Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Don’t worry, you’re not going mad, it is Wednesday. Yesterday I was unable to send this email on my normal schedule (Tuesday and Friday) but normal service should now resume!
Also, I’ve not included the promised feature on plug-in vehicles in today’s edition. However, I HAVE included some tasty stories, such as a letter from Audi’s UK director on its production woes.
As ever, do drop me an email at email@example.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.
In the news…
NEW ACCESS: After many years of people calling for it to happen, Elon Musk yesterday revealed that his supercharger network would be available for other EVs to use from later this year. This will probably bring dread to the faces of Tesla owners. Currently one of the huge advantages of owning a Tesla is that you are supported by such a great private network. However, with more EVs competing for spots, they may now get a lot busier! Actual details aren’t yet known - Elon did reveal this in a tweet after all - but one presumes manufacturers will have to pay a hefty fee in order to let their cars use them. Whatever it may be, this move will inspire a lot of confidence in people to buy EVs. However, it feels very risky for Tesla.
SOFTWARE PURCHASE: Speaking of public charging, the fast-growing company ChargePoint - which supply both actual chargers and their software - has bought a charging software competitor called has·to·be in a deal worth $300 million. This is ChargePoint’s first acquisition since it became a publicly-traded company (following one of those outrageous SPAC listings valuing it at $2.4 billion). Through the deal, ChargePoint gains more than 125 employees and the company’s operating software, which manages more than 40,000 connectors in Europe according to TechCrunch. Customers of has·to·be included Ionity, Audi, Porsche, BP, Total and Lidl. Read more on TechCrunch.
SILLY VW: In not so good software news, one person highlighted this week that Volkwagen’s new ID.4 directs people to petrol stations for their route planning - even though the petrol stations have no charging capability at all. One assumes they’ve just put in the navigation software from their traditional ICE cars into their new EVs. This does feel a bit stupid.
GREEN PROTECTION: This story is from a few days ago but worth a mention, apparently insurers will soon replace written off or stolen cars with electric vehicles. This is part of plans by the insurance industry to become more sustainable. Read more on the BBC.
BIG INTERVIEW: In a wide-ranging interview with Autocar, Rachel Maclean, who is essentially the Minister for EVs, has revealed a little bit more around the edges of the government’s decarbonisation plan. Highlights include suggesting that the EV grant - which was only recently cut back to much backlash - may soon go completely. “Ultimately we need to make sure we’re not using government money to help people buy cars who could have afforded them anyway,” she said. Maclean also spoke of her own struggle with charging infrastructure saying that: “At the moment, there are too many charging points that aren’t working when I turn up. We need to fix that. We need to see a big change there." This comes on the back of the government’s promise to regulate from this year. Generally, across the interview, the Minister’s theme was that our move to EVs (and decarbonisation) needed to be accessible for everyone. Whether that’s ensuring our nation’s love of classic cars can continue after the 2030 ban, the use of hydrogen fuel, plus ensuring that the revolution isn’t just “for people who can afford a Tesla and have their own driveway”. Give it a read.
TRIPLE SALES: Volkswagen announced earlier this week that its global deliveries of all-electric vehicles nearly tripled in the first half of 2021 (about 170,000 cars). Most of this demand has come from Europe where the company is really ramping up in its challenge against Tesla’s dominance. In the last few months, VW’s sales in China almost doubled and they expect even faster growth from that market over the next few months. Read more on Reuters.
GET RICH QUICK: If you have a few bob hanging about under the sofa and a penchant for EV speculation, then there’s a new product for you. This week saw the London Metal Exchange (LME) start letting people trade on the value of lithium. The LME said its new lithium contract was created for battery and car manufacturers to hedge their exposure to volatile lithium prices. As lithium may rise in price sevenfold (according to the Financial Times) by 2030, this could surely be a good place for people to put their money. I’m not a financial expert but this does sound a little bit like that scene in The Big Short where everyone starts betting on what someone else is doing [see clip below]. Also, surely if Tesla’s latest invention comes off (which is the ability to make batteries from normal table salt) then lithium prices will come crashing down? I guess that’s why there’s a market.
NEW: Audi boss reveals fresh production delays
A letter sent by Andrew Doyle, Audi’s UK director, has acknowledged that the carmaker is facing fresh production delays due to the worldwide chip shortage.
Whilst it’s known every manufacturer is facing issues around semiconductor supply this appears to be a growing problem for Audi which extends to issues getting “tow bars”. The letter is believed to have gone out to e-Tron customers, though it could be getting used more widely.
In the letter I have which is dated 20 July, Doyle says “unfortunately, it is likely to be some time before your Audi Centre is able to confirm the final production and delivery date to you.”
Not good news for anyone who has ordered or is about to order an Audi, especially one of their new roaring e-Tron EVs which seem to be flying off the shelves. The good news is Doyle also says “we expect the situation to improve through the second half of 2021, as additional semiconductor capacity is brought on stream.”
I’ve asked Audi’s team if they wanted to add any additional comments or clarify anything but at the time of publication, I didn’t get a response. In their defence, I did only contact them very late last night (after I’d seen the letter). If they share anything back with me I’ll include it on Friday!
By Tom Riley