Charging point hogging and office printers

The latest news from the EV world

Good morning and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the newsletter that will plug you into electric motoring. My name is Tom Riley and I’ll be your host.

Today, my favourite news is that Audi has finally unleashed its e-Tron GT. In my long read, I’ve discussed the rise and risk of point hogging - and whether we can learn from using office printers.

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In the news…

GOING GREEN: Oil giant Shell has announced that it wants net zero emissions by 2050. One of their plans to get there is to increase the number of electric vehicle charging points it owns from 60,000 to 500,000 by 2025. Already Shell has been making waves in the world of EV, only a few weeks ago they snapped up Ubitiricty, the UK’s biggest charging network for an undisclosed sum. Elsewhere, Shell wants to invest in greater carbon capture from the use of hydrogen to tree planting.

BIDEN BATTERY: Bad news for President Biden’s plans to hit EV ambitions. The U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday banned one of the world’s biggest electric vehicle battery manufacturers from selling its cells in the United States. The company is the South Korean giant SK Innovation who the commission decreed had stolen trade secrets. This decision will likely impact Ford and Volkswagen’s EV plans as they had designed key electric models around the SK Innovation battery. It’s believed Biden could veto the decision.

NEW INVESTMENT: During an earnings call last week, Ford’s executive said they would be increasing its investment in electric and autonomous vehicles from $11.5 billion through 2022 to $29 billion through 2025. A majority of vehicles under their plan will be pure-electric but they will continue to produce some hybrids. This is a significant indicator that perhaps hybrids will not be around as long or as popular as many people expected. Ford plans to unveil its much anticipated electric version of its F-150 pickup truck this year. It will be on sale in the middle of 2022. I for one am extremely excited about seeing it.

RIVETING RIVIAN: On the topic of pick-up trucks, the start-up Rivian - backed by Amazon and Ford - is looking at sites for factories in Europe as it plans for its debut. Apparently, the UK, Germany, and Hungary are all being considered. The company will likely be first focusing on their delivery van output for Amazon but then switch to growing its consumer products. In order to fuel its rapid growth, Rivian is also considering going public this Autumn. The company is currently valued at a staggering $50 billion - more than many other major car manufacturers. Read more here.

SWITCHING GEAR: Circling back a moment, another great indicator that perhaps hybrids aren’t all they’re cracked up to be is the news that Toyota is going to make two new EVs. Previously, they had resisted throwing themselves into the world of battery-electric cars while their competitors did. It seems that someone in their boardroom has thought better of their stubbornness. There aren’t many details on the new cars they are developing other than one will be an SUV. It will be interesting to see how they catch up with everyone else.

TONY STARK: Audi has finally revealed its new production Audi e-tron GT. Marvel Universe fans will remember this as the car Tony Stark turned up in Endgame (back then it was just a concept). Audi’s aim is for the GT to disrupt the luxury EV market, currently dominated by Tesla and Porche. It could certainly do that just by its looks. But the underside is equally impressive. There will be two versions of the e-tron GT initially – e-tron GT quattro and RS e-tron GT. Both will have a range of about 300 miles. On performance, The quattro produces 469bhp and does 0-62mph in 4.1 seconds - which tops out at around 152mph. And the RS will make 590bhp capable of 0-62mph in 3.3 seconds. The top speed is similar though at only around 155mph. Not much better than a Taycan but if you want something that will turn heads, this looks to be it. Though, your bank account will be £80,000 lighter.

OLD MODEL: In smaller Audi news, as they move to produce more electric cars some of their old ICE models will disappear. The first to be confirmed as on the cull list is the Audi A1 according to Autoexpress

The rise of “Point hogging” and what we can learn from office printers

Back in the days before remote working, many of us used to work in offices. And at these offices, we had to share with our colleagues.

Often it was a nearby kitchen, conference rooms and casual seating areas for ‘ad-hoc’ meetings. But, being professional, sharing these commodities was quite a pleasant experience. Yes, it could be annoying when Barbara would occupy a whole sofa for lunch when I wanted to do a 1-2-1, but she got there first and I could find alternatives.

However, there was one shared item in the office that is not plentiful and in my experience was the bedrock of many feuds: the printer.

Printers are expensive - both to buy initially and keep them running - so executives only ever buy a few for each office. Often they are laid out sporadically across floors, meaning nine times out of ten you have to walk to use one.

But you won’t want to use one. Because most office printers are guarded by self-proclaimed ‘protectors’ - people who sit nearby - who are responsible for telling management when they’re broken. They are often wary of users of ‘their’ beloved.

And if you do manage to use it while they’re not there watching over, nearby teams will be. Yes, they might look like they are working, but actually, they are thinking about how much they want to kill you for destroying their peace with 300 printouts. 

All you’ll want to do when using a printer is to get away from it and back to your more friendly colleagues, but it’s not that easy. Each printer is often accompanied by an array of commandments: “Use tray 5 for A4”, “Only use if you sit in 2C/11 seating”, “Notify admin for larger than A3”. It’s a nightmare.

And when you do finally decipher the instructions, the printer will blow up in steam and request a mechanic. This will be swiftly followed by your death at the hands of the ‘protector’.

The long on the short of it is, people sat near printers in the office love them. People not afforded that luxury hate them. They’re an inconvenience and the sooner offices go paperless the better.

However, it seems there is a new technology taking its place: electric charging points.

Like printers, they are expensive to install and their locations are sporadic. At the moment there are only 38,000 of them around the UK.

That’s pretty good in a country where EV ownership is still low - especially as many early adopters own driveways. However, as ownership increases, could we see a similar printer scenario?

One could argue it’s already begun.

“Point hogging” - I’m not sure if that’s the technical term but probably fits - seems to be a growing a problem in the UK for those using public chargers.

Point hogging is where an EV owner monopolises a public charger near their home. This might be because its right outside their house - such as a streetlight - or just at the end of their street.

What this means is it already can make getting a conveniently located charge very competitive, especially in London where two-thirds don’t have off-street parking and EV ownership is rapidly increasing.

This could be countered with the rollout of more charging points across the UK, but if public or private spending lapsed in some areas, it could be very problematic - perhaps turning people off from switching altogether.

The solution

As of yet, there doesn’t seem to be one. There are various apps, such as the quite popular ‘Need to charge’ where you can ask someone occupying a station to move. However, that relies on them having an account and being receptive to your plea.

Websites like ZapMap in the UK do display in realtime which charging points are free and which are in use. However, this does mean that you have to monitor it regularly if you are waiting for one to be available. And then you might find, as you arrive, that it’s being ICEd. This is often likely where charging points are at streetlights because there is no designated parking.

Much like with printers, there is no simple answer to these problems. Perhaps its a case of communities around charging points have to be more friendly. Maybe there will one day be ‘neighbourhood watch’ style groups for charging.

At the very least, a good starting place to ease this issue would be for every station to pass a universal accessibility test - so you don’t have to perform Vudu magic once you do get a charging spot.