knowledge, and I take pride in the firm belief that we know the products we sell like no other retailer in our sector.  We spend a lot of time getting hands-on with our products to understand them, which allows us to describe and detail them on our website as fully as possible so the customer is armed with all the information needed to make an informed choice.  The care taken at this stage is a reflection of the entire culture here at 12 Volt, from my sales team taking the time with customers to understand their requirements, to my operations team taking enormous care in how our products are picked, packaged and presented to the customer.

Q. 12 Volt Planet: We asked our customers to submit some questions & selected two at random. Tom P asked;

'How much more accessible is consumer van / boat / cabin solar compared to 5 years ago, and where do you see battery and panel technology going over the next 5 years?'

Paul: Thanks Tom for your question. Although there is now a vast range of panels available to the consumer in terms of size, configuration and format, the underlying solar technology has remained fairly static over the past few decades with only incremental improvements being made in the technology and manufacturing processes. Whilst a great source of free energy, current solar technology remains relatively inefficient, with typical values in the region of 20-25%, so research is focused on finding new materials to greatly increase the amount of solar energy that can be converted to useful power, and I hope we’ll see big improvements within the next decade. In terms of battery technology, the market is moving quickly towards lithium technology and this transition is going to accelerate over the coming years. The biggest barrier to lithium at the moment is cost, but prices should come down over time as take up increases and manufacturing cost reduce.

Q. 12 Volt Planet: Our second customer, Gordon J asked;

'Which products should I consider for converting my sealed AGM leisure batteries to Lithium for the same A/hour?' 

Paul: Another great question thanks Gordon. Whilst lithium technology offers significant advantages over lead-acid, there are a few things to watch out for. You’ll need to confirm whether your battery has an in-built BMS and, if not, look for an external one such as the Victron Smart BMS.  You’ll also need to check that your mains charger has a specific lithium battery profile setting and upgrade if not.  Also be mindful that lithium batteries do not charge well at very low temperature (close to or below freezing). Finally, you will need to ensure that, if you’re charging from your alternator, you have a suitable DC-DC charger installed that has a specific lithium charging profile available. Most solar controllers (MPPT variants) have a lithium charging profile available to select, but it’s worth checking yours if you have a solar system installed.

Q. 12 Volt Planet: Thank you for answering those questions.  Our final question for today is,  what does the future hold for 12 Volt Planet?

Paul: Our recent warehouse move and operational software update has allowed us to hold much greater stock levels, has made our operations more efficient and provides the opportunity to expand our product range enormously, and with the growth in the leisure sector showing no signs of ending soon, we have a bright future ahead. Although 12 Volt Planet will continue to grow, I am adamant that we will not lose sight of the values on which the business was founded - technical knowledge, customer focus and outstanding service.

We hope you have enjoyed this behind-the-scenes interview with Paul & again, we thank him for taking the time to answer our questions. A huge thank you also goes to the wonderful customers who submitted their questions and we are sorry we didn't have time to get Paul to answer every single one that came in. 

 

Business Hours: Mon - Fri | 9am - 5pm
CALL Sales & Support: 01844 885100
Email: sales@12voltplanet.co.uk
12 Volt Planet

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