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EV leaders frustrated with OZEV | Kempower talks UK rapid charging
The latest news from the world of EVs
Hello, I’m Tom Riley and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top story in today’s edition… EV industry members are frustrated with OZEV at a crucial juncture, I hear from Kempower about the rapid charging landscape in the UK, and the Daily Mail kickstarts a campaign on rethinking the 2030 ban.
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.
EV leaders frustrated with OZEV’s progress
Background: Three years ago in 2020, the Department for Transport published a vision for a rapid charging network in England, which included a target of having at least six rapid devices at motorway services by 2023, and to have 6,000 by 2035 across motorways and major A roads. However, with six months to go, the latest data suggests only 27 of 119 service stations – making up about 400 chargers – have met the 2023 target.
Big budget: Rapid devices are without a doubt the most expensive chargers to deploy – they require big grid connections, high maintenance, and suitable supporting infrastructure. The government recognised the uphill challenge in 2020 and allocated £950 million to a Rapid Charging Fund (RCF). This money will enable motorway service areas to part-fund the cost of upgrading their grid connection, enabling private sector operators to install rapid devices.
But… Despite three years passing, the RCF pilot (known as Project Rapid) is yet to be launched by the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV). A pilot is due to be launched very soon – with millions being made available – however, from what I’m told, the launch has recently been pushed back.
Why? It’s not clear why there’s been a long wait, no doubt it’s likely that a recent CMA Subsidy Advice Unit report about the scheme – which was brought about by OZEV – has led to further internal discussions around it. But, one thing is clear from my conversations with various people over the past couple of months… the EV industry is slightly frustrated with OZEV.
Common themes: Based on conversations with numerous sector folk, I’ve noted several similar themes to the complaints about OZEV. Namely that senior figures at the department lack the ability to stand up to ministers, seem unable to fully appreciate the realities operators in particular face, and are unhelpful to help businesses overcome challenges. While many were thankful when ChargeUK was set up, as the charging industry now has a stronger united voice within the government, it seems there is still discontent.
Bad management… With the imminent launch of the RCF soon, some are concerned OZEV is not at all ready. The worry is that, particularly when it comes to motorway service areas, they have not been engaged thoroughly and may lack the right information – meaning the RCF could stumble out the gate slowly.
However… Not everyone agreed that the blame for all EV woes lay at OZEV’s door. One sector leader I reached out to defended their efforts strongly, instead suggesting that people’s annoyances actually sat with ministers who either don’t listen or care.
Impact? One of the obvious knock-ons from a badly delivered RCF might be that we don’t reach the 6,000 target the government has set – as grid issues remain the biggest bottlenecks to EV charger growth. At the recent MOVE Conference in London, Richard Bruce, DfT’s Director of Decarbonisation, gave a presentation where he acknowledged supply of electricity was a barrier. When I asked him whether continued grid challenges could likely affect the ZEV mandate rollout, he staunchly said: “No way, we are not slowing down the mandate. Those challenges wouldn’t be a problem.” The confidence is great to hear, but it seems the sector waits with bated breath.
Kempower talks rapid charging in the UK
Context: In the world of EVs, we often focus on carmakers, charge point operators, energy companies, and various tech solutions in between. However, it’s hardware that will undoubtedly help us make EVs become successful. And, as already stated in today’s newsletter, nowhere is that more important than for the UK’s rapid charging network.
Summary: To get a better understanding of Britain’s rapid chargers, I spoke recently to James Purton, Global Key Account Manager of fast charging company Kempower. If you are not aware of Kempower, they are a Finland headquartered business with a strong presence across Europe. In the UK, their chargers and tech are used by Osprey, and only recently car dealer Arnold Clark announced it would install 500 Kempower devices.
First off, I’m interested in what goes into announcements like this, how can a company like Arnold Clark commit to 500 chargers? James says they do a lot of horizon scanning with operators in a deal process. “We ask our customers to forecast what they think they will buy at a certain period of time,” he says.
However, according to James, one area that is often a wrinkle in rapid charger rollout is the present grid challenge. “The market has no issue with demand. Demand is not slowing down, the infrastructure is going in. What's slowing it down is the grid,” he says. “We rely on our customers to forecast as well as they can. But, to put myself in their shoes, it's very difficult sometimes.”
Though, I’m surprised to hear from James that Britain isn’t alone in this problem. “It's tricky to get a connection in the UK, but even if you're in, say, Sweden, it's at least 18 months to two years.”
James has been in the EV market for a long time, and he tells me that in previous years some operators rushed for quantity over quality. “People could see the demand was there and they would apply for a load of funding, and they would obtain the funding and they would implement a load of charges. But when the funding stopped, so did the servicing and the maintenance of the chargers. So, a lot of people did this sort of gold rush for the best locations. Then when they couldn't make any money in the short term, they have left them ignored.”
Arguably, we’ve seen an example of this recently at Heathrow with Pod Point, and I ask James if he thinks people will ever trade or sell their locations. “Milton Keynes is a great example of this,” he says mentioning BP Pulse. “They put in loads of chargers. Milton Keynes was the most charger-dense place in the UK at one point. But then the funding from the council stopped and so did the servicing and maintenance. And there was a big online debate between people of, is this the council's responsibility? Because, technically, they own the land, or is this BP's responsibility because they own the charges?”
James adds that: “BP are currently going around and replacing all of the chargers. And I think for any CPO that sees this as a long-term strategy, and they were here early enough to get good locations at high footfall sites, at a dwell time they like, they'd be stupid to give them up.”
In the longer term, James envisages a much more consolidated EV charging market. “I think it will be like supermarkets or anything else where I think you end up with a Big Four or a Big Five.” He also adds that Kempower’s ambition is to follow what we’ve seen in Norway, where there are sites with 48 chargers - rather than installing devices in ones or twos as many sites still do.
On the government’s ambition to have hundreds of thousands of chargers, James is supportive but cautious. “That's really great as a headline because it says, hey, we're going to have loads of chargers out there. But really what it's about is having the right number of charges in the right places for the right time. Half a million lamp post charges is not going to electrify everyone because they won't be able to charge quick enough. But you need a mix of the right chargers at the right dwell time in the right location.”
When it comes to reliability, Kempower is very bullish about meeting the 99% target proposed by government, though James says: “Some CPOs, I'm sure, are looking at that and thinking, that is going to be really tough for us.” He adds that some issues “might not even be the hardware” but could be something like the payment module going down which impacts CPOs. Despite it not being their fault.
On what James would like to see from the government in future, he echoed many of the current sentiments across the EV sector. “We have swapped and changed ministers consistently. There has been no real direction. And whoever's taking the job after three or six months has had to find their feet. And, because of that, we are probably a little bit behind in some areas, or where we shouldn't be. So a consistent government message would be helpful.”
Daily Mail launches new campaign to ‘rethink’ 2030 ban
Background: The Daily Mail newspaper launched a fresh campaign this week titled ‘Rethink the 2030 petrol car ban’. The launch of the paper’s campaign made the front page and came alongside new Savanta polling – commissioned by the Daily Mail – that found one in four people back the Government’s timeline to banning new petrol or diesel cars from 2030. Read here.
Ministerial rumblings… The Daily Mail’s initial article appeared to have been heavily briefed by the Business and Trade Secretary, Kemi Badenoch, who a source suggested had lobbied the Chancellor and Transport Secretary. A source was quoted saying: “Kemi is responsible for the car industry and she has heard concerns from the industry about the zero emissions vehicle mandate, so she is raising it with colleagues.” Interestingly, last week Kemi gave the keynote speech at SMMT’s conference.
Worrying position… As a reminder, the Daily Mail is not the first national paper to call for the 2030 deadline to be pushed back. Earlier in June, The Times also called for the ban to be reconsidered.
In response… Many of those in the sector jumped to warn of the Mail’s reporting. Ben Nelmes, CEO of research organisation, New AutoMotive, gave a rallying cry on LinkedIn saying: “We cannot allow any backsliding… It's more important than ever that those who believe in the transition work together to promote the benefits that this transition will bring.”
My view… The EV sector is making great gains and increasing at a huge pace. But most people worry about what they don’t understand. And, from the outside looking in, the EV sector is still in start-up mode – and not everybody likes to take risks. Myth-busting in social and trade media is great, though we do need to recognise the bubble we’re often in. You can fact-check the regularly shared Volvo study repeatedly, but is that really moving the dial?
Next steps… The Times and Daily Mail remain papers ministers care about, though I personally can’t envisage the Tories amending the 2030 timeline while still in power. Downing Street’s spokesperson said yesterday following the Mail’s story that “there are no plans to change our approach”. To me, the critical task for the EV sector is surely ensuring that Labour also remains committed to the rollout date – even more so than this government.
The latest EV news…
🌲The Climate Change Committee said last week that the government should ban hybrid cars much sooner than current plans. Read more.
⛽EV fuel card Bypass, that only recently launched, has started doing a weekly round-up of new rapid chargers. See here.
🔌Speaking of latest figures, the app WattsUp suggested 261 rapid chargers were installed in June. See all of them. Also, a new report found there is now one publicly accessible charge point for every 11.2 EV in the UK. Read more.
🚗Latest data from SMMT found that car manufacturing in the UK increased by 27% on steady EV demand. Read more.
✍️Chief Executive of Octopus EV, Fiona Howarth, that just raised some £150m, wrote a column in This Is Money about how the public is still keen to switch. See here.
🚫The Advertising Standards Authority has banned adverts by Toyota and Hyundai for exaggerating the time it takes to charge EV en route. Read more.
⬆️Brighton and Hove council are increasing the prices for their network of EV chargers by over 50% as they said it was “unsustainable” given energy costs. See here.
✂️VW is cutting the production of their EVs as apparently demand is down 30% on their forecasts. Read more.
🔥In brighter news, Tesla delivered a record number of vehicles in its second quarter – with 466,000 heading out to new owners around the world. Read more.
🔋It’s thought that an official launch of the new JLR battery plant in Somerset will happen soon, following new job adverts by Tata’s battery cell operation Agratas going live.
🚌First Bus is building an EV charging hub on the A30 heading into Cornwall. These will be available for cars, vans, and eventually buses. Read more.
💰Northern Ireland is getting a fresh boost as Ionity is investing £3 million in two new hubs in Belfast. Read more.
🤝EV charging app Bonnet last week went live with lamppost network ubitricity, adding 7,000 new locations to its app. Read more.
🛣️Which is the best service station for EV charging in the UK? New analysis seeks to identify the best stop. (Clue, it’s named after a sport). See here.
💂A new poll of 2,000 car owners believes there is a lack of guidance when it comes to the do’s and don’ts of EV ownership. This has led to the creation of The EV Etiquette Guide by Vauxhall and Debrett’s. Read more.
⚡UK Power Networks published a report last week outlining where and when it would like to secure additional electrical capacity. Read more.
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