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Charging networks to launch trade association
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top stories in today’s edition… charging networks in the UK prepare to form a new association, and the government lines up for its ‘Green Day’ on Thursday which may include a ZEV mandate update.
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Charging networks to launch new trade association
Summary: It appears to be an open secret, but it seems charge point operators across the UK are rallying together to form a new trade association. Due to launch later this Spring, the new group will consist of both large and small charging networks to advocate on a united front to Whitehall, parliamentarians, and regulators. Its creation comes after a year where the UK’s charging networks – which totals about 50 businesses managing nearly 40,000 public devices – have faced a steady stream of challenges from regulators and consumers.
Who? Detail remains light on which networks will be involved or not – and how active they will be – but I’m informed by multiple sources that it’ll likely consist of major networks. Albeit one or two may opt to stay on the side lines.
What? The new association is not single issue and will tackle several policy challenges on behalf of the sector. However, four areas of focus that kept coming up in conversations I’ve had are: planning, consumer experience, VAT, and building a positive narrative.
In practice… on planning, as is a common theme now, networks want Whitehall to understand they can only go so fast under current bureaucracy. On consumer experience, the networks want to see regulations that are supportive of operators, not obstructive – such as on the planned 99% reliability rate. On VAT, all networks are signed up to the fact the 20% tax on drivers using public chargers, versus the 5% at home, needs to change from an equality point. Lastly, as an overarching theme, the networks believe the government has allowed a negative image to develop about charging in the UK which is deterring consumers and businesses – they want to see more positivity and defence of this growing sector.
Why now? Three reasons kept coming up in my conversations with networks about the need to create this new group.
Firstly… under-representation. Many of the networks are part of various trade groups at the moment – and will continue to be – but there is a feeling that, as the number of operators grows, these businesses need their own space, rather than being confined to a sub-group of a larger organisation.
Secondly… frustration. Allegedly, networks don’t feel they are being listened to seriously in Whitehall. Some are also losing confidence in the ability of officials to listen, act, and advocate policy suggestions on their behalf to ministers.
Finally… unjust criticism. Operators have been getting a bit peeved that they seem to constantly be on the receiving end of complaints about the lack of chargers being installed, particularly from carmakers and their representatives.
When? We will hopefully hear more about this new association in the coming weeks as it prepares to launch officially. I for one am very excited about it.
ZEV mandate update due on ‘Green Day’
Background: This coming Thursday (30 March), the government will make a series of announcements which is being billed as ‘Green Day’ or, in recent reports, ‘Energy Security Day’. Policy announcements will be framed as a response to the recent Net Zero Review recommendations outlined by Chris Skidmore MP earlier this year. However, many are seeing it as a reaction to the mahoosive subsidy packages announced recently in the US (the Inflation Reduction Act).
Expectations? According to reports, on Thursday the government is likely to provide an update on the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate. For those unfamiliar, this is the law for what percentage of zero emission vehicles automakers need to be producing annually up to 2035. In the original consultation, first published a year ago, DfT mooted 22% from 2024 (next year). Which doesn’t leave carmakers much time.
But… a LinkedIn post by the think tank New AutoMotive suggests Thursday will in fact see the government publish its ‘next’ ZEV mandate consultation. They write: “This consultation will propose new targets for electric vans and cars, prior to the Mandate's finalisation later this year.” Adding that: “It is essential that the ZEV Mandate is finalised this year, so that it can be implemented at the beginning of 2024. Any delay to the Mandate's implementation risks delaying the UK’s transition to electric transport.”
Fingers crossed… Let’s hope the update on ZEV isn’t a cop-out and is good news for moving toward zero emission transport. One worry which might upset is that the government may decide to follow the EU in exempting internal combustion engine sales if they are using e-fuels after 2035. This would certainly align the UK to the rest of Europe, though might make the UK look like a sheep to the EU’s shepherding – which could be a bad Brexit look. Although, MPs have previously advocated for this previously.
Anything else… Could it be possible that the government agrees to underwrite or offer a huge amount of funding to Jaguar Land Rover to build a gigafactory in Somerset? As was recently reported by The Guardian, it was rumoured that JLR was seeking upwards of £500m to build this in the UK over Spain. Though some commentators suggest this is a way off yet.
And… The UK government is expected (potentially on Green Day) to cut the estimated 12% of taxes on electricity bills to make it cheaper for consumers considering EVs (and heat pumps). Later this year, the government may investigate decoupling electricity and gas prices – which many in the green sector have called for previously. Read more.
Finally… Given how much of a sticking point the challenges around planning are - especially with grid connections - it could be possible the government provides an update on what it’s doing. Particularly after the Britain Remade Powerbook report, published yesterday with 25 actions to reach energy security, launched with Labour at Octopus Energy’s HQ.
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Latest EV news…
NO MONEY: Last week was a biggie for Ford as it provided an update on how it’s reshaping for the future. This included revealing it will lose $3bn making EVs this year, and also the launch of a new SUV dubbed the ‘Explorer’. It’s meant to signify how Ford wants its cars to be more like Indiana Jones in the future, and less Mondeo Man. These announcements came as Ford’s UK boss complained to the FT last week about the lack of charging infrastructure in the UK.
POWER UP: Hot off revealing their network of chargers is now 2,500 strong, Tesco and Pod Point have revealed plans to build new 75kW chargers at 12 stores this year. Read more.
HIGH RANK: The UK has been ranked the fifth most attractive country in Europe for EV market potential, according to a report last week by Cornwall Insight and law firm Shoosmiths. The league table covers 13 countries. Read about it here.
NEW PARTNER: ubitricity, the lamppost charging network, has partnered with North Lincolnshire to deliver 35 chargers. Read more.
DENSE POINTS: Hackney Council has signed a contract with the charging provider Zest to install more than 2,500 new devices by 2026. These chargers will be made up of a variety of different speeds, with the majority being lampposts. Read more.
IDLE FEE: A report in the Sunday Times outlined how many charging networks and car park operators were introducing fees for EV owners who overstay their welcome. The sector is broadly agreed that these are a good idea, especially as education around charging etiquette – even amongst long-time owners – can be pretty bad at times. Hopefully, they will get people to charge up and then go. However, there are some examples I’ve seen or heard of that are pretty bonkers. For example, see the image below from an MFG EV Power site near me in Chiswick. Read more.
SECURITY RISK: With all the focus on Chinese tech firms (like TikTok), the Daily Mail has asked whether Britain is at risk from the new BYD cars coming to Britain being used to spy on us from our driveways and streets. Of course, we should be asking these questions in my opinion, but this isn’t Chinese carmakers’ first rodeo in the UK either. Who is going to tell the Mail about Polestar, MG, GWM Ora…
CHARGE ROBOT: Hyundai has invented a robot that can plug into your EV at a charging station for you. It can also remove itself once your battery is full. Seems like an expensive solution. Read more.
NEW FEES: From 11 April, Glasgow Council are going to start charging people to use their public chargers. Thus far, they have been free to try to get more people into EVs. However, it was agreed in 2021 this wasn’t sustainable. Read more.
BAD REPORT: A cross-party committee in Wales has called the Welsh Government’s progress towards building more charge points and getting more EVs on the road ‘embarrassing’. In a rather critical report, the Senedd's Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee questioned whether the Welsh government had the ability to deliver on its promises. Read more.
SO TRUE: No words needed…
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