Cobalt, Motorways and London's e-scooter trial

The latest news from the world of EV

Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, the electric motoring newsletter. My name is Tom Riley.

Apologies (again) this edition is quite late. My days are being ruined at the moment by a vicious stomach bug.

Interesting news today that Ford manufacturing is returning to America as the company learns from the various supplier risks they’ve had in the last year. Also, a new road tax has been suggested to MPs to cover an expected gap in public finances. Yikes.

As ever, do drop me an email at tomrileylondon@gmail.com if you have any feedback, questions or comments.

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In the news…

PRECIOUS METALS: According to the Financial Times, the key metal for EV batteries, cobalt, has risen in price by over 40% this year. Its value is expected to continue to rise significantly this year and all the way to 2024 where it could double in value from today. Many manufacturers have said they will look to use less cobalt in their batteries in future, given it’s mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo - a sort of Wakanda without human rights. Read more in the FT.

NEW TARIFF: Energy company E.ON has unveiled a new EV tariff called Next Drive. It will enable people to charge their cars at a fixed price of 4p/kWh between midnight and 4am. Outside of this, the cost will be 17.6p/kWh. While this off-peak rate is a penny cheaper than the King of EV tariffs, Octopus Go, the peak rate by E.ON is potentially 2-3p more expensive depending on where you live. Likewise, E.ON claims the energy you’re getting is renewable, however, they’re able to say that because they bought one of those short-cut origin certificates. Very sly.

VOLT STOP: The motorway services company ‘Moto’ is today opening a rapid charging site at its Rugby stop on the M6. There will be 24 rapid chargers capable of delivering 350kW. The chargers consist of 12 Tesla Superchargers and 12 Electric Highway points. By the end of the year, Moto expects to have 28 similar rapid charging sites in the UK.

SCOOTER TRIAL: There have been many rumblings about when London’s e-scooter trial is due to start this year. Most outlets keep saying it will be in early May. However, I noticed on Citymapper’s website - where they are currently crowdfunding - they have said “look out for the scooters launch in London in June”. Given Citymapper works closely with mobility companies like Lime - who are believed to be involved in the London trial - I wonder if the start date has been pushed back for the end of lockdown restrictions. Maybe. Maybe not.

ELECTRIC WAVE: A report by the International Energy Agency has suggested the number of electric automobiles on the world’s roads is on course to increase from 11m vehicles to 145 million by the end of the decade. The report suggested that the number could rise to 230 million encouraging the use of EVs within global climate targets. If they did, that would potentially wipe out the need for millions of oil barrels every day. Read more on The Guardian.

LESSON LEARNED: This week the Ford Motor Company said it was ramping up investment into developing its own battery manufacturing centres (around $185m). It comes following the recent shortage of semiconductors which has really shaken a lot of carmakers into action. Ford especially was nearly put out by the trade disagreements between South Korean companies LG and SK Innovation earlier in the year too. It seems they’ve seen the light of localised manufacturing. Speaking of which…

MINI BREAK: BMW has had to shut down its production facility near Oxford which makes Minis due to the semiconductor shortage. This has meant many workers were sent home. It should hopefully reopen on Thursday.

EV TAX: MPs have been told a ‘pay-per-mile' road pricing system must be introduced this decade to cover lost revenue because of the switch to EVs. A report by Greener Transport Solutions, a collection of academics who suggested the change, was submitted to the Transport Select Committee this week. This measure would be used to plug the £40 billion gap that could emerge if EV’s become the norm and traditional vehicle taxes, like fuel duty, are not replaced. Read the report here.

AUTONOMOUS MOTORWAY: Self-driving vehicles will be allowed on British roads for the first time later this year, the Department for Transport announced this week. In essence, the government is going to allow vehicles fitted with Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) technology to self-drive. However, only at speeds below 37mph and on motorways - so no luck for relaxing in 50mph average speed checks - and that’s as long as the car is approved plus there is no evidence to challenge the vehicle’s ability to self-drive.

I think there are lots of questions that need lots of answers before this change gets made. However, what’s on my mind initially is, surely this technology isn’t new? Don’t we already use it on the roads today? For example, if I pop along to Homebase and get stuck in notorious A4 traffic, I can switch the e-Golf to ‘Traffic Jam Assist’ mode and it simply follows the cars in front. I presume what’s different now is the ability to take your hands off the wheel, watch TikTok and not be in trouble.

By Tom Riley