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UK surges past 40,000 EV charger milestone
Latest news from the world of EVs
Hello and welcome back to The Fast Charge, a British EV newsletter.
Top stories in today’s edition… the government’s ‘Green Day’ brings the long-expected ZEV mandate, Britishvolt’s rescue could falter, Genesis lets you unlock cars with your face, and new figures from Zap-Map suggest we’ve flown through the 40k charger barrier.
However… before we dive into today’s edition, I have two parish updates. Firstly, warm welcome to new readers. Each Tuesday morning you can expect to receive a digest of the latest EV stories that matter in the UK, plus insights from experts across the sector, regular analysis, data, and interviews.
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EV reactions to ‘Green Day’
Background: It feels like a long time ago now, but last Thursday the government made a raft of ‘green’ announcements. For the EV sector, there were two key policy revelations.
Firstly… the government responded to the long-awaited Zero Emission Vehicle mandate consultation by, as suggested, requiring carmakers to start producing a minimum number (22%) of EVs by next year (2024). The glide path will ensure all new car and van sales in the UK are zero emission by 2035. Read more.
And… According to a supporting document, the ZEV mandate will ultimately save households £35bn in fuel and maintenance costs. The department is now consulting on the final design of the mandate. See here.
Secondly… the Department for Transport revealed that the next stage of money for the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure fund – a total of £381m – has been unlocked alongside an additional £15m for the On-Street Residential Charging Scheme. Read more.
Happy? On the face of it, those in the sector were pleased to see the ZEV mandate stay ambitious – particularly after the EU pandered to German automakers recently on e-fuels. However, under the surface, the government is going to allow carmakers to defer a proportion of their annual targets for several years – which is essentially a loophole.
Reaction… James Court, CEO of the EV Association for England, welcomed the announcements – though also called for the much delayed EV charging regulations to be laid in Parliament. Ian Plummer, Commercial Director at Auto Trader, was also happy but suggested the government had “watered-down” its proposals to accept the present realities around EVs.
Meanwhile… the CEO of SMMT, Mike Hawes, also received the news positively, though called out the “late publication and lack of regulatory certainty”. The EV campaigner, Quentin Willson, was also supportive but pointed out that now there needs to be policies that help “all drivers” to make the switch.
However… the fact still remains that the policies in this ‘Green Day’ were a microwaved manifesto of announcements previously made, investment already pledged, and roadmaps we’re already heading down. The Chancellor even wrote in The Times beforehand that new money would not be forthcoming until his next fiscal event in October. That’s a long time for investors and businesses to stew in the face of huge subsidies from the US and EU.
Britishvolt on the brink (again)
Background: In February, after they entered administration and had to let staff go at the start of this year, the UK battery start-up Britishvolt was bought by an Aussie firm called Recharge Industries.
Who… Recharge Industries is owned by David Collard who runs a New York based fund called Scale Facilitation. As part of the deal to buy Britishvolt, Recharge paid £8.6m. However, that only included 23 staff and the firm’s intellectual property. The most valuable part of the deal is the land, which has a price tag of £9.7m, and that Recharge was given until last Friday to pay for.
What… Recharge has missed the deadline to buy the land, and separately has complained about a contract with National Grid. Both these things have put the rescue back on the brink.
Why… Gigafactories require a lot of energy to make batteries, and the Britishvolt land in Blyth has a connection to Norway, which could provide an endless supply of cheap and clean energy.
Next steps… People have always had their doubts about the deal EY, the administrators, agreed with Recharge – they apparently had to work very hard to pull together the initial £8.6m. Nobody wants the deal to fall through, but given these latest developments, it feels something has got to give.
Elsewhere… It was reported over the weekend Collard was trying to hire back the former Britishvolt chairman, Peter Rolton, and Tony Lardon, former Chief Operating Officer, to run the show. This begs the question, is Recharge just playing hardball with finances, or are they genuinely struggling?
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Latest EV news…
FRESH STATS: According to the latest statistical update on Zap-Map’s website, as of the end of March 2023, the UK has now broken through the 40,000 charge point barrier - a 35% year-on-year increase. Last month alone, Zap-Map added some 1,827 to their map. At the last official government update, there were 37,055 chargers in the UK. See more here. Onwards and upwards!
UP & DOWN: Speaking of upward trajectories, good news for Tesla this week, the carmaker saw its sales rise by 36% in the first quarter of 2023 – or about 422,875. Read more. However, the boost is thought to have been largely driven by Tesla’s recent price cuts – which have been viewed rather badly by those in the auto sector, with dealers being particularly frustrated at the collapse in residual values. Read more.
KOREAN SMILE: Do you open your phone with your face? Well, with the new Genesis GV60 model you can now unlock (and lock) the car with your face too. The tech from the South Korean carmaker is apparently the same as that used in phones. Read more.
BIG FINES: On the back of articles last week about overstay fees for EV drivers, it was revealed yesterday via a Freedom of Information request that more than 4,000 fines have been handed out to motorists in Edinburgh since last May. These fines are worth £30 each. Read more.
UBER BP: Oil giant bp and Uber last week announced a new agreement that would mean the taxi firm’s drivers can access its charging network. The press release writes that the agreement is “thought to be an industry first between a ride-hailing platform and an integrated energy company.” But, hang on a second… is this news? Step into the Tardis to June 2021 when bp announced the first of its rapid charging hubs in London as part of a “strategic partnership” with Uber. Same-same, but different.
LOW RANGE: On Saturday, The Times published prominently new research by the consumer group Which? that found the ranges of EVs are nearly 20% lower than what’s advertised. Which? tested 70 electric cars for their survey. The crux of the issue here appears to be that the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) – which is used by all manufacturers to easily compare ranges since 2017 – may overstate battery efficiency. Read more.
POLE POSTION: Chris and Julie Ramsey, who are attempting to go Pole to Pole in an expedition-ready Nissan Ariya, set off from the North Magnetic Pole last week. They will now travel 27,000 km through North, Central, and South America – with the plan being they reach Antarctica in December. Bon voyage!
WHEELIE GOOD: Transport for London last week launched a new Cargo Bike Action Plan. The ambition is that cargo bikes become more commonly used across the capital, especially for last-mile orders. Though, there are some hurdles, such as where sorting hubs should or can be located for delivery businesses. Read more.
SCOOTER BAN: Elsewhere, in micromobility land, over in Paris a huge 89% of people voted to ban shared e-scooters in a referendum on their continued presence in the city. However, the turnout was only 8%, which companies like Lime, Tier, and Dott said did not consider the votes of 18-24-year-olds properly. A decision is yet to be made by the Mayor of Paris. Read more.
OXFORD CHINA: I was quite surprised to learn this week that the Chinese carmaker, NIO, which is one of the brands hoping to take the country by storm, has its UK HQ on a secluded Oxford University science park. The site in question was set up to help university spin-outs and Oxford start-ups. By being on the site, companies can “build the right relationships and networks to tap into Oxford University’s research, resources and expertise.” Perhaps I’m going over the top, but surely it’s odd that NIO, a company worth about $17bn and with deep roots in China, is getting support from one of the most famous British universities?
BOYCOTT CALL: Interesting local story. It seems at a recent environment and sustainability panel hosted by Colchester Council, some residents came together to argue very strongly against EVs because of the impact of mining. Reading the comments, it can be easy to mock but I have no doubt we’ll only see more passionate displays in years to come. Read more.
LOW ZONE: Speaking of which, a report by the BBC suggested that, ahead of the Ultra Low Emission Zone expanding this August, there are fewer places for EV owners to charge up outside the current zone. While over a third of the UK’s chargers are in London, these are not evenly spread. Read more.
NEW CHARGERS: In lighter local news, the outer London borough of Merton last week began its next chapter to install 530 charge points with Char.gy. This includes six accessible chargers for residents with a disabled parking bay on their street. Read more.
PRICE INCREASE: After a couple of weeks of good news, Tesco revealed last week it would be increasing the prices at its superstore chargers. Rates will now begin at 44p per kWh at their slower 7kW devices, 49p at the 22kW ones, and rapid will cost between 62-69p per kWh. The rates changed yesterday. Read more.
FUTURE PLANS: The ultra-rapid charging company Fastned posted its annual report last week. In it, the business highlighted plans to rollout about 17 new hubs in 2023 - more than double their current footprint in the UK. See image below. (Or read my recent chat with Tom Hurst from Fastned here.
WARNING VOLTS: A consumer charity that tested a raft of charging cables available to buy through online marketplaces found three to be hazardous. The offending brands were Lectron, Yks, and Flynsu, and these have now been reported to the Government's Office for Product Safety & Standards. Read more.
APRIL FOOL: As is customary, there were several fake annoucements made by companies on Saturday to mark 1 April. However, the one that nearly got me was this tweet below. Well played.
BIG MILESTONE: Finally… a big congratulations to the Fully Charged Show, who have reached the mighty figure of 1m subscribers on YouTube. On the news, Fully Charged announced a new in-person show in London from 29-31 March 2024.
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