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China says goodbye lithium, hello salt batteries
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Firstly, apologies this is coming to your inbox a day later than usual, I’ve had man flu. Anyway, in today’s edition… Shanghai’s Motor Show reveals a range of new cars and battery tech, and further down squabbling car dealers and lots about haulage.
As ever, if you have any thoughts or comments, please do get in touch. My contact details are here or simply reply to this email.
Welcome to your future cars
Background… This week it’s the Shanghai Motor Show in China. Arguably, this is now the most important car event on the calendar, and it’s already dwarfing its European counterparts. According to Autocar, the Shanghai show has 1,000 exhibitors, 320,000 square meters of exhibit space, and 150 press conferences.
New reveals… There have been 100 new cars revealed at the show, and you can see a list and images of most here. The hugely noticeable thing in the revelations is that European manufacturers are still very much in a more ‘luxury’ bracket, with few affordable models. Meanwhile, Chinese companies are really going all-in on affordability. Here are the most relevant new models and tech that will likely shake up Europe…
Small motor… Nio, the Chinese EV maker which is already in the UK and is likely soon to unveil battery swap sites in the country, has confirmed it will next year launch two small affordable models focussed at Europe. The two models are codenamed ‘Alps’ and ‘Firefly’. Background here.
New tech… BYD, another Chinese brand that is due to make its official launch at Fully Charged later this month, revealed a small hatchback called the ‘Seagull’. It’s fairly average-looking, but the groundbreaking part about the car is it uses a sodium-ion battery, which provides 170 miles of range and keeps the price under £8,000.
Sodium? Yes, the mineral you find in salt. Sodium-ion tech has been found to be able to compete with lithium-ion batteries. Now factories (especially in China) are looking at how they scale up production of this. The huge benefit of sodium is that it’s more abundant and cheaper – a lot cheaper – than lithium. It also acts better in cold temperatures. China has been very much leading in the race to perfect this new technology and you can read a great NY Times feature about it all here. The tech has been perfected by the battery group CATL and another Chinese carmaker Chery has also signed up to use them.
Convertible… MG, the ever-popular brand in the UK, revealed new images of its upcoming ‘Cyberster’ – a scissor-doored roadster that was designed in London. The range could be nearly 500 miles and it’s due to go on sale in the UK next year. Read more.
Premium China… ZEEKR, a Chinese luxury car brand is to launch in Europe later this year, starting with Sweden and Netherlands, with other countries quickly to follow. The first models will be the 001, a sedan, and the X, an SUV. ZEEKR is owned by Geely, which also owns Lotus, Volvo, and Polestar. Read more.
Fast charge… Lotus unveiled a robotic EV charger that the carmaker says can deliver 500kW of power. It’s not clear if it will be coming to the UK. Currently, the fastest charger in Britain delivers 360kW – though important to remember literally no car on Earth today can accept those speeds. Read more.
New saloon… As a final flag, and moving away from China back to Europe, VW also revealed the ID.7 at the Shanghai show. From the images, it looks like the sort of car that will be popular amongst executive workers. The car will launch later this year with a range of about 430 miles. Read more.
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Latest EV news…
WET LETTUCE: Despite endless moaning by Renault about Tesla’s price drop, with the CEO previous saying that price drops destroy value for customers, it now seams they are considering a change to “stay in the game”. What’s interesting about this, should Renault push ahead, is whether this is going to become the new normal for carmakers. And, as such, what will it mean for hundreds (if not thousands) of dealers financing cars based on residual values?
DEALER BATTLE: While on this pricing topic, there seems to be a battle in the world of car dealers. Last week, the boss of Car Planet, the car supermarket group, said they’d no longer stock EVs because of the plummeting prices. The boss said they were too high risk. In response, the boss of an EV car dealer said businesses not stocking electric was “silly”. Though, he admitted to being burnt by Tesla’s recent drop. Read more.
DRIVERLESS FUTURE: In the last week, Ford’s Mach-E became the first legal driverless car to own in the UK. This means motorists can legally remove their hands from the steering wheel on Britain’s motorways. The tech is geofenced, so you can’t, er, drive (?) off into the horizon, and there is also clever camera tech that notices if you’re looking away from the road for too long. Jesse Norman, the transport minister, said it was “great news”. To me, it’s sad news. Driving, like learning to cycle or walk and run, is freedom. And I don’t understand why anyone would give that up, even on the M25. Anyhow, in this ITV news clip, you can see a demonstration of the driverless mode in action.
PRICEY CHARGE: GeniePoint has increased the cost of using their chargers off-peak to 98p per kWh between 8am and 8pm – that’s up from 75p. The company’s off-peak rate (between 8pm-8am) has also increased from 57p to 88p per kWh. The price increase follows the end of the Energy Bill Relief Scheme. Perhaps we’ll see others move to increase their prices soon. The research group Cornwall Insight previously suggested once EBRS ended many operators may “struggle to maintain and build their networks.”
HERITAGE VOLTS: At the start of this week, the National Trust announced that RAW Charging had won a contract to install destination chargers across its sites over three years. There will be a combination of slower AC chargers and rapid hubs – though, presumably, the majority will be AC. RAW is investing £12m into the project. Read more.
NEXT STOP: National Express has ordered 170 electric double-decker buses to be delivered before 2025. They are being supplied by BYD. National Express will soon run the largest fleet of electric buses in the UK. Boris will be proud. Read more.
INNOVATIVE CYCLE: A London-based startup that can make any bike an e-bike in seconds has just raised £4 million. Skarper, which is backed by Sir Chris Hoy, is a clip-on e-bike drive system. This is the second round of funding the company has had in under 12 months – bringing the total to £8m. The design is patented. Looks extremely cool. Learn more.
BRITISH MAKER: Great news for British manufacturing as the Cornish firm, Watt Electric Vehicle Company (WEVC), revealed its first electric van. The company has plans to build a UK factory capable of producing 5,000 vans a year. The range of its first van, the eCV1, is expected to be 200 miles in normal business mode. Sales are expected to come on stream in 2025. I really like this company, and in fact, I first wrote about the platform they were developing two years ago. While similar companies like Arrival have shone brightly early, WEVC has just cracked on. Read more.
NOW BUILD: Speaking of HGVs, Volta Trucks has just started production of its 16-tonne all-electric ‘Volta Zero’. This could be the first of 14,000 vehicles. Once complete, Volta Zero will have a range of 95-125 miles once complete and is designed for urban logistics. Read more.
LORRY WORRY: In less good truck news, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has raised the alarm that the UK does not have a single EV charger or hydrogen filling station dedicated to lorries. They are concerned that, with fuel trucks first being banned from 2035, that doesn’t leave that much time to help the HGV sector decarbonise. Read more.
SPECIAL DELIVERY: Everrati, the British company taking luxury classic cars and electrifying them, has this week handed over the keys of its Porche 964 to its first US customer. The customer in question is Matt Rogers, the entrepreneur behind Google Nest. It’s suggested the car may have cost upwards of $340,000. Learn more.
CHANGE MAGS: Talking of converting EVs, Babcock, the huge defence company, last week was awarded a contract to convert four British Army Land Rovers to electric. These four vehicles will be used to test the operational constraints of electrification. The conversion will be delivered by EV firm Electrogenic. Read more.
NEW COMPLAINTS: According to the Motor Ombudsman, there were 273 complaints recorded from EV drivers in Q1 of 2023. This is up from 104 during the same period in 2022. Most of the complaints related to customer service during buying an EV and a fifth raised were about the car’s components, such as brakes or wheels, etc. Read more.
THIS WEEKEND: Final note, if anyone is going to be at Salon Privé this Saturday, please do let me know – I’ll be there and would love to see you.
By Tom Riley | Check my Linktree for LinkedIn, TikTok and Twitter