EVs are “promising” concludes AI chatbot
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In today's edition… new DfT grant statistics, warnings of a mechanic shortage, and I ask a new artificial intelligence chatbot for its views on EVs.
As a reminder, next week’s newsletter will be a biggie as I explore the expected trends for 2023, including comments from several industry leaders on their predictions.
If you ever have any thoughts or feedback, my contact details are below, or simply reply to this email.
AI chatbot gives its views on the EV transition
A couple of weeks ago, a company called OpenAI released an artificial intelligence chatbot – called ChatGPT – which has taken the tech world by storm. The reason being is it confidently responds to any question in a human-like way – such as offering different perspectives and analysis – rather than just regurgitating set statements, like Alexa or Siri.
The technology is still youthful but seriously sophisticated and it’s predicted could seriously shake up whole industries.
As the chatbot is free to use, I thought I’d take the opportunity to see what the AI makes of electric vehicles and the wider sector. The chat I had was rather interesting and quite amusing. Though, do keep in mind the AI’s answers are not country-specific.
I began by asking what it thought the biggest challenges facing the EV sector were. ChatGPT suggested there were “several” facing the industry.
“One of the main challenges is the high cost of EVs compared to traditional gas-powered vehicles. This can make it difficult for some people to afford an EV, even if they want to switch to a more environmentally friendly option,” wrote the AI before describing “limited range” as another factor that can put off buyers.
“There are still not many charging stations available in many areas, which can make it difficult for people,” ChatGPT added.
Based on this perspective, I asked whether the AI would ever consider driving electric over petrol. And, as you might expect, ChatGPT promptly reminded me it does “not have the ability to drive or own a car of any kind, electric or otherwise” and therefore doesn’t have “personal preferences or opinions on things like cars.”
But does it believe the EV transition is a good thing?
“The transition to EVs is a positive step, both for the environment and for the long-term sustainability of the transportation sector. EVs produce no emissions, which can help to reduce air pollution and combat climate change. They also have the potential to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels,” stated ChatGPT.
The AI did express some reticence saying there were challenges associated with the transition to EVs. However, it added that “these challenges can be addressed through a combination of government policies, private sector investment, and consumer demand.”
ChatGPT summarised “it is likely that the transition to EVs will continue, but it will require efforts from many different stakeholders in order to be successful.”
Given the AI’s complaint about a lack of EV chargers, I asked, if it were running an EV charging network, what would it focus on to improve the experience? The response was quite punchy.
“I would focus on several key areas in order to improve the experience for EV users,” wrote ChatGPT before detailing three areas it would work on. “First, I would work to increase the number of charging stations in the network, particularly in areas that are underserved or where there is a high demand for EV charging… I would also focus on ensuring that the charging stations in the network are reliable and easy to use, with clear instructions and user-friendly interfaces.”
The final point the AI would focus on was, to me, one of the more insightful. “I would look into offering incentives or rewards for EV owners who use the network, such as discounts on charging fees or free access to certain services. Overall, my goal would be to make the EV charging experience as convenient, affordable, and enjoyable as possible for users.”
Offering user benefits seems to have been a ploy many networks used in the early days to attract drivers, but with rising energy costs have slipped away slightly. I thought it was interesting the AI picked that out over just stating it would keep costs low, for example.
Looking to the future, I asked the AI what it thought the opportunities were for charging networks specifically. Alongside acknowledging that as more people get into EVs, there is a “significant” opportunity to expand, ChatGPT also suggested that “new technologies and business models in the EV charging sector, such as wireless charging and subscription-based charging services, presents opportunities for innovation and differentiation in the market.”
For the last question, because I sensed the AI was getting bored with my car-related inquiries, I asked ChatGPT whether it could describe the progress of EVs in one word.
“One word that could be used to describe the progress of EVs is "promising." EVs have come a long way in recent years, with improvements in battery technology, range, and charging infrastructure making them increasingly practical and convenient for many drivers,” wrote the AI.
ChatGPT added, however, “there are still challenges that need to be addressed in order for EVs to become more widely adopted, such as the high cost of the vehicles and the limited availability of charging infrastructure in some areas.”
The AI chatbot concluded: “Overall, the progress of EVs has been encouraging, but there is still more work to be done in order for them to reach their full potential.”
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In the last week…
BATTERY PLANT: Great news, the battery company Envision has begun construction on its second gigfactory in Sunderland. The plant will deliver 1,000 jobs and the capacity to build enough batteries for 100,000 EVs. Some good manufacturing news at last. Read more.
SKILL SHORTAGE: According to a recent report by the Social Market Foundation, the UK will run out of mechanics to service the growing number of EVs on its roads by the end of the decade. SMF suggested that, as the skills needed for EVs versus internal combustion engines can be different, a skills gap could emerge from 2027. The think tank has suggested formalised, professional, and accredited training routes to prepare technicians for EV repair and maintenance are needed. Read the report here.
MUCH CHEAPER: Based on a new analysis by LeasePlan, the cost of owning and running an EV is lower than petrol or diesel in almost every country in Europe. The company found the costs of owning a family car, such as the electric Skoda Enyaq, were equal or lower in 19 out of 22 European countries, including the UK, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. The only locations where this wasn’t the case was in Poland, Italy, and the Czech Republic. Read more (FT link).
NEW STATS (1): This morning the government published its latest quarterly statistics on chargepoint grants up to October. They revealed that the On-Street Residential Charging Scheme has funded the installation of 3,281 chargers - this is a 14% increase compared to three months earlier. These were due to be published in November but seem to have been delayed – not clear why. Read them.
NEW STATS (2): Additionally, in today’s new chargepoint statistics, is an update on how many grants have been used to install chargers for people who live in flats or are renting. In total, since it launched in April, only 562 sockets have been installed - or 94 each month. This feels very low. Additionally, it seems only 55 landlords have decided to take advantage of the scheme - which provides people with either £350 or 75% off the cost to buy and install a socket - in the six-month period. In total, only £682,343 has been claimed out of a £50m scheme.
APPLE CAR: A report in Bloomberg has suggested that Apple has shelved plans to build an autonomous car, instead it will be a more traditional EV. Apple has been speaking about building a car since 2014 and it’s now earmarked 2026 for a planned release. Very few details remain, but according to Bloomberg, it will cost under $100,000 per car – which presumably doesn’t include Apple Care, a special charging port, and various required apps. I will believe it all when I see it. Read more.
LAW DELAY: The government has delayed putting its Transport Bill to Parliament, Transport Secretary Mark Harper revealed last week at a committee. This will mean rules around bolstering EV charging, self-driving cars and the legalisation of private e-scooters will have to wait. Most likely delayed due to the activist nature of the Prime Minister's backbench MPs – who have already helped overturn laws on wind farms and housing targets. Read more.
NEW AGREEMENT: Marks and Spencer have signed an exclusive agreement with bp pulse to install around 900 rapid chargers at 70 of its stores around the UK. The rollout and arrangement seem similar to the one Shell Recharge signed with Waitrose in 2021 – a battle for the middle-class shopper. The new bp pulse chargers should be installed within the next 24 months. Read more.
EV AWARDS: Driving Electric presented its awards for 2023, which spanned a whopping 28 categories. See a list of the winners here.
MERGED TEAMS: Last week Google announced it would be merging its crowdsourced route service, Waze (which Google owns), into its Maps team. Though Waze will initially remain a standalone product, it seems possible that eventually the products could merge. Over the past year, Waze has been adding more functionality for EV drivers. Read more.
Before you go…
Ahead of next week’s newsletter, where I’ll be focussing on the year ahead, I wanted to take a quick opportunity to thank everyone for continuing to tune into The Fast Charge each week.
The past 12 months have been massive. Subscribers to this newsletter have increased sixfold meanwhile The Fast Charge TikTok – launched in May – has seen a hungry appetite for videos about the EV sector, from cars to chargers. It gets over 100,000 views every week.
Balancing all of this while doing a full-time job has been tough, though it’s been supremely rewarding. Looking ahead, I’m putting some ideas together about how to continue growing The Fast Charge and I hope to share more plans in the New Year.
Hopefully useful to know where it’s all heading! See you next week for the EV sector predictions for 2023.
By Tom Riley | Check my Linktree for LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter