Britain charges up for £8 billion EV investment

The latest news from the world of EVs

Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter. 

In today’s edition… battery plants, a Skoda police car and a statue of Elon Musk.

As ever, do drop me an email at tomrileylondon@gmail.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments. Likewise, please do share and sign up if you haven’t already.

In the news…

NEW JOBS: Big news yesterday that Nissan, who already have a factory making EVs in the UK, will be announcing that they are building a battery gigafactory in Sunderland this week. The government is said to be giving Nissan a large contribution (also called a bribe) to support the overall costs of building the factory in the UK. In any case, it’s great news for British jobs and it’s thought that thousands will be created. Nissan may also potentially build a yet-to-launch car here as well. Read more.

More coming? The Nissan news might not be the only bit of good corporate EV news this Summer. Lord Grimstone, who leads the Government’s Office for Investment, told the Telegraph last week (pre-Nissan announcement) that the UK hoped to attract almost £8 billion of investment into the EV sector. His Lordship teased that it might include a Nissan gigafactory (tick) plus expansions in the UK for Vauxhall, LG and Samsung. And who can forget Elon Musk’s flying visit to Britain last month?

Starting to fret: As we await whether the UK can grab some of this huge investment, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has today raised concerns that if not enough battery gigafactories are built to support carmaking, 90,000 jobs may be at risk. SMMT’s chief executive, Mike Hawes, has raised concern that the UK will fall behind other countries. “If ambitious words were currency, the UK would be rich,” he told the SMMT annual summit, saying the UK was “falling behind our competition”.

But hang on…? This is the same Mike Hawes who only two weeks ago responded to a similar warning by a Brussels transport group as “utter nonsense”. What publicity, Hawes!

SMALL TESLA: Speaking of Musk, Tesla revealed yesterday that they will be launching a long-mooted hatchback vehicle in 2023. The car will be extremely affordable compared to previous Tesla models. In the UK it may only cost £20,000. That’s thanks to innovations Tesla has made to reduce the cost of production (especially in the battery department) by 50%. Their new battery tech will also produce five times more energy resulting in 16% more range per charge. Read more on Autocar.

BRONZE ELON: It was Musk’s 50th birthday yesterday. To celebrate, one company decided to give away mini-statues of the entrepreneur to people. Because why wouldn’t you want a billionaire paperweight? The same company has also left a life-sized bronze statue of Elon in Manhattan for New Yorkers to enjoy. Needless to say, it’s been slightly ridiculed online.

CLEAN HONDA: Honda is the latest carmaker to announce that they want to stop selling internal combustion engines by 2040. That leaves very few carmakers left now who haven’t made this pledge. Apart from Toyota who says it will only go fully electric if forced to do so - which I find quite odd for a company that invented ‘lean strategy’. Read more.

NEW TASERMOBILES: Not long after Tesla unveiled their EV police car, Skoda has come along and shared their own tasermobile. Images shared by Skoda display their Enyaq EV hooked up with the full blues and twos. While the acceleration is ok on the Enyaq - it does 0-60 in 8 seconds - the top speed is only 99mph. So perhaps not that great for chasing getaway drivers. Read more.

GREEN GOODWOOD: The annual Festival of Speed which is returning at Goodwood will this year feature an ‘electric avenue’ to feature the full breadth of EVs. On display will be an extensive collection of EVs including city cars, saloons, SUVs, sports cars and hypercars. Experts and other immersive exhibitions are also going to feature in order to show off and educate visitors. Read more.

GREEN PLATES: According to a survey of 14,000 motorists by the AA, one-third of drivers don’t know what the new green number plates on EVs mean. That’s quite high but, despite what some have written, that does mean the vast majority do understand them. Not bad for something that only just launched. Read more.

NOT ALL GREAT: It’s not all golden for the government though, as the Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng acknowledged at the Virtual Smart Transport Conference last week. Kwarteng said that EV infrastructure was an issue that “comes up all the time”. He added: “Anecdotally, lots of people out there want to adopt electric vehicles. But one of the main things that is stopping people doing so is the lack of provision for charging points. And this is something which the Government is fully aware of.” He’s not wrong. I’ve been out in Somerset the past few days and, while there are tons of EVs on the roads, the public charging network is woeful.

LABOUR POINTS: Ed Miliband - Kwarteng’s opposite number in Labour - has also raised concern about the UK’s infrastructure saying Britain only has 15% of the charging points required to meet its climate targets by 2025. Miliband said: “The government’s failure to roll out charging points across the country and the decision to cut the plug-in grant risks baking in unfairness in our country as we move towards a zero-emission future.” Read more.

IDIOT CORNER

In today’s Fast Charge, I’m making a little section for idiots. I’ve come to realise, given the EV sector is so new, it’s breeding all sorts of fake news, conspiracy and scaremongering. Obviously, that’s existed for many years, but it’s never been more crucial to call out stupidity - both by EV opponents and supporters.

Iain Duncan Smith - First up, the former Conservative leader. Last week, he wrote a column in the Daily Telegraph saying “the Government must give up its dangerous obsession with electric cars”. In it, Mr Smith suggests by pursuing EVs we’ll end up totally reliant on China because they produce all the batteries. He, therefore, advises ministers to stop now and rethink. What Iain fails to mention, though, is that from 2024 batteries not containing 50% local materials will face huge tariffs in the UK/EU - following the terms of the Brexit deal he signed. So, actually, carmakers have a pretty hefty incentive to not rely on China. This is why many manufacturers are dedicating billions to their own gigafactories in Europe.

Sam Alexander - You might not know Sam but he regularly shares monologues on his YouTube channel about EV related topics. His favourite thing to do is call out people and companies for pushing anti-EV agendas. While some of his videos are great - like highlighting Which? ignoring Tesla cars - in other vids, he can be a bit tinfoil hat. This week, he chose to attack ‘The Sunday Times’ for an anti-EV agenda. Specifically, an article published about a think tank report that said EV’s won’t solely decarbonise transport (read here). Sam got the wrong end of the stick. Firstly, it’s The Times, not The Sunday Times - they are not the same. Secondly, The Times was just reporting on the think tank’s study, so not sure why they or their journalist should get grief. Lastly, the report itself is not anti-EV at all. It raises valid issues around their price and manufacture. If it’s ‘anti’ anything, it’s anti-car. But that’s only because the IPPR writers - who are big climate change advocates - want to see greater use of bikes and scooters. Though, they acknowledge the car still has a role to play. Not everything is a conspiracy!

By Tom Riley