Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. My name is Tom Riley.
Quite a bumper issue to take you into the weekend. From Audi bringing out a new SUV, Apple teasing everyone again and, lastly, a huge report by England’s EV driver association which is packed full of facts.
As ever, do drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any feedback, questions or comments. In the interim, have a good weekend!
In the news…
SLOW BLOC: A new report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) has called on the EU to do more to meet its self-imposed target of 1 million charging points by 2025. The audit suggested, despite some early success reaching 250,000 points across Europe, they are still a “long way off.” The ECA has called for more “clear and coherent targets” in order to reach the 1 million mark. Read more on Sunday Times Driving.
TOY CAR: The iconic toy car maker, Matchbox, is launching a series of cars based on real-life electric vehicles. First off the production line will be a Tesla Roadster. It will be made out of recycled material and other eco vehicles will follow. Matchbox’s aim is to educate children about the environmental impact of motoring. You will also be able to buy scaled-down charging stations. Perhaps the EU can buy 750,000 of those? Read more on the BBC.
FLASH CHARGING: Good Energy has partnered up with ZapMap to launch a new tariff that will offer EV drivers the opportunity to power their home or charge their car, for free. How does it work? It’s based on the idea that when Britain’s grid is producing an abundance of wind and solar energy, Good Energy will offer it to customers for free for four hours. Customers will be get told at least 24 hours in advance of when these four hour free periods are - coined ‘zap flash’ periods by Good Energy. Although customers won’t know which day it is on offer, fortunately, the times will remain the same in the summer and winter months. For example, the ‘Summer Flash Period’ will run from April to September between 11am and 3pm. The ‘Winter Flash Period’ will run from October to March between 11pm and 3am. Read more.
FYI, just for the benefit of anyone who doesn’t know, Good Energy holds a 50.1% majority stake in the company that owns ZapMap - called Next Green Car. So I feel their use of ‘partner’ in press materials is a bit cheeky. Hey ho!
VAT ATTACK: The EV van producers, Arrival, who recently got valued at £10 billion despite not producing any cars yet, has called on the government to provide a VAT break on green goods, such as EVs. The call was made alongside other green businesses like Ecotricity, Bulb and are more than 30 others. “Families shouldn’t be taxed for choosing green options, and low-carbon technology must be affordable for everyone,” the letter wrote. “Scrapping VAT on green products will boost consumer spending in green technologies, stimulate growth and create highly-skilled green jobs in all four corners of the UK.” Read more.
NEW WORLD: according to new research, due to advances in technology and plummeting costs of batteries, all new cars and trucks sold in the US could be powered by electricity by 2035. Currently, EVs only make up about 2% of the US’s car population. However, though this research is extremely good news, there are still challenges with charging networks and the availability of minerals - which could in turn push prices back up. Read the Guardian.
TIRED COMMUNISTS: Readers of this newsletter will know that I find the neverending articles suggesting a new car is going to ‘take on Tesla’ extremely tiresome. Well, I laughed aloud this week when the South China Morning Post - a Hong Kong paper linked to the Chinese government - seemed to be fed up as well. “Another Chinese Tesla Challenger?” Was the sassy headline about carmaker Geely’s new ‘Zeekr’ model. I suppose, compared to other cars, this car is essentially a total rip-off of the Model 3 Tesla. It costs a little more but will do 435 miles compared to the long-range Model 3’s 353 miles. Maybe this really is a Tesla challenger.
GRANNY APPLE: From everything I’ve read and watched about Steve Jobs, he was a man with vision, determination and mountainously high standards. I wonder what he would make of his company taking so long to get on with making their electric car. In the news this week, it’s reported that Apple is about to sign a memorandum of understanding for the production of EVs with a joint-venture company recently created by electronics and battery specialist LG Electronics and automotive contract manufacturer Magna. Either that or South Korean executives are trying to sell more shares again (see Monday’s Fast Charge). According to the gossip, Apple plans to build a small number of cars for its first editions to test out demand. They better hurry up, by the time they do we’ll all be driving VTOL jets. Read more on AutoCar.
CHARGED UP: In his first interview, Lotus Cars managing director Matt Windle has revealed the company is going straight to pure electric car production over hybrids as part of £100m investment from new owners. You can read the interview in Car Magazine who has the exclusive on what their future plans are.
NEW SUV: Audi has revealed a production-ready Q4 E-tron with deliveries due to start this year. It looks like a pretty standard SUV we’ve come to expect in the EV racket. It could be an ID.4 or even a Skoda Enyaq. The cheapest model is going to cost just over £40,000 and it’s not exactly speedy - the standard will go from 0-62 in nine seconds, which for an electric car is eternity. The minimum range on the cheapest model will be 208 miles (52 kWh battery) with the biggest going up to 328. To my mind, you would have to be a lunatic to buy one of these when you compare it to the VW ID.4 which, for only £1,000 more on a basic model, will give you 100 miles more range.
SUPER BIG EV DRIVER SURVEY 👇
The Electric Vehicle Association for England (EVA) have this week published their findings from a large survey they conducted with EV drivers. The survey, which polled 1,216 people earlier this year, includes some fascinating, albeit perhaps not surprising, facts. The survey is being used to make recommendations to officials on high. The bits I found most interesting were:
Despite the vast majority of respondents having the ability to charge at home, 92% of EV drivers in England use public charge points at some time or another
However, their experience is extremely low. On average, drivers rated public charging at 2.16 out of 5 - which is quite frankly appalling
Reliability and access seem to be the biggest ball aches for motorists. 86% of drivers have had to choose a different charging point than the one they originally intended to use due to reliability issues
The most commonly reported issues were that the charging point was simple ‘out of order’. You may recall, I did some research on this matter a few weeks ago and found many stations are left broken for months. As a result, there is widespread support (99%) for a reliability standard. This should already be in place under agreements operators have but early signs I have is there are no teeth to the councils’ contracts
Also revealed by the EVA, most drivers want the payment to be much easier. 46% want more use of contactless payments through debit and credit cards. Only 4% like the subscription services which seem to dominate
There are many complaints that there are far too many apps/cards required to use public charging. 87% would want to see a universal smartphone app. Meanwhile, 84% do NOT want a call or text payments service - which is used mostly by car park operators (the RingGo people!)
Elsewhere in the survey, allegedly only 6% of drivers never worry about charging point availability. Range anxiety has therefore worried 94% of respondents at some point while owning an EV
My last pick… apparently, 66% of respondents have had to call a helpline while at a charging point at least once in the last 12 months. And 1 in 4 have had to ring three times or more. That’s a HUGE percentage made even more starling by the fact 57% of people didn’t resolve their queries through the calls. If that remains for the whole UK, charging point operators will surely need to hire thousands upon thousands to facilitate customer service.
Read the full report here. You’ll need a big coffee - it’s quite long.
By Tom Riley