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March EV sales up 79% from last year
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a weekly British EV newsletter.
In this morning’s edition… EV sales are up, PHEV sales are down, and Tesla delivers huge orders while its competitors struggle.
As ever if you have any questions or comments, please do drop me a line (firstname.lastname@example.org) or simply reply to this email.
In the last week…
CAR SALES: New figures out this morning from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) have revealed the weakest sales for March in the UK since 1998. However, EVs provide hope as their sales were up by 79% compared to this time last year (39,315 last month compared to 22,003 in March 2021). In total, year-on-year EV sales are up 101%. According to Auto Trader, the rate of EV sales is now “even stronger” in part due to huge fuel costs. The overall cause of low car numbers leaving showrooms this month is likely the cost of living crisis and continued semiconductor shortage. Elsewhere, an interesting outtake from SMMT’s data, it seems plug-in hybrid sales are actually down -7.5% compared to this time last year. Likewise, its market share has barely grown 1% in a year. Perhaps people are deciding to skip the interim technology. Read more.
THE OUTLIERS: Tesla revealed over the weekend that it had delivered a total of 310,048 cars in the first three months of 2022. That’s in the face of huge global supply challenges plaguing many automotive businesses. Yet again the company has shown to be an outlier for sales – the current figures are 68% up from this time last year. While it’s evidently not all the doing of Elon, one does have to marvel at the feats being achieved by the company. Though, if I were an EV maker, Tesla’s recent announcement would make me extremely hot under the collar. More on why below.
BIG ORDER: Speaking of Tesla, you may recall the news from October that rental company Hertz had placed an order for 100,000 of Musk’s mobiles. Well, yesterday Hertz followed that up by announcing they’d placed an order for 65,000 Polestars for their fleet over the next five years. This is all part of Hertz’s plan to have one of the largest electric rental fleets in the world.
‘TESLA KILLER’: Long-time readers will know that I’ve often bemoaned media who lazily suggest a new EV maker is a ‘Tesla killer’. As the figures indicate above, it seems to me Tesla’s EV start-up competitors would need a corporate implosion on a scale never before seen in the history of capitalism to make that true. However, even before you get to that, there’s a more urgent, realistic problem facing fellow EV manufacturers… they are not manufacturing at scale. As Elon Musk has himself often said, it’s very easy to come up with an EV prototype but it’s another challenge entirely to manufacture at scale. This is a hard truth several relatively new companies, many barely four years old, are coming to realise. Rivian, for example, has produced fewer than 2,500 cars in total and has halved its production outlook for this year. There are questions about when and how it will meet its huge pre-order numbers, including 100,000 vans for Amazon as well as 80,000 for its truck from private buyers. But Rivian isn’t alone. The EV start-up Lucid has only produced 125 cars, whereas Canoo, Fisker and the UK’s Arrival haven’t produced any vehicles to date (that’s despite the latter three having a combined market cap of $7.6bn). Admittedly, Tesla struggled for a long time as well as they dealt with production woes and built factories, but once these companies do eventually get into gear will they still be ahead or will other manufacturers have overtaken them? Time will tell. If you want to read more about this subject, the Financial Times wrote a really great long-read on the topic. Read more.
DRONE TOUR: Speaking of manufacturing, if you want to really understand the astounding scale of producing a high number of EVs, courtesy of Jaan at the EV Universe, here’s a video Tesla released of a drone going through every stage of its new Gigafactory in Berlin. It’s endless!
OPEN NETWORK: I promise this is the final mention of Tesla today. A quick note, I was watching the Late Brake Show’s review of the Model Y and found it an interesting reminder of how valuable its Supercharger network is. Begs the question of why Tesla would ever open up it up to other cars. However, according to UK Minister for EVs Trudy Harrison, Tesla could open up their network in the UK “within weeks and months rather than years.” Read more.
GREAT SCOTT: About a month ago DeLorean teased that they were developing an EV. Yesterday they provided a little more information and a rear-view image. It looks pretty tasty to me and we’ll get the full reveal on 21 August. Read more.
OVERSEEING THINGS: Further to the UK’s EV charging strategy a couple of weeks ago, the government has now announced that it’s appointed the Energy Saving Trust, CENEX and PA Consulting to deliver its £450 million Local EV Infrastructure fund. You may recall, PA Consulting were the people who developed the ‘iconic’ chargepoint with the government in November, so perhaps no surprise they’ve been appointed to roll out the devices. Read more.
I’M CONFUSED: Yesterday I noted a new academic paper published on EV charging that promised ways we could address range anxiety with en route charging. But, having read it and tried to digest it multiple times, I can’t make head or tail. Is it me or is this just bonkers? See it here. I’m pretty sure they are suggesting people driving down the road and donating battery power to other vehicles as if they are F-16s picking up some juice from a Boeing Stratotanker. Probably the maddest idea I’ve seen since I started writing this newsletter.
OUT OF ORDER: The AA has suggested that EV owners are twice as likely to call for help because of depleted batteries than internal combustion engine owners. The AA said that nearly 4% of all callouts for EVs in 2021 were due to them running low on charge. The story, written up in the Telegraph, is largely critical of charging infrastructure rather than EVs themselves. However, a really alarming statistic in the report is that “between 6% and 10% of chargepoints are out of order at any one period” in the UK according to Zap-Map data. Naturally, this is a Telegraph report, but if accurate it indicates there are around 1,800 and 3,000 chargers currently inactive in Britain. Crazy. The government’s new reliability standards can’t come soon enough, though maybe SMMT is right that we need an independent ‘Ofcharge’ regulator group to oversee the industry too. Read more.
ENERGY STRATEGY: In case you hadn’t heard, this week (Thursday) the government is due to publish a new energy strategy. This is to help the UK boost energy production in a bid to move away from reliance on other countries for supplies, notably Russia. It’s likely that the Prime Minister will decide to fund greater investment in nuclear power and off-shore wind turbines. Solar is also likely going to be a factor. It’s a good time to be making these decisions. In the EV strategy last week, the government acknowledged that the grid could be at risk should proper management and supply not be in place from the growing demand for EVs. Read more.
SWAP IT: Autocar has published a really interesting summary of battery swapping technology around the world. It comes as Chinese EV business Nio has opened its first swapping station in Norway this week. Autocar highlights how China is leading the way with battery swapping for EVs and that it has enabled Nio to dominate in the country to date (they currently have 800 stations with plans for 5,000 globally this decade). However, as we know, swapping comes with limitations. Namely, you have to be using compatible technology for them to work. Likewise, in a country like ours where the average person drives between 20-30 miles a day, do we really need swapping stations? It’s likely they will later this decade. To add fuel to the fire this morning, Nio has revealed it is in talks with rivals about licensing its swapping technology. Read Autocar’s story. Read about Nio licencing stations here.
By Tom Riley